This report analyzes employment data for graduates of Oklahoma public colleges and universities one year and five years after graduation for various graduating classes of the past decade. A snapshot of employment status five years after graduation is shown for the graduating classes of 2002-03, 2003-04, and 2004-05 and the employment status of the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 classes is shown after one year.
The current study supports national data that link salary to educational attainment. Oklahoma data for graduates of the state’s public colleges and universities confirm that, on average, the higher the degree a student earns, the higher the salary he or she will earn.
- Five years after graduation, 2004-5 bachelor’s degree recipients employed in Oklahoma were earning $40,654 on average.
- Average earnings for 2004-05 certificate and associate in arts/associate in science degree holders five years after graduation were 45% and 33% less than bachelor’s degree recipients, although associate in applied science degree holders earned salaries that were on par (2% higher) with those of bachelor’s degree holders after five years. Master’s, doctoral, and professional degree recipients earned more (29%, 50%, and 137%, respectively) than bachelor’s degree recipients.
- Graduates with engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other technical degrees consistently earn higher average salaries, although health professions, business management, and education graduates also command strong salaries on average.
The good news for Oklahoma is that the majority of its college graduates remain in the state, contributing to the state’s economy and opportunities for growth, even five years after graduation. Following are highlights of the most recent Oklahoma employment data for the state’s higher education graduates:
- Five years after graduation, 62% of the 2004-05 bachelor’s degree recipients were employed in Oklahoma. More certificate (79%) and associate degree (75%) recipients remained in Oklahoma, and fewer master’s (54%), professional (59%), and doctoral (38%) graduates remained.
- One year after graduation, 81% of the 2008-09 bachelor’s degree recipients were employed in Oklahoma. More certificate (92%) and associate degree (87%) recipients remained in Oklahoma, and fewer professional (77%), master’s (73%) and doctoral (54%) graduates remained.
- Of the bachelor’s degree recipients who were Oklahoma residents, 89% of the 2008-09 graduates remained in Oklahoma after one year, and 70% of the 2004-05 graduates remained after five years. Additionally, many non-resident bachelor’s degree recipients remained in state after graduation: 48% after one year and 26% after five years.
- The current data (for 2004-05 graduates after five years and 2008-09 graduates after one year) reflect steady and slightly increased employment rates for both residents and non-residents when compared to previous studies. For instance, after five years, bachelor’s and associate’s degree holders remained in Oklahoma at constant rates (62% and 75%, respectively) over the previous two studies. Professional degree holders’ employment rates after five years increased, with 59% of the 2004-05 graduates remaining compared to 56% of the 2002-03 graduates. Except at the doctoral degree level, Oklahoma employment rates either remained steady or increased over previous study results. At all degree levels without exception, non-resident graduates’ five-year-out employment rates increased, compared to the last two studies.
- After one year, 2008-09 graduates at all degree levels remained in state at greater rates than did their 2006-07 counterparts. The most improvement in employment rates occurred at the bachelor’s and higher degree levels. Of the 2008-09 bachelor’s degree graduates, 81% remained after one year, compared to 78% of the 2006-07 graduates. Master’s and professional degree recipients from 2008-09 remained at rates 6 and 13 percentage points higher, respectively, than the 2006-07 master’s and professional degree recipients.
- Although the vast majority of graduates of Oklahoma public higher education institutions remain in Oklahoma, the “out” migration is evident in technical fields of study such as engineering, computer science, physical sciences, mathematics and architecture based upon employment rates after five years. For instance, 50% of computer science bachelor’s degree holders (2004-05) where found employed in the state after five years. Additionally, physical science, engineering, mathematics and architecture bachelor’s degree holders had lower employment rates at 48%, 47%, 38% and 36%, respectively.
- Of the 2008-09 graduates who were not found employed, 2.3% were still enrolled in Oklahoma higher education after one year. The highest percentage of continued enrollment was found among the associate in arts/associate in science degree holders at 6.5%. For those who had graduated five years earlier (2004-05), continued higher education enrollment was not found to be significant.
Efforts to improve student preparation and awareness of college, strategic scholarship programs, accelerated degree completion programs, and funding linked to degree production and other student success metrics all contribute to increased numbers of college graduates in the state. Curricula alignment, internships and other partnerships between higher education and business enhance the value of higher education and the employability of Oklahoma’s graduates.
In 2010, Oklahoma joined with Complete College America, a national nonprofit organization focused on raising degree attainment. Governor Mary Fallin framed the importance of this goal and the state’s commitment in a September 2011 press conference when she said, “My top priority as governor is to create a business environment in Oklahoma that fosters economic growth and job creation. Ensuring we have a highly skilled, college educated workforce is essential to attracting and retaining good jobs and investment to our state.”