Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Do Elite Colleges Produce the Best-Paid Graduates?

It seems so:

PayScale, a site that collects data on salaries for different professions, argues that it can help students answer that question. Today the company is releasing an updated, gigantic data set on the salaries of graduates from hundreds of universities and colleges, as well as salaries and career choices broken down by department/major.

Full rankings are here. An important note: The data include only survey respondents whose highest academic degree is a bachelor’s. Therefore, doctors, lawyers and others in high-paying jobs that require advanced degrees are not included in the data set.

The reason for this, according to Al Lee, PayScale’s director of quantitative analysis, is that PayScale is trying to determine which undergraduate educations are the “best investment.”

“You’re thinking of buying a college. If that’s all you buy — an undergraduate degree –without having to spend more money and time and effort to get another degree,” Mr. Lee said, “you want to know what the return on that investment is.”

He also said that for many schools including alumni with advanced degrees would bring down their median salaries, because in PayScale’s sample advanced degree recipients are primarily teachers getting master’s degrees in order to teach. According to Mr. Lee’s data, teachers generally have more modest incomes than their classmates.
Read the whole thing.

I've written before that not all majors are created equal. Not all colleges are either.

One thing I'm curious about that isn't clear in this data is how the salaries would compare if cost of living were accounted for. Are Ivy League schools more likely to place their graduates in big cities with higher costs of living? If so, how would salaries work out if cost of living were adjusted for?

More stats on salaries by undergraduate major here. Economics is right up there with engineering and computer science.

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