Because Payscale's College Salary Report collects information from millions of individuals, we're able to provide snapshots based on different career stages. Thus, this report can help you determine how much income you could attain by the time you reach mid-career, based on which college or university you attend. We call this salary potential. In addition to choosing the right institution, you'll want to consider which field of study you pursue. Some fields might have higher earning potential, but less flexibility in terms of job choice. Ultimately, the major you choose will also have a significant effect on your lifetime earning potential.
Payscale’s College Salary Report helps you research colleges, majors and careers based on how much salary you could earn by the time you reach mid-career if you attend a specific college. We call this salary potential, and we use it to calculate our rankings which come from the alumni salary data of 3.5 million respondents representing over 2,400 universities across the U.S.
Choosing which college or university to attend, and which field you want to study can be a daunting decision. Where you choose to go to college, what type of degree you decide to pursue, and the major you choose to study can greatly impact your future salary potential. That's not to say that college students should choose their school and degree based on the potential to make a lot of money. There are many other personal factors to consider. However, understanding what your post-graduation earning power is likely to be is essential in order to make a sound financial decision when selecting a college and major.
Our data is routinely being updated. However, there are a number of factors that remain constant year after year. There's no doubt that higher education is still a significant financial investment. How and where you choose to make that investment is an important decision. With that being said, here are some of the latest trends and highlights from this year's data that can help you and your family make the best decisions when it comes to choosing a college.
Two-year degrees are a more affordable (and often overlooked) option for college-bound students. In fact, many states are now offering two years of free community college. However, for students who are taking out loans entirely on their own, picking a college that has a high salary potential could cut your student loan payback time in half.
The majority of the highest earning two-year programs are schools with strong reputations and a specific focus in nursing and healthcare professions. This year, Helene Fuld College of Nursing, Pacific Union College, and Laboure College top the list of schools with the most financially rewarding associate degrees.
1. Helene Fuld College of Nursing — Mid-Career Median Salary: $106,200
Helene Fuld College of Nursing is located in New York and has been around since 1945. They offer LPN to RN program so students can earn their Associates in Applied Science within two years.
2. Labouré College — Mid-Career Median Salary: $101,200
Labouré College is a private college specializing in nursing and healthcare education with a Catholic heritage in Milton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1892, Labouré offers online and on-campus certificate, associate, and bachelor degree programs.
3. Pacific Union College — Mid-Career Median Salary: $97,900
Pacific Union College is a private, liberal arts college located in Angwin, California near the Napa Valley. PCU is a small college, with a student teacher ratio of 13:1. Students can earn a two-year degree in a number of healthcare, aviation, emergency services and more.
Bachelor Degrees remain a common choice for those seeking a degree. However, bachelor degrees can be expensive, especially if you don't have monetary support from scholarships or grants to cover your tuition and fees. And even with support from scholarships, student loan debt is simply an expected hardship when getting a college degree these days. This is why it's important to choose a college with a high salary potential. In terms of four-year degrees, a few universities stood out on top, but for their own unique reasons.
The top of the list continues to be dominated by the Ivy League, elite technical universities, and military academies. This year, both Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are tied in the first place slot with mid-career median pay at $189,400. In second place is the US Naval Academy, with mid-career median pay at $181,500. At fourth place is Harvey Mudd College, a liberal arts school that grants degrees exclusively in science, engineering and mathematics. Stanford University rounds out the top five, with median mid-career pay coming in at $177,500.
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Mid-Career Median Salary: $189,400
MIT is one of the more prestigious universities that earned a top spot in our bachelor's degree category. Located in Cambridge, MIT is a renowned research university known for its advanced research in areas like technology and science. At MIT, 85 percent of undergraduates use enriched research to complete their degrees.
2. Princeton University — Mid-Career Median Salary: $189,400
Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey founded in 1746. Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and admittance is highly competitive.
3. United States Naval Academy — Mid-Career Median Salary: $181,500
United States Naval Academy students are midshipmen on active duty in the U.S. Navy. Graduates attend the academy for four years, graduating with bachelor of science degrees and commissions as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Naval Academy graduates serve at least five years in the Navy or Marine Corps.
Picking the right college for you can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out the best colleges with the highest paid graduates by state.