CollegeMeasures. org has a new web tool that allows you to compare salaries of recent college graduates, “with data that is broken out by college and major”. College applicants making decisions about schools and fields of study should find this data helpful.
For example, a bachelor’s degree-holder from George Mason University who majored in computer engineering can expect to earn $59,000 in his or her first year after graduation, according to the College Measures website, which is 56 percent more than the state average in that discipline. On the other side of the earnings scale, the average George Mason graduate who studied biology earns $32,000, still 15 percent more than peers from other Virginia colleges.
So far, this resource is only available for colleges in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia, but plans to add more states are in the works.
Choice of college makes a difference.
I spent some time looking at various salary comparisons, imagining myself as the parent of a kid in the process of applying to college. The data shows that for a mechanical engineering degree there was not a huge difference in salary outcomes among the various colleges, ranging from $53,441 to $50,917. However, salaries of graduates from several different electrical engineering tech programs showed substantial differences, ranging from $42,223 to $25,141. This is good stuff to know.
For graduates with a bachelor’s degree in economics the average salary was $39,298. But the range was signficant, from $42,895 at the University of Virginia to $29,532 at Radford University. Similar differences were reported for business majors, depending on the specific areas of study and on the schools.
Choice of major makes a difference.
Comparing associate’s degree programs at Northern Virginia Community College, the data averages showed that dental hygienists earned over $59,000 their first year after graduation and radiographers earned about $46,000, but childcare workers only made about $32,000. Meanwhile, EMT Paramedic graduates earned almost $60,000. While other factors besides yearly salary, such as hours worked and previous experience/age of graduate, must be taken into account when making comparisons, this basic salary data is a good starting point.
The individual student makes a difference,
Students, with varying interests, strengths, and levels of persistence self-select themselves to particular schools and majors. For example, a student who lacks the skills to pursue a rigorous quantitative-based major at a top-ranked college has already established the groundwork for the path to particular areas of employment and salary. Within any given field of study, a person who works hard and is strongly motivated by financial success will usually do better than a slacker.
Some shortcomings of the web tool
- Only first-year salary data is available, which fails to capture long-term earnings potential. (How will the salaries of the dental hygienist and the engineer compare in 10 or 20 years?)
- Only graduates employed in that state are included.
- Data for federal employees and members of the military is excluded.
Even with these shortcomings, checking this website could be a valuable wake-up call for students unaware of the consequences of taking on large student debt.
Related: College ROI results by PayScale for Bloomberg Businessweek (Cost of College)