Why recent graduates from tech and military schools out-earn the Ivy League

Liberal arts grads see the greatest pay jump between early and mid-careers

Graduates from military and technical schools tend to make more money straight out of college than graduates from elite institutions, Roberto Ferdman reports for the Washington Post, although Ivy League graduates catch up later in their careers.

Ferdman cites a PayScale report that looked at salary data from about 1.5 million workers coming from approximately 1,000 various colleges. Accoding to the report, recent graduates from elite universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report) such as Princeton University, Harvard Universities, Yale University, and Columbia University, fail to break into the top 30 institutions for highest average salaries within five years of graduation,

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Instead, recent alumni of top engineering and military schools earn the highest early-career salaries. This may be the value placed on technical skills of recent graduates, or that the comparative salary edge for specialized skills lasts for a few years before the benefits of a liberal arts degree can catch up, writes Ferdman.

The colleges with the highest median starting salaries for graduates with only a bachelor's degree are:

1. U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis (USNA), $80,700;
2. Harvey Mudd College, $75,600;
3. U.S. Military Academy at West Point, $75,100;
4. California Institute of Technology (Caltech), $74,800;
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), $70,300;
6. Montana Tech of The University of Montana, $68,400;
7.Colorado School of Mines, $67,900;
8.Oregon Health and Science University, $66,800;
9.United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), $66,700;
10.Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, $66,600;
11.South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, $65,600;
12. New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, $65,400;
13.Stevens Institute of Technology, $65,300;
14.Loma Linda University, $65,100; and
15.Kettering University, $65,100.

In comparison, the top Ivy League school—Princeton—ranks No. 34 for its graduates' median starting salary of $60,000. The lowest, Brown University, comes in at No. 75 with $55,100.

Liberal arts pays off mid-career

However, after 10 years, that trend changes: top liberal arts graduates see the most significant increases in salary.

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Military and technology school graduates continue earn "hefty" salaries and pay raises, but small liberal arts institutions break in to the rankings as well. Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, and University of Pennsylvania all make it into the top 25.

The colleges with the highest mid-career salaries whose graduates earned just bachelor's degree are:

1. Harvey Mudd College, $133,800;
2. UNSA, $130,000;
3. MIT, $128,800;
4. Colgate University, $126,600;
5. Stanford University, $126,400;
6. Caltech, $126,200;
7. Washington and Lee University, $124,300;
8. USMA, $123,900;
9. Tufts University, $123,600;
10. State University of New York-Maritime College, $121,700;
11.Rice University, $119,900;
12. Stevens Institute of Technology, $118,700;
13.USAFA, $118,400;
14. Harvard, $118,200;
15. Carlton College, $117,700.

Graduates of top liberal arts schools see their pay jump significantly from starting salaries to mid-career earnings, none more than Haverford College, whose graduates see an average $76,000 increase.  Carlton's alumni follow closely behind with a $74,000 jump up (Ferdman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/18; PayScale, College Salary Report, accessed 11/20).

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