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PayScale Releases 2015-16 College Salary Report

New Report Highlights Gender Disparities At Undergraduate and Graduate Level; Median earnings for graduates from master’s and PhD programs at public universities lag significantly behind earnings for graduates from private not-for-profit schools; SUNY Maritime College Unseats Harvey Mudd for Bachelor’s Mid Career Salary

Seattle – August 26, 2015 – PayScale, Inc., the world’s leading provider of on-demand compensation data and software, today announced its 2015-16 College Salary Report.

This year PayScale reports on salary data for alumni of a total of 1,519 schools broken down by the following degree levels:

  • Associate degrees (468 institutions)
  • Bachelor’s degrees only – alumni who go on to receive advanced degrees NOT included (1,034 institutions)
  • Bachelor’s degrees, including alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees (1,062 institutions)
  • Graduate degrees (417 institutions)
  • Master’s degrees (372 institutions)
  • PhDs (66 institutions)
  • MBAs (233 institutions)
  • JDs (51 institutions)

PayScale also reports on salary data for alumni with the following majors and degree levels:

  • 142 majors at the associate level
  • 319 majors at the bachelor’s level
  • 288 graduate-level degrees (master’s, PhD and MBA)

* Data included for law schools largely covers those who are employed at second-tier law firms or in public law due to standardized salaries at top-tier law firms

The 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report has a new school topping the list for bachelor’s-only graduates, ranked by alumni mid-career median salary: SUNY – Maritime College, a small public college in New York State, reported a median mid-career alumni income of $134,000 per year, beating Harvey Mudd College by $1,000. Harvey Mudd has held the top spot for the last two years. SUNY – Maritime College still comes out on top for median mid-career salary of bachelor’s graduates even when including those who go on to earn advanced degrees.

“As with many of the schools that end up at the top of our list in terms of earning potential, SUNY Maritime offers a strong engineering program,” said Katie Bardaro, VP of Data Analytics, PayScale. “College graduates who major in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – are in demand in today’s labor market, and this increased demand drives up wages.”

The full report can be found here:

Highlights from PayScale’s 2015-16 College Salary Report include:

Associate, Bachelor’s and Graduate Schools

  • Graduates of Emory University’s School of Law earn the highest median mid-career salary overall ($201,000) of any school included in the College Salary Report. This relatively small private school in Atlanta, Georgia beats out much more well-known law schools, including UCLA ($199,000), Georgetown ($188,000) and Harvard ($186,000).
  • Median earnings for graduates from master’s and PhD programs at public universities lag significantly behind earnings for graduates from private not-for-profit schools. Of course, we’re looking purely at earning potential and not the cost of attending the school. For return on investment information, you can view PayScale’s College ROI Report.
  • When ranking 2-year schools, median school ranking for public schools is nearly 15 percent higher than private for-profit schools, and nearly 25 percent higher than private not-for-profit schools.

STEM Degree = Higher Earning Potential

  • The median percentage of STEM graduates for a given school decreases significantly as you go down the bachelor’s only list. The median percentage of STEM graduates for schools ranked 1 through 20 is 42.5 percent. The median for schools ranked 21 through 50 is 29 percent. The median for schools with a ranking above 50 is 11 percent.
  • Schools ranked in the top 50 master’s schools have a median of 37 percent STEM graduates. Schools ranked below the top 50 have a median of 11 percent STEM graduates.

Gender Plays a Role

  • Male students are the majority at top-ranked schools: Only 45 percent of all students from schools ranked in the top 50 master’s schools are women, whereas 57 percent of students from schools ranked below the top 50 are women. Similar patterns are also present in 4-year colleges, MBA-level schools and PhD level schools (IPEDS Data).

Major Matters Most

  • Advanced degrees can pay off big time – if you choose wisely. Twenty-five percent of the 201 master’s level majors have mid-career median pay numbers above $100,000, but all are STEM subjects.
  • Don’t assume that the arts are a lost cause. People who earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial design are the highest-paid arts majors (mid-career median salary: $84,500).
  • A bachelor’s degree in philosophy leads to the highest median mid-career salary of any humanities degree in our study ($85,000).
  • An associate degree in child development nets the lowest salary potential of any degree or subject major – just $30,000 per year with 10 or more years of experience.

The Right School for the Right Major

  • Five of the top 10 schools for art majors are public colleges.
  • The most highly-paid software engineers don’t necessarily attend school in the Silicon Valley. UC Santa Barbara produces the highest-paid computer science majors with 10 or more years of experience ($147,000), and Columbia University produces the highest-paid alumni with five or fewer years of experience ($98,900). UC Berkeley comes in second place by both counts.
  • The highest-paid humanities majors almost all come from private colleges, including Tufts, Duke, UPenn and Columbia. UC Berkeley is the only public college on the top 10 list of schools for humanities majors by earning potential. Similarly, the 10 colleges with the most highly-paid social science majors are all private schools.

“Earning potential is just one piece of information that college applicants should consider when evaluating school and major choice, but it’s certainly not the only factor that matters,” said Lydia Frank, Senior Editorial Director, PayScale. “However, we want to see fewer college graduates struggling with student debt after graduation. Part of the solution is financial literacy and helping students understand their ability to pay back student debt. And, part of the solution lies with schools and policymakers to ensure that education is not out of reach for a large percentage of the nation’s youth.”

For definitions and methodology, visit

About PayScale

Cloud software, crowdsourced data and unique algorithms power the world’s largest real-time database of rich salary profiles giving PayScale the unique ability to provide employees and employers alike immediate visibility into the right pay for any position. PayScale’s cloud compensation software is used by more than 3,000 customers including Bloomberg BNA, Cummins, Warby Parker, Clemson University and Signature HealthCARE.

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