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Methodology Overview

Data Set Characteristics:

All data used to produce the PayScale 2012-13 College Salary Report were collected from employees who successfully completed PayScale's employee survey.

Bachelor's Only: Only employees who possess a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees are included. This means bachelor's degree graduates who go on to earn a master's degree, M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., 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. Also, we explicitly exclude majors that are no longer bachelor's level degrees (e.g. pharmacy).

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, Civilian Employees Only: Only graduates who are employed full-time, not on active military duty 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.

Note: The alumni sample considered for the military schools (e.g., The United States Air Force Academy) only includes those who are currently in the civilian labor force and does not include alumni who are active service members.

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 U.S.

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 2,900 bachelor's degree granting schools in the U.S, the PayScale College Salary Report includes 1,058 schools. These schools:

  • Include 88 percent of schools with over 5000 undergraduate enrollment
  • Include 77 percent of schools with over 2000 enrollment
  • Enroll over 80 percent of the undergraduates in bachelor's degree programs in the U.S.

The above percentages are based on enrollment data from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

A school's inclusion in or exclusion from the PayScale 2012-13 College Salary Report is not based on school quality, typical graduate earnings, selectivity, or location within the U.S.

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 U.S.


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 five 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 two 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.

Research Universities: A school categorized by the Carnegie basic higher education classification system which can be either public or private in one of three categories:

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

Research universities are the ones that 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 schools include science majors. It does not include pre-professional degrees like business, nursing, and engineering.

Private School: Any school identified by IPEDS as being privately funded.

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

Engineering School: Any school (public or private) which grants more than 50 percent 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 one-third 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 2012 Princeton Review "Party Schools" list.

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

Confidence Interval on the Median: For all schools, the confidence interval is ±5 percent, with the following exceptions:

  • Due to large variation in the pay of graduates from elite schools (Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Caltech, etc.) the confidence interval is ±10 percent.
  • Due to smaller data sets, the confidence interval for small liberal arts schools is also ±10 percent.
Census Regions: Mapping information can be found at
Note: We combined the West South Central and East South Central Regions into one and called it the Central South.

Division 1 Football Classifications: Current classifications were determined from

Division 1 Basketball Classifications: Current classifications were determined from

Job Meaning: This is the percentage of graduates of that school who answer "Very much so" and "Yes" to the question "Does your work make the world a better place?"

All About Majors:

We provided the national median salary and prevalence of meaningful work for 130 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.

Confidence Interval on the Median: For all majors, the confidence interval is ±5 percent.

Job Meaning: This is the percentage of people within a major who answer "Very much so" and "Yes" to the question "Does your work make the world a better place?"

Popular Jobs by Major Category: 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 1 percent of the total respondents for a major.

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 work in the United States as a full-time, civilian employee, hold a bachelor's degree and no higher, and graduated with the given major. 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 M.B.A. is not required to become a chief financial officer, but it is commonly held by workers in this position. Additionally, despite the fact that many scientific research positions require a Ph.D., there is bachelor's-level research done in corporate, government, and industrial settings.

Relative Experience Salary: 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 grouping of bachelor's majors can be 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, two years of experience or more as a human resources assistant may qualify as experienced, while seven years of experience or more may be necessary to qualify as an experienced IT manager.

Major Groupings:
  • Social Science Majors (economics, sociology, political science, anthropology, and geography)
  • Physical & Biological Science Majors (organic chemistry, physical chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, zoology, geology, oceanography, etc.)
  • Engineering Majors (mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, etc.)
  • Humanities Majors (Classics, ancient and modern languages, literature, history, philosophy, and religion)
  • Art & Design Majors (visual art, studio art, graphic design, fashion, interior design, music, theater, etc.)
  • Computer Science & Math Majors (computer science, math, applied math, statistics, etc.)
  • Pre-Professional Majors (education, nursing, criminal justice, social work, etc.)
  • Business Majors (management, business, marketing, accounting, etc.)
  • Communications Majors (PR, journalism, communications, broadcast)

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