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KNOXVILLE — Graduates of Tennessee colleges and universities who earned degrees in education or health-related fields are among the most likely to stay in Tennessee to work.

This is among many findings in the third installment of a multi-part project called “School-to-Work: Do Tennessee’s Higher Education Graduates Work in Tennessee?” released today. UT Knoxville’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) is leading the project under an agreement with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and with the cooperation of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The first part of this project — released in April — reported that many graduates of Tennessee’s public higher education institutions remain in Tennessee to work after getting their diplomas. Researchers found Tennessee higher education graduates earn an average wage of $50,418 seven years after graduation.

The second part — released in October — reported people who attend Tennessee’s public community colleges are more likely to work in state after graduation than people who attend the state’s other public colleges or universities.

The third part focuses on work and earnings trends for 35 broad fields of study broken down by degree type such as associate, bachelor or master.

The report found “considerable differences” in workforce participation across the fields of study. But the decline in the number of those working in Tennessee over several years was about the same.

Graduates going into education and health professions stood out.

The highest initial workforce participation for associate’s degree graduates was 88 percent for those in fields of science technologies or technicians working full or part time.

Among graduates with bachelor’s degrees, the highest rates of those remaining to work in Tennessee after graduation were in health professions and related clinical sciences (75 percent) and education (74 percent). By comparison, only 64 percent of all graduates with bachelor’s degrees stayed in Tennessee.

Among graduates with master’s and professional degrees, the highest percentage of graduates staying in Tennessee immediately after graduation were those with education specialist degrees (84 percent).

Graduates with doctorate degrees were the least likely overall to remain in state to work, with the exception of education. Nearly two-thirds of people who earned doctorates in education remained in Tennessee after graduation.

The study found average wages also differed among various fields. The highest wages were found in engineering, engineering technologies/technicians, health professions, clinical sciences, business, management, marketing and related support services.

As expected, graduates with doctorates started out earning the most — an average of $55,497 a year.

Master’s graduates earned an average of $45,513 at the beginning of their careers.

Graduates with associate’s degrees started out earning more than bachelor’s earners — $32,417 to $31,455. But the salaries for graduates with a bachelor’s grew faster and outpaced associate’s earners by six years into the job — $46,085 to $41,859.

To download the entire report, go to


Bill Fox, CBER, (865) 974-6112,

David Wright, THEC, (615) 532-3862,

Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,