25 Colleges With the Highest-Earning Graduates

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College hunting is hard. That’s why you end up with a laundry list of questions to help you narrow down the selection of schools.

What’s the cost of tuition? Are class sizes in the thousands or can everyone fit in a 30-seat room? Is it a walkable campus, or do you need a car to get around?

While these are all valuable bits of information, the most important question you can ask any college is whether their students have a strong success rate after graduation. The types of jobs and salary levels they attain are a reflection of the school’s ability to prepare students for the workforce.

This may not be an easy topic to raise on a campus tour, so make sure you do your research before visiting.

PayScale recently released its 2019 College Salary Report, which reveals the U.S. colleges with the highest-paid graduates. The rankings are based on salary data from 3.5 million alumni.

Following are the top four-year schools that made PayScale’s list.

25. University of Pennsylvania

Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania
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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $72,800
  • Mid-career: $133,900

From the Liberty Bell to Independence Hall, Philadelphia is steeped in the history of this country. But did you also know that it’s home to America’s first university? The roots of the University of Pennsylvania date to 1740.

Since then, the University of Pennsylvania has become a globally recognized institution. In fact, it offers free online courses, which can be accessed anywhere in the world, as we detail in “8 Ivy League Colleges That Offer Free Online Courses.”

24. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Female students looking at computer on outside stairs.
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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $71,300
  • Mid-career: $134,100

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, located in Troy, New York, has a relatively small student body with just over 6,600 undergraduates. However, what it lacks in headcount, the university makes up for in size.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute sits on 275 acres and offers 746 labs, studios and technology spaces that are used for research.

23. Lehigh University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $69,500
  • Mid-career: $134,100

Lehigh University is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lehigh University has a relatively small undergraduate population — just over 5,000. As a result, students enjoy an intimate class size of 28, on average, and a tight student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1.

22. Santa Clara University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $69,900
  • Mid-career: $134,700

Santa Clara University has had a good year. In addition to topping PayScale’s 2019 College Salary Report based on the salaries of its alumni, the California college is the top-ranked regional university in the Western United States, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 rankings.

Santa Clara University was founded on Jesuit Catholic traditions, but it seeks out students and staff with a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds. In fact, it became the first coed Catholic university in California in 1961, when it opened admission to female students.

21. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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XiXinXing / Shutterstock.com

Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $73,600
  • Mid-career: $135,500

Worcester Polytechnic Institute — located in Worcester, Massachusetts — incorporates project-based learning into its curriculum. In fact, as the institute explains it:

“Projects are at the core of the WPI curriculum: classroom projects across disciplines, projects in the first year, major capstone projects, community-based projects — all requiring students to delve into authentic, real-world problems.”

Worcester Polytechnic Institute believes this style of learning is critical in preparing students for their future endeavors.

20. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $78,300
  • Mid-career: $135,700

Incorporated in 1966 in the Watts-Willowbrook area of Los Angeles, Charles R. Drew University serves a diverse student body in the City of Angels.

In fact, an estimated one-third of all minority physicians practicing in Los Angeles County are graduates of the private, nonprofit college.

19. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $75,000
  • Mid-career: $135,800

More than 2,000 undergraduate students and more than 70 graduate-seeking adults can be seen hustling around the 1,300-acre campus at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which sits east of Terre Haute, Indiana.

The school is known for its undergraduate engineering program, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as No. 1 among schools where no doctorate program is offered.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has been noted as being one of a handful of colleges whose female STEM students flourish and become high earners in their careers.

18. Carnegie Mellon University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $75,900
  • Mid-career: $136,100

After founding the world’s largest steel-producing company in Pittsburgh during the late 19th century, Andrew Carnegie used his wealth to establish a technical institute in the same city. Carnegie Tech merged with the Mellon Institute in 1967.

Today, Carnegie Mellon University earns numerous awards every year. Recently, the school was named 24th among the world’s top universities and 16th among private U.S. universities by Times Higher Education (THE) rankings.

17. United States Air Force Academy

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $76,300
  • Mid-career: $138,100

Not only do graduates of the United States Air Force Academy earn more in the workforce, but they’re free from taxing student loans. Like the other U.S. service academies, this one offers free college tuition in exchange for a post-graduation service obligation.

The commitment may be worthwhile, considering the academy’s record in higher education. Forbes named the institution sixth among top STEM colleges in 2018. The Colorado Springs-based academy applauds itself on balancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the arts and humanities.

16. Yale University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $70,300
  • Mid-career: $138,300

Yale University students may not be the highest earners early in their career, but tenure pays off. It also helps that the Ivy League is generous with its financial aid program.

In fact, the Connecticut college meets 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need. Yale says it is one of the most affordable colleges in the U.S. for families making less than $200,000 annually.

15. Princeton University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $75,200
  • Mid-career: $139,400

In addition to providing the prestige of an Ivy League education, Princeton University boasts a 1 to 5 ratio of faculty members to students.

In October, the New Jersey school was recognized by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine with its 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for recruiting historically underrepresented and first-generation students.

14. Colorado School of Mines

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

Early career: $75,600
Mid-career: $139,600

Golden, Colorado, enjoys 300 or more days of sunshine per year and serves as the home to Colorado School of Mines, a research university.

The school’s main focus is on the earth, energy and the environment. Rigorous degree programs include biochemistry, environmental engineering and mining engineering. The PayScale report notes that 93% of the degrees Mines awards are STEM degrees.

13. Stevens Institute of Technology

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $75,100
  • Mid-career: $139,900

Since opening in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology has produced Nobel Prize winners, global leaders and several groundbreaking technologies, including bubble wrap, IMAP (modern email) and one of the first intranets.

11. SUNY Maritime College

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $74,900
  • Mid-career: $140,700

SUNY Maritime, a school located 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan, believes that students learn by doing.

This hands-on approach prepares students for careers in the global marine transportation industry. Its 11 undergraduate programs focus on that industry as well as the shipping business, engineering, energy, facilities management, finance, the armed forces and public service.

Students in this State University of New York system school also can earn a U.S. Coast Guard License while working toward a degree.

11. United States Merchant Marine Academy

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $80,600
  • Mid-career: $140,700

Another way to earn a U.S. Coast Guard License is to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

This institution is one of the five federal service academies. Tuition, room and board are paid by the school. In addition to a Coast Guard license, graduates of the baccalaureate program earn a bachelor of science degree and an officer’s commission in the U.S. Armed Forces.

10. Webb Institute

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $80,800
  • Mid-career: $141,800

The Webb Institute is a college of engineering on the shores of Long Island, New York. This unique university offers one undergraduate pathway: a double major in naval architecture and marine engineering.

What’s also unusual is that Webb Institute provides all students with full-tuition scholarships, as we explain in “10 Colleges Where Tuition Is Free.”

9. United States Military Academy

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $80,200
  • Mid-career: $144,000

The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, takes pride in producing well-developed leaders, particularly for the U.S. Army.

West Point has a long history as a prep school for Army officers and its academic programs include dozens of majors, from kinesiology and engineering psychology to chemical engineering and economics.

8. Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $81,000
  • Mid-career: $144,800

With only about 1,400 students enrolled, the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is a small school. It offers a variety of bachelor’s and master’s degrees programs in pharmaceutical sciences and other health-related fields.

It also offers a doctor of pharmacy program at its two campuses in Albany, New York, and Colchester, Vermont.

7. Stanford University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $79,000
  • Mid-career: $145,200

You may not be surprised to hear that this university in Stanford, California, is one of the hardest U.S. colleges to get into.

Once accepted, students can enroll in one of Stanford’s seven schools. The School of Engineering is the largest of the bunch, with some 5,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

6. Harvard University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $74,800
  • Mid-career: $146,800

With an acceptance rate of only 5%, Harvard University tops the list of the hardest colleges and universities to get into. Those who make it in enjoy a high-quality liberal arts and sciences education.

They also enjoy easy access to the largest academic library in the world, which houses 20.4 million volumes, 124 million archived webpages and much more on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus.

5. California Institute of Technology

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $84,100
  • Mid-career: $151,600

Caltech stretches across 124 acres in Pasadena, California. It owns and operates the Seismological Laboratory and a global network of astronomical observatories and manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Caltech is a private institution, known for its science and engineering programs. In fact, 97% of its degrees are awarded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

4. United States Naval Academy

U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland
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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $80,100
  • Mid-career: $152,800

The Naval Academy offers midshipmen 26 academic majors, including history and Chinese.

However, the needs of the U.S. Navy take precedence, and the Maryland-based academy specializes in STEM programs. As of 2013, 65% of graduates commissioned into the Navy were required to complete a degree based in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

3. Samuel Merritt University

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $91,200
  • Mid-career: $154,100

Samuel Merritt University prepares students for careers as nurses, occupational therapists, physician assistants and podiatric medicine professionals. It awards bachelors, master’s and doctoral degrees.

The school is spread among three campuses in Northern California, in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, and includes online education programs.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $86,300
  • Mid-career: $155,200

Not far from Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you’ll find MIT, a globally recognized institute of higher education.

Its community has included 90 Nobel Laureates and 59 National Medal of Science winners. The admissions standards are stringent. For its class of 2022, MIT accepted just 1,464 of 21,706 applicants.

1. Harvey Mudd College

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Median salaries for alumni with a bachelor’s degree from this school:

  • Early career: $88,800
  • Mid-career: $158,200

Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, was chartered in 1955. It was planned by and named for Harvey S. Mudd, a successful mining engineer who believed that an education in science, engineering and mathematics does not need to be exclusive of liberal arts courses.

While U.S. News & World Report recently awarded Harvey Mudd College the No. 2 spot on its list of best undergraduate engineering programs, the school also offers a balanced curriculum in humanities and social science.

Do you think earning potential is an important factor when shopping for colleges? Tell us your priorities in a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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