Whether you are earning a master's degree, MBA, JD or PhD, going to graduate school requires a lot of time, effort and money. And no matter how much you may love to learn, you most likely want the time you spend in graduate school to pay off, monetarily, by helping you get into the career path of your dreams. PayScale's College Salary Report has the data you need to help you choose a graduate school that has a proven track record of producing alumni whose salaries justify their investment in education.
The Highest-Earning Alumni Come From Law Schools
Not surprisingly, many of the most famous law schools rank highly on PayScale's College Salary Report. However, the highest median mid-career salaries come from graduates of a law school that many people may never have heard of. Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia, is the number one graduate program on our list of the graduate programs with the highest salary potential, beating more well-known law schools like Harvard Law and Georgetown. Several California law schools rank very highly too -- UCLA, USC, UC Berkeley, Pepperdine and Santa Clara University all have law schools that rank well.
It should be noted that because most top-tier law firms have standard salary practices, especially for entry-level law positions, most of PayScale's data comes from law alumni who work at second-tier or public law firms.
Brand Name MBAs Produce The Highest Early Career Salaries
If you want an immediate return on investment for a graduate degree, you should set your sights on getting an MBA from a big-name business school. Nine out of the 10 graduate programs with the highest early career salaries are top-tier business schools -- and many have strong ties to STEM programs.
The Sloane School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has the highest overall alumni salary for workers with zero to five years of experience ($131,000). UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business comes in second, with a median early career salary of $123,000. It's not doubt that students at these schools benefit from strong computer science and technology programs at both of these schools, and probably get some of these high salaries from the top tech companies, both large and small, in the nation. More recent Sloane and Haas grads earn more than their peers who earned MBAs at Ivy League business schools, including Yale, Harvard, UPenn's Wharton and Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.
Harvard's Business School has the highest median mid-career salary of any business school ($190,000).
Best PhD and Master's Programs by Earning Potential
MBA and JD degrees aren't the only graduate degrees that lead to high salaries. PhD and Master's programs pay off too -- if you study the right subject and go to the right school. MIT's PhD program, unsurprisingly, produces the highest-earning holders of doctorates ($152,000). For non-MBA master's degrees, Stanford takes the number one spot with a median mid-career salary of $141,000. Once again, both programs produce grads with skills that cutting-edge tech companies need and are willing to pay big bucks for.