Best Public Universities by Salary Potential

Want a great education without the high costs of a private university? Learn more about the top public schools with the highest-earning graduates. [Read More]

When students are looking for a college education that won't break the bank, they often think first of public universities. PayScale has ranked hundreds of public colleges by alumni salaries so that you can research how successful alumni of public colleges and universities are and how much they earn, and apply at the top public colleges with the highest-paid alumni.

The Best U.S. College By Salary Potential

This year, the college with the highest alumni salaries is one you have probably never heard of: SUNY Maritime College in New York State. Home to 1,601 students, SUNY Maritime is the perfect recipe for high alumni salaries because it has both strong business and engineering programs. As a result, SUNY Maritime graduates enjoy the highest median salaries in both the early career salary and mid-career salary categories when we include alumni who only earn a bachelor's degree. When we include alumni who go on to earn graduate degrees, SUNY Maritime still takes the top spot for mid-career salary, but falls to eighth for early career salary.

Military Schools Have High Earning Potential

Military schools top the list for schools with the highest-earning grads in the civilian workforce. The United States Naval Academy (USMA) at Annapolis and United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point come in first and second for both early career salaries for all alumni ($82,900 and $82,800, respectively) and second and third place for median mid-career salaries if alumni with graduate degrees are not included. If military grads need another thing to be proud of, they should definitely take pride in their earning potential.

Other military colleges that produce high earners are the United States Air Force Academy and the Virginia Military Academy. It is important to note that we do not include salary data for alumni serving actively in the military, as that is standardized. Students at military colleges get valuable experience as active military members, so it makes sense that they then enter the workforce at higher salary grades than civilian grads.

Public Engineering Colleges Produce High Earners

There are many public colleges and universities with strong engineer programs that rank highly on PayScale's College Salary Report. The Georgia Institute of Technology is recognized nationally for its excellent engineering programs, and as a result ranks in the top 10. The University of California at Berkeley produces high earners too, even though it does not focus exclusively on engineering.

Public schools that graduate a large percentage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors tend to have alumni with high earning potential, especially for early career salaries, because graduates with those skills are immediately in high demand in our current economy. Even schools that most people have never heard of, like the Colorado School of Mines (97 percent STEM degrees) and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (92 percent STEM degrees) have the highest percentage of STEM graduates and they both have median early career alumni salaries over $60,000.

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