Unveiling the True Career Outcomes for Community College Graduates

March 28, 2024

Conventional analyses of employment opportunities for graduates of specific academic programs are deeply flawed. Traditional data sources like the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) only include occupations for which students are directly prepared (e.g., nursing graduates become nurses). In essence, they only see a fragment of graduates’ possible career paths – the tip of the iceberg, if you will. As it says on the NCES website, their crosswalk from academic programs to occupations “is not based on actual empirical data.”¹

The Misleading Narrative

According to NCES (and the many data suppliers who rely on it), an Associate’s degree in Human Services limits graduates to only three occupations. This narrow view eclipses the diverse career pathways that dedicated students can pursue beyond their diplomas. At Gray DI, we shatter these misconceptions, using data from the census and individual records on millions of graduates to determine what people really do after graduation.

NCES Data about career outcomes

Source: National Center for Educational Statistics

The Reality

With Gray DI’s analysis of People Profile Data, encompassing approximately 30 million alum profiles, our Program Evaluation System offers a revolutionary alternative to common data sources. Our extensive alums database allows us to demonstrate not just the direct-prep job outcomes but the actual career pathways of graduates.

Take, for example, our findings on Associate in Human Services program graduates – a stark contrast to NCES data. Instead of being confined to three avenues, we uncovered that they venture into an astounding 675 occupations across 145 industries and contribute their skills to over 22,060 companies.

Among the top 10 entry-level occupations for these graduates, only one aligns with those listed by NCES. This revelation broadens the career spectrum and shatters the myth about the limitations of community college degrees.

Highest Volume of Occupations, Entry-Level (Associates in Human Services)

Source: People Profile Data, Gray DI Analysis

The Full Spectrum of Success

It’s time to acknowledge that each graduate’s professional journey is as unique as their aspirations and contributions to society. Educational institutions can better understand their programs’ impact, revise their curriculum accordingly, and better prepare students for the wide range of career opportunities that await them.

It’s Time for Action

We urge leaders in higher education to look beyond traditional methods and recognize the immense value of comprehensive data analysis. Don’t settle for the incomplete narrative – trace the real-world impact of your community college programs and confidently guide your students toward a brighter, more diverse professional future.


Reeghan Kerns

Marketing Manager

As a Marketing Manager, Reeghan is responsible for the production and scheduling of digital content, managing email communication, and helping to maintain and further develop Gray DI’s brand. She supports sales, marketing, and the company as a whole by offering her creativity, expertise, and ideas on additional projects.

About Gray DI

Gray DI provides data, software and facilitated processes that power higher-education decisions. Our data and AI insights inform program choices, optimize finances, and fuel growth in a challenging market – one data-informed decision at a time.

Related Posts
Subscribe to Our Blog

Don’t miss our latest research and insights

Related Posts