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
All Alumni
RankSchool NameSchool TypeEarly Career Pay
Mid-Career Pay
% High Meaning
% STEM Degrees
Rank:51School Name:Bates CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$71,100Mid-Career Pay:$150,500% High Meaning:51%% STEM Degrees:27%
Rank:52School Name:University of Southern CaliforniaSchool Type:Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$80,800Mid-Career Pay:$150,100% High Meaning:47%% STEM Degrees:25%
Rank:53School Name:Barnard CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$74,200Mid-Career Pay:$149,300% High Meaning:53%% STEM Degrees:21%
Rank:54School Name:Wesleyan UniversitySchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$77,600Mid-Career Pay:$149,200% High Meaning:42%% STEM Degrees:20%
Rank:55School Name:University of Virginia-Main CampusSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$79,500Mid-Career Pay:$149,100% High Meaning:44%% STEM Degrees:25%
Rank:56School Name:California Polytechnic State University-San Luis ObispoSchool Type:For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$80,500Mid-Career Pay:$148,600% High Meaning:50%% STEM Degrees:36%
Rank:56School Name:University of California-Santa BarbaraSchool Type:Party School, Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$72,700Mid-Career Pay:$148,600% High Meaning:48%% STEM Degrees:31%
Rank:58School Name:University of California-IrvineSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$74,300Mid-Career Pay:$148,400% High Meaning:51%% STEM Degrees:37%
Rank:59School Name:George Washington UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$75,000Mid-Career Pay:$148,300% High Meaning:49%% STEM Degrees:19%
Rank:60School Name:Vanderbilt UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$81,700Mid-Career Pay:$148,000% High Meaning:48%% STEM Degrees:25%
Rank:61School Name:The King's UniversitySchool Type:Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$72,000Mid-Career Pay:$147,200% High Meaning:45%% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:62School Name:New York UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Research UniversityEarly Career Pay:$77,800Mid-Career Pay:$147,100% High Meaning:42%% STEM Degrees:25%
Rank:63School Name:Haverford CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$73,200Mid-Career Pay:$146,900% High Meaning:51%% STEM Degrees:41%
Rank:64School Name:Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-PrescottSchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$83,400Mid-Career Pay:$146,800% High Meaning:59%% STEM Degrees:37%
Rank:65School Name:New Jersey Institute of TechnologySchool Type:Engineering, Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$78,700Mid-Career Pay:$146,500% High Meaning:52%% STEM Degrees:74%
Rank:66School Name:Albany College of Pharmacy and Health SciencesSchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$80,900Mid-Career Pay:$145,800% High Meaning:72%% STEM Degrees:2%
Rank:67School Name:Yeshiva UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Research UniversityEarly Career Pay:$77,800Mid-Career Pay:$145,600% High Meaning:31%% STEM Degrees:9%
Rank:68School Name:Virginia Military InstituteSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$78,200Mid-Career Pay:$145,300% High Meaning:65%% STEM Degrees:50%
Rank:69School Name:Wake Forest UniversitySchool Type:Party School, Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$74,100Mid-Career Pay:$145,200% High Meaning:40%% STEM Degrees:16%
Rank:69School Name:Gettysburg CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$72,000Mid-Career Pay:$145,200% High Meaning:47%% STEM Degrees:25%
Rank:71School Name:United States Coast Guard AcademySchool Type:Engineering, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$91,400Mid-Career Pay:$144,900% High Meaning:-% STEM Degrees:60%
Rank:72School Name:Fairfield UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Religious, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$76,900Mid-Career Pay:$144,800% High Meaning:37%% STEM Degrees:13%
Rank:72School Name:Bentley UniversitySchool Type:Business, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$83,200Mid-Career Pay:$144,800% High Meaning:39%% STEM Degrees:8%
Rank:74School Name:Saint Mary's College of CaliforniaSchool Type:Private School, Religious, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$72,000Mid-Career Pay:$144,600% High Meaning:55%% STEM Degrees:7%
Rank:75School Name:University of California-Los AngelesSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$76,000Mid-Career Pay:$144,400% High Meaning:50%% STEM Degrees:34%

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College Student

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: $158,200

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: $155,200

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: $152,800

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: $151,600

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.