Data Show Higher Alumni Earnings Among STEM Degrees, Law Graduates

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

What do CUNY-New York City College of Technology, SUNY-Maritime College, Harvey Mudd College, and Emory University School of Law all have in common? They top the list of colleges with the highest earnings for alumni of all higher education levels, according to a new analysis from PayScale.

The 2015-2016 PayScale College Salary Report is an annual ranking of U.S. colleges and universities based on alumni salaries for associates, bachelors, and graduate degrees. Earlier this week, Washington Monthly analyzed data from hundreds of colleges to compile a list of those that best serve low- and middle-income students, based on measures of affordability and student success. 

PayScale noted in the report that the data is intended to help students “understand the typical salary they will likely go on to earn, and the corresponding amount of student debt they can afford to take on.”

Associates Degrees

The report ranked more than 460 two-year colleges by alumni earnings, placing CUNY-New York City College of Technology at the top with median early career earnings of $40,600. After 10 years of experience, that number jumps to $72,700.

CUNY is followed in the rankings by the Fashion Institute of Technology, also in New York City, where alumni earn an average of $41,500 early in their career and an average of $72,100 after 10 years. Rounding out the top five are De Anza College in San Francisco; Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, California; and Alvin Community College in Alvin, Texas.

The two-year school with the highest early career salaries is New York City’s Excelsior College, formerly Regence College, where alumni with five years of experience or less earn a median salary of $54,300. The school is known for its “strong medical programs, possibly explaining the high earning potential,” according to PayScale.

The top five highest paying majors among two-year degrees were:

  1. Management information systems (MIS);
  2. Construction management;
  3. Economics; and
  4. Mechanical engineering technology (MET), which tied with
  5. Electronics and communications engineering.

Bachelors Degrees

More than 1,000 colleges and universities were ranked to determine the top schools for bachelor’s degree earnings, which were largely small colleges with strong engineering programs, the report noted. The number one school was SUNY-Maritime College in Bronx, New York, with median early career earnings of $65,200 and median mid-career earnings (about 10 years of experience) of $134,000. According to PayScale, about 46 percent of SUNY-Maritime graduates earn degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields.

While is was the top ranked school for higher alumni earnings for the last three years, Harvey Mudd College in Southern California was ranked second this year. The school, which has just over 800 undergraduate students and an 86 percent STEM graduation rate, showed average early career earnings of $78,200 and 10-year earnings of $133,000. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, tied for third place and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in Pasadena, California, rounded out the top five schools for this category.

PayScale noted in the report that while schools that produce STEM degrees are at the top of the earnings list, several liberal arts schools also were ranked, including Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia; Colgate University in Hamilton, New York; Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota; and Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In addition, the elite military schools showed the highest early career earnings, with the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, topping the list at $78,500.

The top five highest paying majors among bachelor’s degree were:

  1. Petroleum engineering;
  2. Nuclear engineering;
  3. Actuarial mathematics;
  4. Chemical engineering; and 
  5. Electronics and communications engineering.

The analysis also looked at bachelor’s degree holders who go on to earn graduate degrees, which slightly altered the rankings. SUNY-Maritime was still at the top of the list with median 10-year earnings of $139,000, but second place changed to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with 10-year earnings of $137,000. In comparison, MIT graduates who only have a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $127,000 after 10 years.

Graduate Degrees

Among graduate schools ranked by PayScale, Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, was given the top spot with median early career earnings of $72,700 and 10-year earnings of $201,000. Emory was followed by University California at Los Angeles (UCLA) College of Law, where alumni can expect median early career earnings of $80,300 and 10-year earnings of $199,000. Harvard Business School, Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., and Harvard Law School rounded out the top five.

The top five highest earning graduate degree majors were:

  1. Petroleum engineering;
  2. Nurse anesthesia;
  3. Strategy;
  4. General and strategic management; and
  5. Finance and real estate.


Publication Date: 8/27/2015

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