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
51Private School, ReligiousBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$61,900$122,90031%0%

51The King's University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$61,900
Mid-Career Pay$122,900
% High Meaning31%
% STEM Degrees0%
52Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$62,000$122,60047%23%

52University of Southern California
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$62,000
Mid-Career Pay$122,600
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees23%
53Liberal Arts School, Party School, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$60,900$122,40051%47%

53Union College (New York)
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$60,900
Mid-Career Pay$122,400
% High Meaning51%
% STEM Degrees47%
54Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$57,700$121,80048%33%

54University of California-Irvine
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$57,700
Mid-Career Pay$121,800
% High Meaning48%
% STEM Degrees33%
55Liberal Arts School, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$63,900$121,60068%47%

55Virginia Military Institute
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$63,900
Mid-Career Pay$121,600
% High Meaning68%
% STEM Degrees47%
56Engineering, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$62,500$121,50062%91%

56New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$62,500
Mid-Career Pay$121,500
% High Meaning62%
% STEM Degrees91%
56Party School, Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$57,300$121,50047%29%

56University of California-Santa Barbara
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$57,300
Mid-Career Pay$121,500
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees29%
58Liberal Arts School, Private School, Religious, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$64,200$121,20041%47%

58Lafayette College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$64,200
Mid-Career Pay$121,200
% High Meaning41%
% STEM Degrees47%
59Engineering, Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$62,800$121,10052%75%

59New Jersey Institute of Technology
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$62,800
Mid-Career Pay$121,100
% High Meaning52%
% STEM Degrees75%
60Liberal Arts School, Private School, Religious, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$58,800$121,00046%24%

60College of the Holy Cross
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$58,800
Mid-Career Pay$121,000
% High Meaning46%
% STEM Degrees24%
61Private School, Research UniversityBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$60,800$120,70042%18%

61New York University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$60,800
Mid-Career Pay$120,700
% High Meaning42%
% STEM Degrees18%
62Private School, Research UniversityBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$63,200$120,50050%25%

62Tufts University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$63,200
Mid-Career Pay$120,500
% High Meaning50%
% STEM Degrees25%
63Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$53,600$120,40049%18%

63Hobart William Smith Colleges
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$53,600
Mid-Career Pay$120,400
% High Meaning49%
% STEM Degrees18%
63Engineering, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$69,000$120,40044%74%

63Kettering University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$69,000
Mid-Career Pay$120,400
% High Meaning44%
% STEM Degrees74%
63Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$63,700$120,40070%2%

63MCPHS University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$63,700
Mid-Career Pay$120,400
% High Meaning70%
% STEM Degrees2%
66Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$57,500$120,30051%23%

66Bates College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$57,500
Mid-Career Pay$120,300
% High Meaning51%
% STEM Degrees23%
67Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$62,300$119,90046%23%

67University of Virginia-Main Campus
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$62,300
Mid-Career Pay$119,900
% High Meaning46%
% STEM Degrees23%
67Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$60,500$119,90047%37%

67Pomona College
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$60,500
Mid-Career Pay$119,900
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees37%
67State SchoolBachelorsPublic$66,700$119,90066%48%

67Maine Maritime Academy
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$66,700
Mid-Career Pay$119,900
% High Meaning66%
% STEM Degrees48%
70Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$59,000$119,20047%15%

70George Washington University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$59,000
Mid-Career Pay$119,200
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees15%
71Private School, Religious, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$59,600$118,70041%17%

71Fairfield University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$59,600
Mid-Career Pay$118,700
% High Meaning41%
% STEM Degrees17%
72Party School, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$58,200$118,60047%13%

72Wake Forest University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$58,200
Mid-Career Pay$118,600
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees13%
73Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolBachelorsPublic$60,000$118,50047%31%

73University of California-Los Angeles
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPublic
Early Career Pay$60,000
Mid-Career Pay$118,500
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees31%
74Private School, Research University, For Sports FansBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$63,800$118,40049%23%

74Vanderbilt University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$63,800
Mid-Career Pay$118,400
% High Meaning49%
% STEM Degrees23%
74Private School, Research UniversityBachelorsPrivate not-for-profit$58,000$118,40047%29%

74Brandeis University
Degree TypeBachelors
School SectorPrivate not-for-profit
Early Career Pay$58,000
Mid-Career Pay$118,400
% High Meaning47%
% STEM Degrees29%
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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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