Which College Degrees Pay the Most?

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

Here’s how it worked. To compile these rankings, NerdWallet “collected and synthesized Senior Surveys” and “Post Graduation Reports,” e.g., questionnaires typically administered by a college’s career services to students upon graduation (or one year after).” According to Forbes, NerdScholar’s sample was comprised of “184 specific schools within 57 institutions.” NerdWallet adds that the survey includes starting salaries from the classes of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, with salaries averaged per school.

To be included in the sample – which included over 400,000 students according to NerdWallet – schools were required to have two years worth of data available. As a result, programs like Harvard, Yale and Brown, which don’t release starting salary information, were excluded from the rankings.

Carnegie Mellon dominated the list, placing six programs in the top 50, including #1 computer sciences ($89,800), engineering ($68,300), business ($65,000), fine arts ($62,100), sciences ($61,300), and humanities ($60,700).

Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College

The California Institute of Technology, which didn’t break its numbers down by specific disciplines, finished second, with graduates earning $83,750 to start. Stanford’s engineering program ($74,500), Harvey Mudd College ($72,500), and New York University’s nursing program ($70,236) rounded out the top five.

Among business schools, Wharton ($67,100) scored the highest ranking at #12. Other business programs that made the top 50 undergrad programs overall include: Carnegie Mellon ($65,000), the University of Michigan ($62,600), New York University ($62,200), Washington University of St. Louis ($61,100), Georgetown ($60,900), Lehigh University ($57,500), and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute ($56,100). Boston College’s Carroll School of Management fell just outside the top 50, with grads landing average starting salaries of $54,000.

Overall, engineering programs produced 20 of the 50 highest starting salaries, more than doubling business schools, where nine programs were among the top 50 in starting pay.

Alas, there are plenty of holes in the methodology, which (as noted earlier), excludes hundreds of schools. Even more, it relies on a hodgepodge of data that doesn’t necessarily follow the same standardized schema. While these critiques are true, the survey does provide an inside look at what students can expect to earn after graduating from a top undergraduate program.

To check out the starting salaries for the top 50 undergraduate programs, continue to the next page.

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