September 14, 2013

College graduates' salaries

Here's a table from a company called PayScale claiming to represent starting and "mid-career" salaries for graduates of different colleges. Number one overall in terms of mid-career salary is Harvey Mudd of the Claremont Colleges, which my friend Peter Schaeffer raves about. It's like nearby Caltech, except the faculty's job is to educate undergrads, not win Nobel Prizes.

The colleges that do best here tend to be either STEM schools like Harvey Mudd, Annapolis, and Caltech, or business schools like Babson.

You can look up other tables of salaries, such as by major, by region, and by type of school (party v. sober).

One problem with this kind of table is that there's no adjustment for cost-of-living of where graduates wind up. Home prices vary radically across the country, and almost all of these colleges are in highly expensive regions. For example, I presume the modal mid-career residence of Naval Academy graduates is the Washington D.C. area. There really needs to be a standard of living adjustment.

Also, there should be a value-added calculation for how much graduates over or underperform relative to their high school grades and test scores.
1
West Coast
Private Schools, Liberal Arts, Engineering
$73,300
$143,000
58%
2
South Atlantic
State Schools, Liberal Arts, For Sports Fans
$77,100
$131,000
69%
3 - tie
West Coast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Engineering
$68,400
$124,000
61%
3 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Engineering
$64,900
$124,000
48%
5
Northeast
Private Schools
$59,700
$123,000
39%
6
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Ivy League, For Sports Fans
$56,100
$121,000
46%
7
Northeast
State Schools, Liberal Arts, For Sports Fans
$74,000
$120,000
66%
8 - tie
West Coast
Private Schools, Research Universities, For Sports Fans
$61,300
$119,000
57%
8 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Ivy League, For Sports Fans
$55,300
$119,000
60%
8 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Ivy League, For Sports Fans
$52,300
$119,000
51%
11
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Engineering
$68,600
$118,000
57%
12 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Liberal Arts, For Sports Fans
$51,800
$117,000
42%
12 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Ivy League, For Sports Fans
$50,000
$117,000
59%
14 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Research Universities, Engineering
$60,700
$116,000
59%
14 - tie
Northeast
State Schools, Engineering
$59,400
$116,000
60%
14 - tie
Northeast
Private Schools, Engineering
$61,400
$116,000
50%

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

$119K for mid-career salary for Harvard? You can make more than that owning a plumbing business with 3 or 4 trucks.

Kaz said...

I wonder how they got these statistics.

If you're going to Harvard and making 119k in your mid career that's fucking pitiful. Especially concerning you're probably making that in a high cost area.

Where does all the passion go for all these people making up this statistic?

Anonymous said...

$119K for mid-career salary for Harvard? You can make more than that owning a plumbing business with 3 or 4 trucks.

A lot of Harvard grads become journalists, writers, academics, professors, etc. which generally don't have huge salaries. They enjoy the work, and the work itself is a kind of remuneration. You might be able to make more with a mundane trade or business like plumbing, but you have to engage in mundane tasks all day, whether it's running the operations and books of a business or sticking your head under people's sinks all day and screwing around with their pipes. Also, if you've ever done hard work like plumbing, you know that at the end of the day you're dead tired and often too tired to read anything heavy so you just end up watching TV and falling asleep. Academics and the like can often do things like read books during the day for their work and their days aren't too physically taxing that they can't engage in stimulating intellectual activity after work. There's also prestige and social status.

Anonymous said...

"$119K for mid-career salary for Harvard? You can make more than that owning a plumbing business with 3 or 4 trucks."

Is that average or median? Also does it include non-working mothers?

Anonymous said...

Kind of an apples to oranges comparison. uccessful business owners generally make more than salarymen. But most business owners aren't successful.

- Dave Pinsen

ironrailsironweights said...

SUNY Maritime really surprises me. I'd thought that commercial shipping is mostly a foreign business today without many Americans in the field. Trivia: SUNY Martime is probably the only college in the country that is literally under a bridge.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Not necessarily. I would guess a lot of Harvard alumni have wealthy parents helping them buy their first homes, etc., which obviates the need to go for the most remunerative jobs. A Harvard alumna whose parents bought her a $2 million apartment in Manhattan probably is happier working as an editor or museum curator or what have you instead of trying to climb the ladder at an investment bank or law firm.

There are also female physicians who decide to work part time when they are married to physicians or other highly paid men.

- Dave Pinsen

Whitehall said...

What is "mid-career" for West Point - colonel or O-6? and that's with a 20 year pension so its after 10 years in the ranks?

Or is it AFTER 20 years with a military retirement and some mid-management job at a military contractor?

Indeed, lots of fuzziness here.

As the SUNY-Maritime Academy, there are requirements that a lot of our shipping be US-flag which means US crews and US unions.

Glossy said...

"A lot of Harvard grads become journalists, writers, academics, professors, etc. which generally don't have huge salaries. They enjoy the work..."

Profs have to continually confront their students' stupidity. I think that given a choice between unintellectual but solitary activities on the one hand, and engaging with or even just having to listen to stupid people on the other hand, most smart people would choose the former. Reading most students' essays would be torture for a non-AA Harvard grad. Remember, if he becomes a prof, it would almost certainly not be at Harvard or anywhere like it.

CanSpeccy said...

Compare kids of similar parental income, and the school they attend may have little if any influence on their income. In which case, all that these data show is that rich kids go to more expensive schools.

Given that rich kids are more likely than others to have connections that get them into top law firms, Wall St. banks, etc., what is remarkable is how small the differences are in mid-career incomes of top school grads and the rest.

Anonymous said...

Profs have to continually confront their students' stupidity. I think that given a choice between unintellectual but solitary activities on the one hand, and engaging with or even just having to listen to stupid people on the other hand, most smart people would choose the former. Reading most students' essays would be torture for a non-AA Harvard grad. Remember, if he becomes a prof, it would almost certainly not be at Harvard or anywhere like it.

Most profs can avoid that by having teaching assistants and grad students do the grunt work.

Anonymous said...

I find the figures hard to believe.

A fireman makes $100k+ (and 100K/year for life ) in San Jose for 2 shifts a week. A nurse in San Francisco makes $120 without overtime. I make $150K working part time.



TGGP said...

I went to a state school and had a starting salary within that range. These numbers seem strange to me.

A Working Class American said...

college graduate income and employment stats are basically fake. Or at least manipulated to the point where there are practically lies.

In fact I no longer really have much faith in any statistics or data reported in the media at all unless they run counter to a major narrative supported by the media and other large societal institutions.

Whitehall said...

Just checked and an O-6 with 20 years in makes a salary of about $115k a year, plus benefits so maybe the West Pointer mid-career income number is realistic.

Anonymous said...

agreed with the peanut gallery on this. As a hard and fast objective measurement of the level of "incorrectness" of this, Annapolis and West Point *absolutely* ought to have the same starting salary, 0-1. It is absolutely untrue that Annapolis has a higher starting salary

Chief Seattle said...

Mystery Solved:

http://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report-2014/methodology

Bachelor’s Only: Only employees who possess a bachelor’s degree and no higher degrees are included. This means bachelor’s degree graduates who go on to earn a master’s degree, M.B.A., M.D., J.D., Ph.D., or other advanced degrees are not included.

For some highly selective schools, graduates with degrees higher than a bachelor’s degree can represent a significant fraction of all graduates.

Careers that require advanced degrees, such as law or medicine, are not included. Also, we explicitly exclude majors that are no longer bachelor’s level degrees (e.g. pharmacy).

Anonymous said...

People working on Wall Street, especially in their early years, earn relatively low starting salaries but may receive large bonuses. Since places like Princeton, Harvard and Yale send more graduates to Wall Street than the other colleges on the list, not taking that into account might result in underestimation of the average incomes of their graduates.

agnostic said...

"Most profs can avoid that by having teaching assistants and grad students do the grunt work."

Yep.

In large classes, I'm going to assign no homework or papers or projects, or count attendance or class participation. Just multiple choice quizzes and tests. And minus 100 points if you turn in your scantron sheet in one of those brown-nosing presentation folders.

Have the grad students earn their keep in some more productive way.

Then in small classes where the students might actually give a shit, give them assignments that require thought, reflection, and effort.

Anonymous said...

What does one thing have to do with the other? It's not as if a magazine employing a Harvard alumna needs to match San Jose firefighter salaries to keep her from quiting to be a San Jose firefighter.

- Dave Pinsen

agnostic said...

Mid-career salaries aren't that different, but the starting ones are. So grads from these colleges may end up the same, but some start closer and some farther from $120,000.

The ones that pay high at the outset are mercenary jobs where you're being paid to make the company money.

The ones that start out lower are doing that on purpose. It's a costly signal of commitment to a team over the long term. If you're willing to accept a pay cut from what would be $60-65K, and begin instead at $50-55K, we know you're in it for the long haul, not just on-the-move to whoever's offering top dollar this season.

Initial financial pummeling is like being jumped into a gang.

Engineers generally aren't going to wind up in leadership positions, so you can start them off with higher salaries. They're not looking for long-term team commitment (though that'd be a nice plus), but who's going to offer them the most money for the skill set they'll be bringing.

So, you can't jerk them around at the beginning, and must pay them a lot.

The elite lib arts grad, however, is looking for influence and status more than just the biggest pile of gold to be sitting on at age 50. More like modern-day courtiers. They enjoy the game of climbing tiers of the societal pyramid, so they won't mind starting low if they'll end up high.

And they're socially savvy enough to expect some kind of "jumping into the gang" initiation, if they're seeking influence and status. Nobody's going to give that to you right away, with no sign of long-term loyalty.

agnostic said...

Stanford grads start off more like the STEM / specialty grads. Among the non-STEM schools, Stanford is the most likely to produce go-getter mercenaries, or sell-outs, however you want to think about it.

Yale and Brown are at the other end. Their grads are the most turned on by status-climbing and courtier life.

Harvard and Princeton grads are in the middle.

Dr. Veritas said...

As someone with a doctorate from Harvard in a field that many here would consider "worthless," I never cease to be amazed at the degree to which people who have no idea what they're talking about go on about the life of academics.

So, let me tell you what it's like.

I have tenure at a large public institution. I make $150k after nearly two decades here. There's nothing on earth that I need that I can't afford.

I've written something like six books (it sort of depends on how you count some), and I've got several more under way. They're all on topics that I enjoy.

Sure, some students are dumb, but they all aren't. For those of you who think academics dump their grading on TA's, fuck off. I do all my grading. While I do you use some multiple-choice grading, all exams have written answers on them, and I grade the papers even in the introductory courses. In any event, I get to talk to lots of eager young people about matters that engage me. Sure, some don't care, but so what? They don't bother me.

I don't have a "job". I wake up in the morning and I do what I want. My "job" never "ends," but that's because it's all enjoyable for me and it spreads throughout the day.

This summer while visiting a national park, I came across a bumper sticker that says, "My life is better than your vacation." You have no idea how true this is.

Now, it is true that there are way too many PhD's being produced (and this has been the case for decades now). I barely got this job, and Christ only knows what sort of stupid, unpleasant thing I'd have to be doing for a living if I hadn't landed it. For those with doctorates who can't find a job (or are stuck as adjuncts) it no doubt sucks to be them.

Be don't fool yourselves. Nobody has a better life than I do.

And for those who are slaves to their bank accounts and think that somehow toiling away at something you don't like for the sake of how many extra zeroes show up on your tax forms makes you a better person, all I can do is recall my dying father. He'd made a fair amount of money in his days as a lawyer, and as he looked back on his life when he was about to leave it, he told me he thought he'd accomplished nothing in his life that was worth while apart from begetting me. Sobering words. What will you be able to say under the same circumstances? I know I've had a positive affect on many people, and this will go on even after I'm dead.

Find what you like and do it. That's all that matters in life.

Peter the Shark said...

@ agnostic - cite?

Anyway, if this data is even halfway correct, than Cooper Union was clearly far and away the best deal in US higher education - until their administration managed to squander the endowment a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

Have you read the 100 reasons NOT to go to grad school?
http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

If "mid-career" means early 40s and we're talking about an academic career... then an assistant professor might be making only 50k (or considerably less if he's not on the tenure track).

Anonymous said...

Doesn't *everyone* here make at least $150k ?

Anonymous said...

And they're socially savvy enough to expect some kind of "jumping into the gang" initiation, if they're seeking influence and status. Nobody's going to give that to you right away, with no sign of long-term loyalty.

Most lib arts don't attain any influence and status.

Dr. Lux et veritas said...

Dr. Veritas,

You probably don't mean to sound like a jerk, but you're exceptionally good at it.

I do my own grading, too. My students are barely literate. The only people making $150,000 a year at my (public) university are administrators. Am I grateful for the job? Sure. It comes, however, with the guilt of knowing that we bring in thousands of students every fall who will never graduate. The work is deadening, the bureaucracy is metastasizing, and I'm completely exhausted.

It's great that you have a nice life, but it's not exactly typical of the profession.

Dave Pinsen said...

One other thought about starting salaries here: the first job for some Ivy alumni is working for Teach For America, before going on to higher paying careers in other fields. That might lower average Ivy alumni starting salaries a bit.

Chad Vader said...

I'm wondering why the service academies have different pay starting out. All services use the same pay scale, however, the Navy might have a higher percentage of people getting specialty pay such as flight pay, dive pay, nuclear pay, etc.

Ali said...

Do those salaries include employer-paid healthcare insurance? How much of the compensation package does healthcare tend to eat up?

Captain Tripps said...

RE: Difference in starting salaries between Annapolis and West Point,

As pointed out earlier, all graduating Midshipmen and Cadets start out as Ensigns/Second Lieutenants and earn the same base salary; you can look it up here, its publicly available:

http://www.dfas.mil/militarymembers/payentitlements/militarypaytables.html

As you can see, the disparity between Navy and Army average starting salaries is because of three factors: 1) The Navy is a smaller service (the Army has about twice as many officers as the Navy) ; 2) The Navy has a greater percentage of STEM specialties (pilots, doctors, nuclear engineers) among its officers than the Army, and they earn additional pay because of those specialties; and 3) Navy officers spend a significant portion of their career at sea, which provides additional pay (see the pay tables). Army officers can earn additional pay for certain skills/specialties, too, but again, the percentages are lower.

As to “mid-career” for a military officer, if you consider that at 20 years an officer is “retirement eligible”, then mid-career is the 10 year mark. At that point, an officer is typically a Lieutenant Commander (Navy) or Major (Army), but this can skew depending on demand (promotion timelines are typically shorter in wartime because of attrition, longer in peacetime). At retirement, an officer is likely a Commander/Lieutenant Colonel or Captain/Colonel. That said, I think the “mid-career” salary quoted seems high for Annapolis/West Point grads. It looks closer to what they would be earning at earliest retirement eligible date (20 years).

Captain Tripps

DJF said...

“”””Whitehall said...
Just checked and an O-6 with 20 years in makes a salary of about $115k a year, plus benefits so maybe the West Pointer mid-career income number is realistic.””””


That is just “Basic Pay” then you get other pay such as housing, food, flight pay, sea pay, hazardous duty pay etc, plus free medical and dental.

However retirement pay is based only on Basic Pay and number of years

A Son said...

Most everybody's work seems pointless when they are standing at death's door. I say this as I sit at my mother's side, in the dark, waiting for the hospice nurses to bring her her breakfast.

Truth said...

"You probably don't mean to sound like a jerk, but you're exceptionally good at it.

I do my own grading, too. My students are barely literate."

"Gee, I wonder which professor's classes I should sign up for?"

Sincerely;
A. Freshman

Anonymous said...

Why does it matter what starting salaries are when another young black man has been shot to death by a white hispanic?

Oops. I have that around the wrong way.

Dog bites man.

Anonymous said...

This summer while visiting a national park, I came across a bumper sticker that says, "My life is better than your vacation." You have no idea how true this is...

And for those who are slaves to their bank accounts and think that somehow toiling away at something you don't like for the sake of how many extra zeroes show up on your tax forms makes you a better person, all I can do is recall my dying father. He'd made a fair amount of money in his days as a lawyer, and as he looked back on his life when he was about to leave it, he told me he thought he'd accomplished nothing in his life that was worth while apart from begetting me...

Find what you like and do it. That's all that matters in life.


Well let's just hope that begetting your own progeny is pretty high up there on your bucket list of what you like.

Otherwise your family tree will end up like the city of Hong Kong, with both the world's highest average IQ and also the world's lowest total fertility rate.

I barely got this job, and Christ only knows what sort of stupid, unpleasant thing I'd have to be doing for a living if I hadn't landed it. For those with doctorates who can't find a job (or are stuck as adjuncts) it no doubt sucks to be them.

Here you might want to ponder what Nassim Nicholas Taleb has had to say about survivorship bias and the looming specter of The Black Swan.

Or what Donald Rumsfeld would call, "The Unknown Unknown".

For instance, it will be interesting to see whether the tradition of tenure is able to survive the coming deluge of apocalyptic Troubles.

Down in North Carolina, they just abolished tenure altogether - at least for teachers in the K-12 range.

And "12" is only one less than "Freshman"...

Guardian said...

In the top 27 are 4 military schools - 3 Federal, and 1 State. Three points to note:

Military school graduates are mostly male, and thus are unlikely to ever leave the work-force. A school like Amherst is theoretically half-female. The percentage of females full-time competitively in the workforce in mid-career is lower than men.

Military schools train personnel to be either managers or engineers, vice writers, journalists, artists, architects, etc. Managers and engineers get paid more.

Finally, do not use the military pay scales for estimating mid-career earnings. Generally, only about 1/3 to 1/4 of military school graduates will serve a full career on active duty. Most graduates are instead working as civilian managers or engineers.

The estimates of initial pays between military schools can differ. Naval Academy graduates tend to serve in fields which have additional pays (flight, nuclear engineering, submarine pay, etc).

Anonymous said...

Doc Truth, please tell us what your PhD is in. Don't merely presume what worth others here might ascribe it but verify it.

Novice Nil

Boisfeuras said...

Many "mid-career" military academy graduates have resigned their commissions and are working in the civilian sector. So just looking at the O-6 pay tables doesn't explain the whole story.

panjoomby said...

i've been a tenured prof, & i've been self-employed, & i've been active duty in the military. academia used to be better, but it's not insuperable IF you love your field/area of focus. i choose self-employment b/c of the autonomy. + i'm a better deal for the gov't - back as a prof, my $100K salary (-$20K in taxes) was a net loss for the gov't (-$80K!) now i'm a net gain for the gov't:) i can work hard & make more, or...not - i choose. in academia you can get stuck with bad colleagues - administrators (same in the military - when your peers & superiors are good, life is good!)

Anonymous said...


Yale and Brown are at the other end. Their grads are the most turned on by status-climbing and courtier life.


Or courtesan life.

E. Rekshun said...

These starting & mid-career salaries seem quite high to me, but as others have said, geographical location would be a significant driver of mid-career salaries. I graduated w/ a BS Comp Sci in 1986 from a reputable New England college and earned a traditional MBA in '00 from a large well-ranked southern state university. Due to a couple of layoffs and missed/blown opportunities, and the "Great Recession," my salary is exactly what it was in 1999 - well under $100K. Oh well, on the bright side, I live two miles from the ocean in a relatively low-cost location, my house is paid off, and I plan to retire by age 55 a millionaire.

RAZ said...

Results are basically worthless if you are restricting to only the subset of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, etc grads who are not going on to grad or professional schools. That would explain a Stevens Institute rating higher than them.

Anonymous said...

Locality pay probably explains the difference in pay between Naval Academy and West Point graduates. The cost of living adjustment for different cities makes up a significant portion of each serviceman's pay ... and is tax exempt. Since Navy bases tend to be located in more expensive coastal areas like San Diego and Norfolk, locality pay for Naval officers is probably higher on average than for Army officers that tend to serve in large inland bases in places like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

An interesting consideration is that a newly-commissioned officer on his or her first assignment makes the same amount of pay regardless of college or commissioning source (service academy, ROTC, officer's candidate school). Congress has been very kind to the military, at least in terms of pay, since September 11th ... and young people don't have to make it into one of the academies to take advantage.

Anonymous said...

Yeah except base allowance for housing is higher in Pearl Harbor, San Diego, and Seattle than the dumps where most of the army is stationed.

International Jew said...

Chief Seattle nails it when he notes, above, that this survey threw out all the data on anyone who got a graduate degree. That builds in a bias in favor of State U, whose business college produces lots of hit-the-ground-running accountants, and against, say, Harvard, whose economics majors (there's no business major there) mostly go on to get MBAs. Likewise, the reason Harvey Mudd comes out looking better than Cal Tech is that Cal Tech grads get Masters and PhDs at a higher rate.

International Jew said...

Glancing around this Payscale.com web site it's pretty clear that this company isn't about careful quantitative research. It's more of a combination compensation-consulting/personal-information-harvesting operation. Click on their "Data Scientists" tab and you find their one and only "data scientist", a pleasant-looking young woman with BA and MA degrees in economics. Everyone else there is some kind of web site designer, programmer, or salesman.

When you look behind the current craze about "big data" and "analytics" you find a lot of programmers who are good at shoveling gigabytes of data this way and that, but startlingly few mathematical statisticians who might tell the dweebs how to design a survey, how to compensate for various observational biases (truncated or censored data, which lead to some kind of limited dependent variables model that Payscale's chief and only "data scientist" is unlikely to have seen much of in her course work), how to disentangle cause and effect (instrumental variables...), even how to ask the right questions.

After much experience with computer science graduates, I can attest that very few of them know a maximum likelihood estimator from their a$s. Give them a ton of data and they'll just get mesmerized by the engineering challenge of manipulating it and presenting it through the trendiest web programming framework.

None of which is to say that bozos selling garbage to bozos can't be a successful business model.

vetr said...

"the dumps where the army is stationed" /// sure they're not Paris but the whole of the US west of the Mississippi is what the world thinks of as the former "wild west", a great place to be as a young man with normal testosterone levels, and the Eastern Army sites in upstate New York, the Southern Appalachians, and even the Deep South have their own unique advantages. The main problems, if I remember correctly, are not geography but M/F ratios

Truth said...

"Doc Truth, please tell us what your PhD is in. Don't merely presume what worth others here might ascribe it but verify it."

I do not have a PHD, I have a BS in Journalism and an MBA both from quite mediocre universities.

Anonymous said...

>Do those salaries include employer-paid healthcare insurance? How much of the compensation package does healthcare tend to eat up?

The COBRA payment for Chicago school teachers is a little bit over $6K a year.

Wow, I which I made those salaries you guys make; I make $25K a year. Most I ever made was $43K fifteen years ago with a BS Math; never could find a computer programming job after loosing mine.

Anonymous said...

I was asking Dr veritas. Veritas means truth in Latin.

Anonymous said...

Troofie, we've got a BS in BS in common!

Dr. Troofie, my experience as a TA was totally different. None of the profs did any of their own heavy lifting.

I remember my first experience correcting papers for an exceptionally lazy journalism teacher for a JO101 class. He looked at the graded essays and said hey, you can't give them those grades. I responded that if you're attending a Top 10 J-school and can't make a noun and a verb agree, you get a D. He said not for the $7,500 a year that these kids' parents are paying (which shows how long ago it was, it's $52K now).

Thus my virginity was lost.

Whitehall said...

"The main problems, if I remember correctly, are not geography but M/F ratios."

In my early career as a field engineer building nuclear power plants, the main frustration was that the nuke sites were typically in areas I called "BYOP" sites - out in the boonies with a few extra visiting male construction workers who easily outnumbered and exhausted the local female population.

That was "P", not "B."

A lot like most Army bases.

Anonymous said...

How does SUNY Maritime have better numbers than the US Merchant Marine Academy? Geography?

vetr said...

My guess is SUNY Maritime grads get hired onto more boring and more internationalistic vessels with lower crew to cargo ratios than the Merchant Marine grads, who are more likely to ply interesting but less remunerative local oceans. If there is a better explanation I would like to hear it.

Renault said...

@ VETR

Kings Point doesn't appear to be anywhere on the list, so I imagine they didn't submit any data (or something).

Anonymous said...

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/16/embattled-syria-expert-was-never-in-phd-program.html

Liar liar pants on fire.