Methodology Overview

Data Set Characteristics:

All data used to produce PayScale's Education Package were collected from employees who successfully completed PayScale's employee survey.

Bachelors Only: Only employees who possess a Bachelor's Degree and no higher degrees are included. This means Bachelor graduates who go on to earn a Master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree are not included.

For some highly selective schools, graduates with degrees higher than a bachelor's degree can represent a significant fraction of all graduates.

Careers that require advanced degrees, such as law or medicine, are not included.

U.S. Only: All reports are for graduates of schools from the United States who work in the United States. This sample does not include U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico or Guam.

Full-Time Employees Only:
Only graduates who are employed full-time and paid with either an hourly wage or an annual salary are included.

Self-Employed, project-based, and contract employees are not included. For example, project-based graphic designers and architects, and nearly all small business owners and novelists, are not included.

Selection Criteria for Schools: The primary criteria for inclusion in this report are that a school offer bachelor's degrees, is located within the 50 United States, and has a substantial number of graduates who work for civilian employers in the US.

Military academies are excluded, because their primary mission is not to prepare graduates for civilian employment.

Schools with few bachelor's degree graduates, schools that have recently begun offering bachelor's degrees, or schools with a large percentage of graduates earning advanced degrees, may not be included due to insufficient data. In addition, a few schools were excluded due to issues in identifying the school accurately, usually because of ambiguous names or recent name changes.

Of the approximately 2,400 bachelor's degree granting schools in the US, the 2010 PayScale College Salary report includes 999 schools. These schools:

  • Include 97% of schools with over 5000 undergraduate enrollment
  • Include 88% of schools with over 2000 enrollment
  • Enroll over 90% of the undergraduates in bachelor's degree programs in the US
    based on enrollment data from the US Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
A school's inclusion in or exclusion from the 2010 PayScale College Salary Report is not based on school quality, typical graduate earnings, selectivity, or location within the US.

PayScale plans to expand the number of schools for future versions of this report. With more graduate salary data and analysis, we hope eventually to report on nearly all of the bachelor's degree granting institutions in the US.

Definitions:

Salary: Combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime, and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable.

Salary does not include equity (stock) compensation, which can be a significant portion of pay for some executive and high-tech jobs. In addition, salary does not include cash value of retirement benefits, or value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare).

Starting Employees: These are full-time employees with 5 years of experience or less in their career or field who hold a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees.

For the graduates in this data set, the typical (median) starting employee is 25 years old and has 2 years of experience.

Mid-Career Employees: These are full-time employees with at least 10 years of experience in their career or field who hold a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees.

For the graduates in this data set, the typical (median) mid-career employee is 42 years old and has 15 years of experience.

Private Research University: A school categorized by the Carnegie basic higher education classification system in one of three categories:

  • RU/VH: Research Universities (very high research activity)
  • RU/H: Research Universities (high research activity)
  • DRU: Doctoral/Research Universities

and classified by IPEDS as a private institution. Private Research Universities are the ones the grant Ph.D.s and do at least some research.

Liberal Arts School: Any private school with a Carnegie basic classification of "BAC/A&S Baccalaureate - Arts and Sciences" and identified as private by IPEDS. These generally are non-pre-professional undergraduate focused institutions, and usually have smaller enrollments.

Liberal Arts includes science majors. It does not include pre-professional degrees like business, nursing, and engineering.

Arts & Design School: Any private school with a Carnegie basic classification of "Spec/Arts: Special - Arts" and which grants bachelor's degrees according to IPEDS.

Private School: Any school identified by IPEDS as being privately funded, and not otherwise identified as a Liberal Arts School, Private Research University or Arts & Design School.

State School: Any school identified by IPEDS as being publicly funded.

Every school falls in one and only one of the four classifications above. Schools can also be in one of the following categories.

Engineering School: Any school (public or private) which grant more than 50% of their undergraduate degrees in math, sciences, computer science, engineering and engineering technology majors based on data from IPEDS. The idea is to identify science, engineering and technology focused schools.

Note that Harvey Mudd College is both Liberal Arts and Engineering, since only 1/3 of its graduates are engineers (the rest are largely science and math majors), so both the Carnegie definition of Liberal Arts and this definition of Engineering are met.

Party School: One of the 20 schools on the 2010 Princeton Review Party School Ranking.

Ivy League School: One of the 8 schools in the Ivy League.

Location Regions: The regions contain the following states:

  • California: California
  • Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin
  • Northeast: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont
  • South: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina , Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia
  • West: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Salary Potential:

Top Colleges - Salary Potential by School Type and by School Location

This report contains the median salary for graduates included schools

Starting Median Salary: Half of the Starting Employees who are graduates of a school will earn more than this salary, while half will earn less.

Mid-Career Median Salary: Half of the Mid-Career Employees who are graduates of a school will earn more than this salary, while half will earn less.

90% Confidence Interval on the Median: For all schools, the confidence interval is +/-5%, with the following exceptions:

  • Due to large variation in the pay of graduates from elite schools (Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Caltech, etc.) the 90% confidence interval is +/-10%.
  • Due to smaller data sets, the 90% confidence interval for small liberal arts schools is also +/-10%.

Degrees That Pay You Back:

We provided the national median salary for 120 popular bachelor degree majors.

Data from all bachelor's degree granting colleges and universities across the nation were included. The median salaries tend to represent characteristics of large state university graduates, since these schools have the largest attendance.

All jobs are included, not just those specific to the major. Though graduates with some majors, such as Computer Science, Nursing or Civil Engineering, do typically pursue a job in the same subject, many other graduates will often pursue careers in an unrelated area. For example, a history major may choose a job in a general business field.

Starting Median Salary: Half of the Starting Employees who are graduates of a school will earn more than this salary, while half will earn less.

Mid-Career Median Salary: Half of the Mid-Career Employees who are graduates of a school will earn more than this salary, while half will earn less.

90% Confidence Interval on the Median: For all majors, the 90% confidence interval is +/-5%.

Most Popular Jobs:

Jobs in each list are ordered by relative popularity and represent a minimum of 0.5% of respondents for a major or school.

Due to the great diversity of jobs people do, even for the most popular jobs it is not uncommon for the job to represent less than one percent of the total respondents for a major or school.

Some jobs are less likely to be represented on our lists due to a greater amount of specialization in the field. The inverse is also true. For example, Software Engineers who work in a wide range of settings and whose responsibilities can vary dramatically all identify with the same job title, and hence are more likely to appear on the list.

Employees with all years of experience are included, as long as they worked in the United States as a full-time employee, held a Bachelor's degree and no higher, and graduated either with the given major or from the given school. As a result, each list contains not only jobs held by experienced practitioners in the field, but also by those who have recently graduated.

Jobs which require advanced degrees, such as doctors and lawyers, are not present. However, those which generally are held by workers with advanced degrees will sometimes appear. For example, an MBA is not required to become a Chief Financial Officer, but it is commonly held by workers is this position. Additionally, despite the fact that many scientific research positions require a PhD, there is bachelors-level research done in corporate, government, and industrial settings.

Median Salary All U.S.: Half of experienced employees with a bachelor's degree and no higher will earn more than this amount, while half will earn less.

Note: This bachelor's degree can be in any subject and from any school. The years of experience necessary to qualify as an "experienced employee" for a given job title is relative to others who hold the same job title. For example, 2 years of experience or more as a Human Resources Assistant may qualify as experienced, while 7 years of experience or more may be necessary to qualify as an experienced IT Manager.

Most Popular Jobs by Degree (or Major)

For each major, we list the jobs most frequently reported by (popular with) employees holding a bachelor's degree only and specializing in that subject.

Just as with the "Degrees That Pay Your Back" section, all jobs were considered, not just those specific to the major. Employees who graduated from any college were included in the calculation of popularity.

Most Popular Jobs by School

For each school, we list the jobs most frequently reported by (popular with) employees holding a bachelor's degree from the given school.

Note that, due to limited data per school, the median salary is based upon national pay rates for Bachelor graduates in each job, not just graduates of the specific school.

Most Popular Schools by Job

For each of the given jobs, we list the schools with the highest percentage of graduates who report doing the job.

The largest universities graduate the most students and thus they usually have the largest number of people in any particular job. By ranking percentages, schools that produce a larger fraction of graduates who do a particular job than is typical are represented.

Foreign, military, and business only schools were excluded, as well as those for which there was insufficient data to conclude the popularity of a job titles amongst school graduates.

Copyright PayScale, Inc., 2010

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