Best Colleges in Illinois by Salary Potential

Don’t enroll before you find out how much your bachelor’s degree is worth. Check out this list of Illinois’s best four-year colleges by earning potential.

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RankSchool NameSchool TypeEarly Career Pay
Mid-Career Pay
% High Meaning
% STEM Degrees
Rank:1School Name:Illinois Institute of TechnologySchool Type:Engineering, Private School, Research UniversityEarly Career Pay:$64,600Mid-Career Pay:$118,500% High Meaning:47%% STEM Degrees:64%
Rank:2School Name:Northwestern UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$63,400Mid-Career Pay:$115,400% High Meaning:46%% STEM Degrees:20%
Rank:3School Name:University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignSchool Type:Party School, Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$62,600Mid-Career Pay:$115,300% High Meaning:44%% STEM Degrees:36%
Rank:4School Name:University of ChicagoSchool Type:Private School, Research UniversityEarly Career Pay:$64,000Mid-Career Pay:$114,200% High Meaning:41%% STEM Degrees:22%
Rank:5School Name:Rush UniversitySchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$63,500Mid-Career Pay:$107,600% High Meaning:88%% STEM Degrees:6%
Rank:6School Name:Bradley UniversitySchool Type:Private School, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$55,600Mid-Career Pay:$104,900% High Meaning:46%% STEM Degrees:38%
Rank:7School Name:University of Illinois at ChicagoSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$56,300Mid-Career Pay:$103,800% High Meaning:48%% STEM Degrees:31%
Rank:8School Name:DePaul UniversitySchool Type:Private School, Religious, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$55,700Mid-Career Pay:$102,900% High Meaning:43%% STEM Degrees:15%
Rank:9School Name:Lake Forest CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$55,400Mid-Career Pay:$102,600% High Meaning:46%% STEM Degrees:21%
Rank:10School Name:St. John's College-Department of NursingSchool Type:Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$55,100Mid-Career Pay:$100,000% High Meaning:-% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:11School Name:Wheaton College (Illinois)School Type:Liberal Arts School, Private School, Religious, Sober SchoolEarly Career Pay:$53,700Mid-Career Pay:$99,700% High Meaning:55%% STEM Degrees:12%
Rank:12School Name:Illinois Wesleyan UniversitySchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$53,100Mid-Career Pay:$96,000% High Meaning:44%% STEM Degrees:18%
Rank:12School Name:Loyola University ChicagoSchool Type:Private School, Religious, Research University, For Sports FansEarly Career Pay:$53,400Mid-Career Pay:$96,000% High Meaning:45%% STEM Degrees:15%
Rank:14School Name:Northern Illinois UniversitySchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$53,000Mid-Career Pay:$95,500% High Meaning:47%% STEM Degrees:20%
Rank:15School Name:Knox CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$50,600Mid-Career Pay:$95,400% High Meaning:45%% STEM Degrees:24%
Rank:16School Name:Illinois State UniversitySchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$51,200Mid-Career Pay:$95,000% High Meaning:47%% STEM Degrees:10%
Rank:17School Name:Principia CollegeSchool Type:Liberal Arts School, Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$52,600Mid-Career Pay:$94,900% High Meaning:56%% STEM Degrees:19%
Rank:18School Name:Lakeview College of NursingSchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$55,000Mid-Career Pay:$94,100% High Meaning:83%% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:19School Name:North Central CollegeSchool Type:Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$50,400Mid-Career Pay:$92,900% High Meaning:45%% STEM Degrees:9%
Rank:20School Name:Saint Xavier UniversitySchool Type:Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$49,400Mid-Career Pay:$91,200% High Meaning:60%% STEM Degrees:10%
Rank:21School Name:Southern Illinois University-CarbondaleSchool Type:Research University, For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$49,700Mid-Career Pay:$90,900% High Meaning:54%% STEM Degrees:17%
Rank:22School Name:Saint Francis Medical Center College of NursingSchool Type:Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$52,800Mid-Career Pay:$90,800% High Meaning:-% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:23School Name:Methodist CollegeSchool Type:Private SchoolEarly Career Pay:$51,400Mid-Career Pay:$90,500% High Meaning:-% STEM Degrees:0%
Rank:24School Name:Southern Illinois University-EdwardsvilleSchool Type:For Sports Fans, State SchoolEarly Career Pay:$51,400Mid-Career Pay:$90,100% High Meaning:50%% STEM Degrees:21%
Rank:25School Name:Lewis UniversitySchool Type:Private School, ReligiousEarly Career Pay:$49,700Mid-Career Pay:$89,800% High Meaning:53%% STEM Degrees:14%

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College Student

The Prairie State contains over 100 four-year colleges, and PayScale’s College Salary Report has the data to help you identify the Illinois colleges with the highest paid graduates. Some of the most famous include the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Top employers in the state include Allstate Insurance and State Farm.

For the Illinois colleges in the PayScale database, one college with highly paid undergraduate alumni at zero to five years after graduation is a private school, the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). After at least 10 years of work experience, that earning potential climbs significantly, probably because of the school’s extremely strong STEM focus. (A high percentage of degrees awarded at IIT are in science, technology, engineering or math subjects.)

But some of the highest mid-career salaries overall go to alumni of another private school, The University of Chicago. This world-class private research university comes in with high median salaries despite fact that only about a quarter of degrees awarded are in STEM subjects. This goes to show that a liberal arts degree can pay off.

When we include alumni from Illinois colleges with graduate degrees in our calculations, we see a slight uptick in the early and mid-career earnings at most schools, with a few exceptions, like Wheaton College.

The Midwest is a haven for private schools, especially those with religious affiliations. It’s interesting to note though that only one of these schools, Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, is classified as a sober school by The Princeton Review.