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6-Figure Salaries Are Very Real For Just 2 Years Of College

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Let's face it -- a four-year college education is not for everyone.

First, there's the cost.

"Very expensive," says Jon Zeidler of Center Township.

And then for many a two-year certificate or associate's degree is sufficient.

"It's all I needed," adds Connie Lee of Marshall.

But what about the earning power of these degrees?

Ask Zeidler, who got his HVAC certificate from the Community College of Allegheny County to repair furnaces, boilers, and air-conditioning systems.

"You're going to be pushing if not making six figures within five to ten years," Zeidler told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

Delano: "Wow, $100,000 within five to ten years?"

Zeidler: "With the right company and the right training, absolutely."

He's hardly alone.

After working as an office delivery person out of high school, Connie Lee went back to CCAC to get her court reporting certificate and associates degree.

Lee: "Last year, my total was $240,000, but by the time I pay my expenses and all that, I get about half of that."

Delano: "$120,000?"

Lee: "Not bad for a two-year degree, right?"

A recent study by ranked hundreds of two-year public and private colleges and technical schools based on the earnings of their graduates.

Of the top 50 two-year schools, the average starting salary of graduates was between $35,000 and $42,000, and after ten years, the average salary was $60,000 to $75,000 a year.

Turns out that the No. 1 two-year college institution within a couple hours of Pittsburgh is at Central Ohio Technical College. Students there can make an awful lot of money when they graduate.

"Five to six years' experience in upper hospitals, you can make six figures," says Anna Blanish of Connellsville.

Blanish wants to study to become a cardio sonographer at Central Ohio Technical College, just outside Columbus.

"When I heard they had a two-year program in a medical field that was high-paying, I knew I wanted to do that," says Blanish.

COTC president Dr. Bonnie Coe says as baby boomers retire and demand for skilled workers increases, there is a growing shortage of trained workers.

Coe: "Right now, today, there are vacancies that I'm aware of, and they are just waiting for more graduates from our engineering, technology programs."

Delano: "Two-year programs?"

Coe: "Two-year programs, absolutely, waiting for these graduates."

Zeidler's boss agrees the need is real in the Pittsburgh region, too.

"We do have a shortage," notes Dale Nine of Homer Nine & Sons. "We're facing the same shortage a lot of companies are facing and no matter what industry you're in."

Jon Delano sat down with academic leaders at Lorain County Community College, just west of Cleveland.

It is the highest ranking community college in the tri-state region for salaries.

"With a two-year degree there are many career paths that one can take to earn a living," says Tracy Green, vice president of LCCC.

But, Green says the pressure is on from employers to shorten the time period to get students certified.

"For employers, they need the talent now. They can't wait the two years."

So watch for more six-month programs to pop up at community colleges and technical schools.

And that means more people than ever will soon be able to say what Connie Lee says.

"The last 13 years I haven't made less than six figures every year."

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