Community colleges provide an important entry point on the pathway to graduate and professional degree completion. Nearly 20 percent of 2016-17 master’s degree earners originally entered higher education in a community college, and nearly 12 percent earned an associate degree from a community college.

From Community College to Master’s Degree

Students who earned master’s degrees in health and clinical sciences were most likely to have entered higher education in a community college. Over 26 percent of master’s degree earners in this field entered higher education  in a community college, while 18.5 percent earned an associate degree from a community college.

In contrast, only nine percent of master’s degree earners in science and engineering originally entered higher education in a community college.

Note: Counts of students who earned associate degrees from a community college are not limited to students who entered higher education at a community college.

Years from Associate to Master’s Degree

For students who earned both an associate degree and a master’s degree, an average of nearly 10 years separated the completion dates of the two credentials.

The longest average timespans from associate to master’s were in education (10.7 years), health and clinical sciences (10.5 years), and business (10.0 years), suggesting that students often earn master’s degrees in these fields after various periods of part-time study or non-enrollment.

The shortest average timespans from associate to master’s were in social sciences and psychology (8.5 years) and science and engineering (9.0 years).

From Community College to Doctoral-Research Degree

Nearly 11 percent of 2016-17 doctoral-research degree earners originally entered higher education in a community college, and nearly six percent earned an associate degree from a community college.

Students who earned doctoral-research degrees in health and clinical sciences were most likely to have entered higher education in a community college. Almost 22 percent of doctoral-research degree earners in this field entered higher education in a community college, while over 15 percent previously earned an associate degree from a community college.

In contrast, under six percent of doctoral-research degree earners in science and engineering had originally entered higher education in a community college.

Examples of doctoral-research degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., D.M.A., D.B.A., D.Sc., D.A., or D.M, and others, as designated by the awarding institution.

Years from Associate to Doctoral-Research Degree

For those students who earned both an associate degree and a doctoral-research degree, an average of 16 years separated the completion dates of the two credentials.

The longest timespans from associate to doctoral-research degree were in business and education. In these two fields, students earned a doctoral-research degree nearly 20 years after earning their associate degree, on average.

The shortest average timespan from associate to doctoral-research degree was in science and engineering (12.2 years).

From Community College to Professional Degree

Over 13 percent of 2016-17 professional degree earners originally entered higher education in a community college, and almost six percent earned an associate degree from a community college.

Students who earned professional degrees in medicine were about as likely to have entered higher education in a community college as students who earned professional degrees in law.

Examples of professional degrees included here under the broad category of Medicine include:  chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.); dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.); medicine (M.D.); optometry (O.D.); osteopathic medicine (D.O); pharmacy (Pharm.D.); podiatry (D.P.M., Pod.D., D.P.); veterinary medicine (D.V.M.), and others, as designated by the awarding institution.

Years from Associate to Professional Degree

For students who earned both an associate degree and a professional degree, an average of eight years separated the completion
dates of the two credentials.

Notably, the average timespan from associate degree to professional degree (7.8 years) was shorter than both the average timespan from associate degree to master’s degree (9.9 years) and the average timespan from associate degree to doctoral-research degree (16.0  years).

This is one indication that students who enter higher education in community college and eventually earn professional degrees tend to persist in their postsecondary educations on a full-time basis and with few breaks in attendance.

Field of Study Distributions

This figure shows the field of study distributions at each graduate and professional degree level, differentiating between students who entered higher education in community colleges and those who entered higher education in other institutions.

At the master’s and doctoral-research levels, the health and clinical sciences field is more prevalent among students who entered higher education in community colleges. Science and engineering, however, is far more prevalent among students who entered college in other institutions.

At the master’s and doctoral-research levels, education is also somewhat more prevalent among students who entered higher education in community colleges.

Additional Notes on the Data

Analysis in this report is based on credentials reported to the Clearinghouse through its DegreeVerifySM service. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has estimated that credentials being reported through the DegreeVerify service account for 89 percent of associate degrees, 98 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 95 percent of master’s degrees, and 93 percent of doctoral degrees awarded in 2016-17. These estimates are based on comparing Clearinghouse degree counts to IPEDS degree counts for each degree level.

In this analysis, baccalaureate-granting institutions that predominantly award associate degrees (at least 55 percent of the undergraduate degrees awarded are associate degrees) are classified as community colleges.

A student is considered to have entered higher education in a community college if his or her earliest postsecondary enrollment at age 18 or above occurred at a community college.

In this report, counts of students who earned associate degrees from a community college are not limited to students who entered higher education at a community college.

Classification of Instructional Family codes were mapped to broad field of study categories according to the crosswalk on the following page of this report.

Crosswalk: Classification of Instructional Family Codes to Broad Field of Study Categories

CIP Family

CIP Family Title

Field of Study Category

01

Agriculture, Agriculture Operations, and Related Sciences

Other

03

Natural Resources and Conservation

Science and Engineering

04

Architecture and Related Services

Humanities

05

Area, Ethnic, Cultural, and Gender Studies

Social Sciences and Psychology

09

Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs

Social Sciences and Psychology

10

Communications Technologies/Technicians and Support Services

Social Sciences and Psychology

11

Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services

Science and Engineering

12

Personal and Culinary Services

Other

13

Education

Education

14

Engineering

Science and Engineering

15

Engineering Technologies/Technicians

Science and Engineering

16

Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

Humanities

19

Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences

Other

22

Legal Professions and Studies

Law

23

English Language and Literature/Letters

Humanities

24

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities

Humanities

25

Library Science

Other

26

Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Science and Engineering

27

Mathematics and Statistics

Science and Engineering

28

Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC, ROTC)

Other

29

Military Technologies

Other

30

Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies

Other

31

Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies

Other

32

Basic Skills

Other

33

Citizenship Activities

Other

34

Health-Related Knowledge and Skills

Other

35

Interpersonal and Social Skills

Other

36

Leisure and Recreational Activities

Other

37

Personal Awareness and Self-Improvement

Other

38

Philosophy and Religious Studies

Humanities

39

Theology and Religious Vocations

Humanities

40

Physical Sciences

Science and Engineering

41

Science Technologies/Technicians

Science and Engineering

42

Psychology

Social Sciences and Psychology

43

Security and Protective Services

Other

44

Public Administration and Social Service Professions

Social Sciences and Psychology

45

Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Psychology

46

Construction Trades

Other

47

Mechanic and Repair Technologies/Technicians

Other

48

Precision Production

Other

49

Transportation and Materials Moving

Other

50

Visual and Performing Arts

Humanities

51

Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences

Health and Clinical Sciences

52

Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support

Business

53

High School/Secondary Diplomas and Certificates

Other

54

History

Humanities

60

Residency Programs

Other

Community Colleges Outcomes Report

The Role of Community Colleges in Postsecondary Success

The Community Colleges Outcomes Report, “The Role of Community Colleges in Postsecondary Success,” provides recent report findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center on two-year colleges. Key community college metrics are provided for three areas — college access and persistence, transfer and mobility, and certificate and degree completion – which are important indicators of community college progress.