College Salary Report Methodology

FAQs

Why don't I see my school in the 2015-2016 College Salary Report?

Only schools or which PayScale had a statistically significant sample were considered for this study. Exclusion from the study is not a reflection on the quality of the institution, but simply indicates that we did not have enough verified data from the school to publish a Salary ranking for it. We acquire our data from individuals filling out the PayScale Salary Survey.

Are the sample sizes reported in the Research Center for my school the samples utilized for the College Salary Report?

PayScale's public-facing Research Center only samples a portion of our overall database and does not fully represent the sample utilized for calculating the earnings figures in the PayScale College Salary Report. The size of a school's sample is strongly correlated with the size of the school. Therefore, our samples are larger for larger schools. The average sample size for the included schools is 325 profiles.

PayScale's core business is building software that utilizes our data and compensation algorithm. Our public Research Center is only meant to give a glimpse of our full data set.

How does PayScale collect the data used in the College Salary Report?

The data used in PayScale's College Salary Report is collected through our ongoing, online compensation survey. People complete the PayScale survey to understand their price in the labor market. Users provide data about their jobs, compensation, employer, demographics and educational background. In return, PayScale provides them with a detailed compensation report that compares their compensation to others like them.

This data is rigorously tested and verified before it is considered for reporting. Please see the PayScale methodology for more details.

The sample considered for the 2015 - 2016 College Salary report was 1.4 million college graduates. The sample size for each school included ranges from ~50 profiles to ~4000 profiles, depending largely upon the size of the school.


Data Set Characteristics

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

This year, the report includes seven types of degree holders:

  1. Bachelor's Only: Only employees who possess a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees are included. This means bachelor's degree graduates who went on to earn a master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degrees are not included.
  2. All Bachelor's: This data set contains both those whose culminating degree is a bachelor's degree and those who obtained their bachelor's degree from the school in question and then went on to get a higher degree (master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degrees).
  3. Associate's Only: Only employees who possess an associate degree and no higher degrees are included. This means associate degree graduates who went on to earn a bachelor's degree, master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degrees are not included.
  4. Master's Only: Only employees who possess a master's degree and no higher degrees are included. This means master's degree graduates who went on to earn an MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degrees are not included.
  5. MBA Only: Only employees who possess a M.B.A. degree and no higher degrees are included. This means M.B.A degree graduates who go on to earn a M.D., J.D., Ph.D., or other advanced degrees are not included.
  6. PhD Only: Only employees who possess a PhD. degree and no higher degrees are included. This means Ph.D. degree graduates who go on to earn an M.D. or J.D. other advanced degrees are not included.
  7. JD Only: Only employees who possess a JD degree and no higher degrees are included. This means JD graduates who went on to earn a PhD or MD 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, 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.

Sample Size: The sample size of degree holding, full-time, civilian employees working in the U.S. is 1.4 million. The sample size for each school included ranges from ~50 profiles to ~4000 profiles, depending largely upon the size of the school.

Selection Criteria for Schools: The primary criteria for inclusion in this report are that a school offers an associate, bachelor's, master's, MBA, PhD or JD degree, 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 graduates for a degree level and schools that have recently begun offering a given degree level may not be included due to insufficient data.

Additionally, for the bachelor's only and associate data sets, schools with a large percentage of graduates earning advanced degrees may not be included due to insufficient data.

Of the approximate 3,163 bachelor's degree granting schools in the U.S., the PayScale College Salary Report 2015-16 includes 1,063 schools. These schools:

  • Include 89 percent of schools with over 5,000 undergraduate enrollment
  • Include 64 percent of schools with over 1,000 enrollment
  • Enroll over 78 percent of the estimated undergraduates in bachelor's degree programs in the U.S.

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

Of the approximate 2983 associate degree granting schools in the U.S., the PayScale College Salary Report 2015-16 includes 473 schools.

Of the approximate 1930 master's degree (including MBA degrees) granting schools in the U.S., the PayScale College Salary Report 2015-16 includes 409 schools.

Of the approximate 617 PhD degree granting schools in the U.S., the PayScale College Salary Report 2015-16 includes 67 schools.

A school's inclusion in or exclusion from the PayScale College Salary Report 2015-16 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.


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).

Early-Career Employees: These are full-time employees with five years of experience or less in their career or field.

Mid-Career Employees: These are full-time employees with at least 10 years of experience in their career or field.

For the graduates in both the bachelor's only and the all bachelor's data set, the typical (median) mid-career employee is 44 years old and has 15 years of experience.

For the graduates in the associate data set, the typical (median) mid-career employee is 47 years old and has 16 years of experience.

For the graduates in the master's data set, the median mid-career employee is 45 years old and has 15 years of experience.

For graduates in the MBA data set, the median mid-career employee is 44 years old and has 15 years of experience.

For graduates in the PhD data set, the median mid-career employee is 48 years old and has 16 years of experience.

For graduates in the JD data set, the median mid-career employee is 46 years old and has 15 years of experience.

Early-Career Median Salary: Half of the early career employees will earn more than this salary, while half will earn less.

Mid-Career Median Salary: Half of the mid-career employees will earn more than this salary, while half will earn less.

Confidence Interval on the Early-Career Median:

  • For Bachelor's schools with over 5000 enrollment, the confidence interval is ±5 percent.
  • Due to smaller data sets, the confidence interval for small schools (less than 5000 enrollment) is ±10 percent.
  • For Associate's schools, the confidence interval is ±10 percent
  • For graduate level schools, the confidence interval is ±10 percent.

Confidence Interval on the Mid-Career Median:

  • Due to a wider range in pay due to a wider range in experience, for Bachelor's schools, the confidence interval is ±10 percent
  • Similarly, for associate schools, the confidence interval is ±10 percent.
  • Similarly, for graduate level schools, the confidence interval is ±10 percent.

Maximum Allowable Error: No school was included if the error on the median salary was greater than ±15 percent (for bachelor's earners) or greater than ±12.5 percent (for associate earners).

For all graduate level degrees (master's, MBA, JD, PhD, MD), no school was included if the error on the median salary was greater than ±13 percent.

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

School Sector: This is the "Sector of institution" from IPEDS: Public, Private Not-for-Profit or Private For-Profit

School Type:

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

  • 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

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

  • Party School: One of the 20 schools on the 2015 Princeton Review "Party Schools" list.

  • Sober School: One of the 20 schools on the 2015 Princeton Review "Sobers Schools" list.

  • Liberal Arts School: Any school with a Carnegie basic classification of "BAC/A&S Baccalaureate – Arts and Sciences". 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.

  • Engineering School: Any school 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.

  • Business School: Any school which grants more than 50 percent of their undergraduate degrees in business management, marketing and related support services majors based on data from IPEDS.

  • Art / Design: Any school which grants more than 50 percent of their undergraduate degrees in visual and performing arts majors based on data from IPEDS.

  • Religious: Any school with a religious affiliation based on data from IPEDS.

  • For Sports Fans: Any school with a Division 1 Football or Division 1 Basketball team.

  • Law School: Any School which provides JD Degrees is labeled as a Law School, whether it's a college as part of a University or an independent college.

  • Master's School: Includes institutions that award at least 50 master's degrees per year, but do not award 20 or more Doctoral degrees per year.

Gender Breakdown: This is the gender breakdown of undergraduates from IPEDS.

Undergraduate Enrollment: This is the undergraduate fall enrollment from IPEDS. An undergraduate is defined by IPEDS as "A student enrolled in a 4- or 5-year bachelor's degree program, an associate degree program, or a vocational or technical program below the baccalaureate."

% STEM: For bachelor's or associate programs this is the % of bachelor's or associate degrees that are awarded in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from IPEDS. For master's or PhD programs it is the % of respective master's or PhDs awarded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics from IPEDS.


Best Schools

We rank the schools based on the mid-career median salary of the graduates. These rankings are displayed for eight groupings:

  • Bachelor's Only Schools – a ranking of 1034 undergraduate schools for bachelor's graduates who did not go on to earn a master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree.

  • All Bachelor's Schools – a ranking of 1062 undergraduate schools for all bachelor's graduates (including those who went on to earn a master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree).

  • Associate's Only Schools – a ranking of 473 schools for associate graduates who did not go on to earn a bachelor's degree, master's degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree.

  • Best Schools by Major – a ranking of schools based on the median mid-career pay of graduates within a particular major (more details below).

  • Master's Schools – a ranking of 372 graduate schools for master's graduates who did not go on to earn an MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree.

  • Masters of Business Administration Schools – a ranking of 233 business schools for MBA graduates who did not go on to earn an MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree.

  • PhD Schools – a ranking of 66 graduate schools for PhD graduates who did not go on to earn an MD, or other advanced degree.

  • Law Schools – a ranking of 51 graduate schools for JD graduates who did not go on to earn an MD, PhD, or other advanced degree.

Best Schools by Major

Since major choice plays an instrumental role in potential salary, we decided to rank schools for the second year based on the earnings of graduates within a particular major for bachelor's only graduates.

Please note, not all schools from the overall package were considered for these rankings as we placed certain restrictions on minimum sample size and spread in pay for the school/major combinations. For this reason, many liberal arts schools and other small schools were not considered for these rankings.

Additionally, similar to the overall school rankings, these schools are ranked based on the median mid-career earnings of graduates within the particular major. The pay values do not control for job choice, only major and school selection. This is important to keep in mind as graduates for one school may select very different jobs than graduates from another school even if they share the same major.

Major Groupings Included:

  • Art (Visual and Performing Arts\CIP Code 50)
  • Business (Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services\CIP Code 52)
  • Communications (Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs\CIP Code 09)
  • Computer Science (Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services\CIP Code 11)
  • Education (Education\CIP Code 13)
  • Engineering (Engineering\CIP Code 14)
  • Humanities (English Language and Literature/Letters\CIP Code 23, History\CIP Code 54, Philosophy and Religious Studies\CIP Code 38, Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics\CIP Code 16, and Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities\CIP Code 24)
  • Physical and Life Sciences (Biological and Biomedical Sciences\CIP Code 26 and Physical Sciences\CIP Code 40)
  • Social Sciences (Social Sciences\CIP Code 45)

Choosing a Major

We provide the median starting and median mid-career salary, maturity curves, and percent with meaningful work for:

  • 142 Associate's majors
  • 319 Bachelor's majors
  • 201 Master's majors
  • 47 MBA focus/specialties
  • 40 PhD majors

Note: Only employees who possess the specified major at the specified degree level and did not go on to get an advanced degree are included.


Popular Jobs for Major

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.

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 degree, 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 MBA 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 PhD, there is bachelor's-level research done in corporate, government, and industrial settings.

Relative Commonness: This is the relative commonness for the job within the given bachelor major compared to all workers who hold a bachelor's degree in the U.S. For example, the relative percentage for the job "Industrial Designer" for art majors (bachelor's only) is 1864%, therefore, it is nearly 19 times more likely an art major will hold the job title “Industrial Designer” than the average worker with a bachelor's degree in the U.S.

Mid-Career Median Salary: Half of employees with at least 10 years of experience and a bachelor's degree (and no higher degree) will earn more than this amount, while half will earn less.

Copyright PayScale, Inc., 2015

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