Preparing for College

Earning Power by Specific College

Have you ever wondered about the earning power that graduates from a certain college have in relation to those from other colleges? Believe it or not, there are statistics on that. PayScale.com, “the world’s largest online crowdsourced salary database,” releases an annual College Salary Report that tracks which colleges have the highest earning alumni year to year. That’s some very specialized data!

The report includes college rankings for associate, bachelor and graduate level degree programs at over 1,000 colleges and universities. They break down the rankings by state, school type and major pursued, and report on the earning potential of 142 majors at the associate level, 319 majors at the bachelor’s level, and 288 graduate-level degrees (master’s, PhD and MBAs).

I thought this information might be of some value to high school seniors (and their parents), since now that school has started, most college-bound students will soon be deeply involved in making decisions about their college process, if they haven’t already started the ball rolling.


 

On the preface to their rankings, PayScale notes, “Before taking the plunge and enrolling in a four-year program, do some research and check out the top colleges with the highest-paid graduates.” This is good advice, but I suggest that you exert some caution when you look at this list. My primary concern is fit.

For example, the #1-rated college on PayScale’s list is SUNY Maritime College, a university based in Throggs Neck, N.Y., that has about 2,000 undergraduates. “A considerably greater proportion of men make up the survey population with a male-to-female ratio of 14-to-1. Based on student and alumni reporting, men also tend to make more than their female counterparts after graduating,” PayScale notes.

Such a heavily male dominated student body might not be your cup of tea, especially if you are a female. Even male’s looking for the best match might care to investigate SUNY MC closely to see what it’s like before considering it.

Of course choosing to go to a college because it’s rated as having the best earning power after graduation might not be the best reason. If you look at PayScale’s rankings list, you’ll see that SUNY MC barely edges #2 Harvey Mudd College, and then only in the categories of mid-career pay ($1,000 per year higher) and the percentage of alumni who believe that their work “makes the world a better place” (by two percentage points).

I think that the subjectivity factor is running high in these rankings. PayScale appends each school’s place on their list with this qualifier: “The data in this summary come from [school name] alumni who took the PayScale salary survey.”

Thus, the resulting rankings outcomes depend on the number of alumni who participated in the “crowdsourced” survey, which means that the percentages are tied directly to the number of alumni respondents. Obviously, a smaller sampling of positive feedback can result in higher numbers in the various categories.

Anyway, let’s sample some of PayScale’s rankings. Here’s the Top 10:

The respective headings for the numerical data following the school names are:

– Early Career Pay (0-5 years on the job)

– Mid-Career Pay (10+ years experience)

– % High Meaning (% of alumni who think their job makes the world a better place)

– % STEM Degrees (% of degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering, or math)

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1. SUNY – Maritime College    $65,200    $134,000    65%    46%

2. Harvey Mudd College    $78,200    $133,000    63%    86%

3. (tie) Harvard University   $61,400    $126,000    65%    28%

3. (tie) United States Naval Academy    $78,200    $126,000    55%    54%

5. California Institute of Technology    $72,600    $125,000    66%    93%

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology    $74,900    $124,000    55%    79%

7. Stanford University    $65,900    $123,000    62%    29%

8. Princeton University    $61,300    $122,000    58%    32%

9. Babson College    $60,700    $121,000    30%    N/A

10. (tie) Stevens Institute of Technology    $66,800    $120,000    47%    84%

10. (tie) United States Military Academy    $78,500    $120,000    61%    39%

10. (tie) University of Pennsylvania    $60,300    $120,000    55%    19%

10. (tie) Washington and Lee University    $54,700    $120,000    58%    17%

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You can review all the categories and rankings here.

Again, though, keep in mind the special subjectivity of these rankings. I’m sure that you won’t be thinking, “Gee, if I go to Harvey Mudd, I’ll graduate and get a job that pays more than graduates from Penn!” Then again, maybe you might think that.

As you know from my past rants here, I’m not a rankings fan. There are way too many variables and the methodology is usually slanted one way or the other, many times unintentionally, though. So, proceed with caution.

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Be sure to see my other college-related articles on College Confidential.