Education officials in Montgomery County, Md., announced that a study of the class of 1993 found that students in the high schools’ vocational and technology classes are making more money, on average, than their classmates who completed the traditional, academically oriented curriculum.

Voc-ed and tech-ed students earned an average of $21,444 annually in 2000, compared with $19,560 for other students who attended college and less than $19,000 for students who attended junior college.

This finding provides real-world evidence of something that educators and school counselors have been saying for years: The dearth of technology-savvy high school graduates is forcing employers to pay a premium for well-trained employees. Computer science and biotechnology were among the technical courses that county officials singled out as providing excellent employment opportunities for students who received technical training in high school.

Interestingly, the study also found evidence that solid high-tech jobs may actually motivate the former tech-ed students to further their educations. The voc-ed and tech-ed students were as likely to finish post-high school education as their counterparts in the traditional academic program.

County officials say they might expand technical and computer training courses, and they will emphasize these opportunities to parents of students who are struggling with full academic course loads.