Top Colleges and Majors, Ranked by Future Earning Potential

August 30, 2017

1:30 pm

We can all debate the finer points of going to college — some go purely to learn more about the world, some see it as a stepping stone in an ambitious career, most just think they have to go in order to get any job at all — but we can all agree that we need to live after we graduate. That usually involves getting a job, and the more we earn at it, the better. That’s why this ranking of the best colleges and majors from Payscale is so useful.

Payscale surveyed a whopping 2.3 million college graduates and covered more than 2,700 colleges and universities in the process, all in order to find out which graduates had made the most money since donning their cap and gown.

You can check out the entire survey here, but here’s the list of top colleges and universities, followed by the most important bullet points you should know about what they found.

The Top Colleges and Universities

From number one to number ten, the winners are:

1: Stanford University
2: Harvey Mudd
3: California Institute of Technology
(tied) 3: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5: Princeton University
6: SUNY Maritime College
7: United States Military Academy
8: Dartmouth College
9: Babson College
10: United States Naval Academy

Your Name Is Mudd

Second place (and first place for those earning only bachelor’s degrees) is Harvey Mudd, “a private residential liberal arts college of science, engineering and mathematics” located in Claremont, California. It’s mid-career median pay stands a full $8,000 higher than the second place holder, Princeton.

Yes, I hadn’t heard of Mudd, either. But its STEM-focus hints at one of the themes behind the highest-earning college graduates: The universities or colleges that fall into a strong niche — whether teaching specific technical skills or a catering to a specific community like the military — earn their alumni the most. Engineering and math are the top earning degrees.

Getting a Higher Degree?

Of course, the Ivy Leagues do well enough, as you might expect.

Stanford is ranked tenth for those who don’t go on to earn a higher degree, but it’s number one for those who do. Caltech and MIT are close at its heels.

The Top Two-Year Schools

Helene Fuld College of Nursing, Pacific Union College, and Labouré College are the top three two-year degree-granting schools, judging by how much their alumni earn. And, of the two-year degrees themselves, you may want to check out instrumentation technology, radiation therapy, and management information systems.

Read more about EdTech startups at TechCo

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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