The Best Universities For a Bachelor’s Degree

Before taking the plunge and enrolling in a four-year program, do some research and check out the top colleges with the highest-paid graduates.

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Bachelor's Only
Salary data for alumni who earned a bachelor's degree and did not go on to earn any additional degrees.
All Alumni
Salary data for all alumni who earned a bachelor's degree, including but not limited to those who went on to earn additional degrees from any school.
Rank 
School Name 
School Type
Degree Type 
School Sector
Early Career Pay
 
Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years experience
Mid-Career Pay
 
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years experience
% High Meaning
 
% alumni who say their work makes the world a better place
% STEM Degrees
 
% degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering or math subjects
1Engineering, Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$85,600$157,40056%85%

1Harvey Mudd College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$85,600
Mid-Career Pay$157,400
% High Meaning56%
% STEM Degrees85%
2Engineering, Private School, Research UniversityBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$83,600$150,40053%69%

2Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$83,600
Mid-Career Pay$150,400
% High Meaning53%
% STEM Degrees69%
3Engineering, Liberal Arts School, Sober School, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$78,600$149,80065%58%

3United States Naval Academy
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$78,600
Mid-Career Pay$149,800
% High Meaning65%
% STEM Degrees58%
4Engineering, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$76,500$143,10057%51%

4Stanford University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$76,500
Mid-Career Pay$143,100
% High Meaning57%
% STEM Degrees51%
4Engineering, Private School, Research UniversityBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$83,400$143,10054%96%

4California Institute of Technology
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$83,400
Mid-Career Pay$143,100
% High Meaning54%
% STEM Degrees96%
6Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$80,200$142,60083%2%

6Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$80,200
Mid-Career Pay$142,600
% High Meaning83%
% STEM Degrees2%
6Ivy League, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$72,600$142,60055%19%

6Harvard University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$72,600
Mid-Career Pay$142,600
% High Meaning55%
% STEM Degrees19%
8Liberal Arts School, Sober School, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$79,300$141,90063%39%

8United States Military Academy
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$79,300
Mid-Career Pay$141,900
% High Meaning63%
% STEM Degrees39%
9Ivy League, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$72,700$141,30047%45%

9Princeton University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$72,700
Mid-Career Pay$141,300
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees45%
10State SchoolBachelorsPublic$73,300$140,10055%32%

10SUNY Maritime College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$73,300
Mid-Career Pay$140,100
% High Meaning55%
% STEM Degrees32%
11Engineering, Research University, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$74,100$139,30060%93%

11Colorado School of Mines
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$74,100
Mid-Career Pay$139,300
% High Meaning60%
% STEM Degrees93%
12Business, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$69,300$139,20035%0%

12Babson College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$69,300
Mid-Career Pay$139,200
% High Meaning35%
% STEM Degrees0%
13Private School, Religious, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$66,800$139,10044%29%

13Santa Clara University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$66,800
Mid-Career Pay$139,100
% High Meaning44%
% STEM Degrees29%
14Engineering, Private School, Research UniversityBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$73,600$138,90050%79%

14Stevens Institute of Technology
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$73,600
Mid-Career Pay$138,900
% High Meaning50%
% STEM Degrees79%
15Ivy League, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$68,900$137,50044%35%

15Dartmouth College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$68,900
Mid-Career Pay$137,500
% High Meaning44%
% STEM Degrees35%
16Liberal Arts School, Party School, Private School, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$65,000$137,30038%26%

16Colgate University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$65,000
Mid-Career Pay$137,300
% High Meaning38%
% STEM Degrees26%
16Liberal Arts School, Sober School, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$74,000$137,30069%43%

16United States Air Force Academy
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$74,000
Mid-Career Pay$137,300
% High Meaning69%
% STEM Degrees43%
18Engineering, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$80,800$136,60064%56%

18United States Merchant Marine Academy
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$80,800
Mid-Career Pay$136,600
% High Meaning64%
% STEM Degrees56%
19Ivy League, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$70,100$135,80042%21%

19University of Pennsylvania
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$70,100
Mid-Career Pay$135,800
% High Meaning42%
% STEM Degrees21%
20Engineering, Party School, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$67,200$135,70045%52%

20Lehigh University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$67,200
Mid-Career Pay$135,700
% High Meaning45%
% STEM Degrees52%
21Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$64,000$135,50048%32%

21Williams College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$64,000
Mid-Career Pay$135,500
% High Meaning48%
% STEM Degrees32%
22Ivy League, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$68,300$135,40054%20%

22Yale University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$68,300
Mid-Career Pay$135,400
% High Meaning54%
% STEM Degrees20%
23Engineering, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$79,100$134,700N/A100%

23Webb Institute
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$79,100
Mid-Career Pay$134,700
% High MeaningN/A
% STEM Degrees100%
24Engineering, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$81,900$134,200N/A100%

24Franklin W Olin College of Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$81,900
Mid-Career Pay$134,200
% High MeaningN/A
% STEM Degrees100%
25Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$69,200$133,60049%43%

25Rice University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$69,200
Mid-Career Pay$133,600
% High Meaning49%
% STEM Degrees43%
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Choosing a college isn’t a simple task – you want to pick a school that will challenge you intellectually and provide you with life experiences that help you grow as a person. But unless you want to live in your parents’ basement for the rest of your life, you also want to pick a school that prepares you for a successful career, both in terms of getting hired and equipping you with the skills to properly do your job. Not to mention the fact that the cost of college is higher than ever, and repaying financial aid can be costly later in life. PayScale’s College Salary Report has ranked colleges and universities by the median salaries of their alumni. By knowing how much you can expect to earn after getting your bachelor’s degree, you can choose a school wisely and set yourself up for future financial security, especially when evaluating how much to borrow to help pay for your education.

The data used to calculate all salary information comes from millions of people who have taken the PayScale Salary Survey and told us where they received their bachelor’s degree. If you want to see salaries based off alumni who only received a bachelor’s degree, use the Bachelor’s Only tab. To see median alumni salaries that include data from graduates who went on to earn a graduate degree (at any school, not just the university where they obtained a bachelor’s degree), use the All Alumni tab.

Universities Focused On STEM Come Out On Top

You might assume that the highest earners in the country come from well-known Ivy League Schools like Harvard or Princeton, but the truth is, the highest median alumni salaries often come from students who attended small colleges with strong engineering programs. If we focus on early career earnings, elite military schools reign supreme. For bachelor’s-only graduates, the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy at Annapolis are often home to high earners. The fact that West Point and Naval Academy alumni graduate with military experience probably increases their worth to employers.

The colleges with the highest-earning alumni almost all have one thing in common – they produce a lot of engineers and other workers with valuable STEM degrees. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody should become an engineer. PayScale publishes this data to help students understand the typical salaries they will likely go on to earn, and the corresponding amount of student debt they can afford to take on.

But don’t count liberal arts schools out just yet. Harvey Mudd and the USNA are both technically liberal arts schools as well because of the curriculum they require of graduates before receiving their degrees. However, even more classically styled liberal arts schools, like Washington and Lee University, Colgate University, Carleton College and Williams College produce high-earning graduates. Prospective students should just be aware that a liberal arts degree may mean it takes them a longer time to get settled in the career of their dreams, but their well-rounded, analytical skill sets and ability to clearly communicate can set them up for successful careers.

Both public and private schools can produce high-earning alumni. All military academies produce high-earning grads (again, when looking at grads in civilian jobs), and SUNY – Maritime College, the University of California – Berkeley and the Georgia Institute of Technology produce very high-earning alumni, beating out some Ivy League Schools.

The Best 4-Year Universities in 2018

For now, we’ll focus on learning more about the universities that came out on top in 2018 for having the highest salary potential and what makes these schools so beneficial for students.

Harvey Mudd College – Mid-Career Salary: $157,400

Harvey Mudd is consistently among the top school on our College Salary Report year after year. The small, private school of about 800 students is located in Claremont, California. HMC offers students small class sizes, and the institution has an academic focus in science and engineering, with 85 percent of graduates earning a degree in STEM.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Mid-Career Salary: $150,400

It goes without saying that MIT is one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. Students who enter the four-year degree program at MIT can expect to perform a lot of hands-on research related to their studies. Unlike Harvey Mudd, MIT has an undergraduate population of just under five thousand, which means larger class sizes for MIT students. MIT is largely focused on engineering and research.

United States Naval Academy – Mid-Career Salary: $149,800

Military and service academies continue to be great options for students because the cost to attend is so low. The USNA campus is located near the water between the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland. The curriculum at USNA is mostly focused on technology and learning skills for a career in service.

California Institute of Technology – Mid-Career Salary: $143,100

It’s not uncommon to see technology-focused universities take the top spot on our college rankings. As one of the top universities in California, CalTech has a lot to offer students ranging from university sponsored research opportunities to an athletics program that is sure to thrill. There are around one thousand undergraduates enrolled at CalTech, and ninety-six percent of those students are studying STEM-related subjects.


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