The 15 Top Colleges With The Highest Earning Grads: STEM Schools And Service Academies Lead

The college application checklist can seem endless: location, reputation, alarmingly high student debt statistics, and more. But in an age when people are increasingly questioning the value of higher education, one of the most important factors to consider is salary.

The cost of college has exploded more than 200% in the last 30 years. And colleges are increasingly being valued by the earning potential of their undergraduate degrees. In order to determine which colleges produce the highest-earning graduates, Forbes looked at PayScale data on the mid-career median pay for graduates from the 2019 ranking of America’s Top Colleges.

While top-level schools such as MIT, Stanford, Princeton and Harvard produce graduates that make more than $70,000 in their mid-career, students don’t have to go to an Ivy League or a top tech-incubator to earn skyscraping salaries.

There are other universities that produce graduates who earn even more than Ivy League alumni. Graduates from the Colorado School of Mines and the Stevens Institute of Technology, which is one of only two universities in the country to offer entrepreneurship training to freshmen, have a mid-career income that surpasses $75,000.

Also, traditional universities are not the only pathway to earning high salaries. Service academies, such as the United States Merchant Marine, the United States Military Academy, and the United States Naval Academy made the top 10 on our list, with graduates earning more than $80,000.

But this list reveals another important insight: STEM-focused institutions might be the gateway to earning the big bucks. All 15 of the universities in the list of colleges that produce the highest-earning graduates have a big emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Graduates from the Class of 2019 who earn STEM degrees are expected to earn the highest starting salaries according to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). And according to PayScale’s College Salary report, STEM majors have some of the highest incomes, with an average mid-career salary of $103,408. 

In fact, the highest-earning college in the United States is Harvey Mudd, a STEM-focused liberal arts college in California with less than 850 undergraduates.

While world-renowned institutions such as MIT and CalTech come close to Harvey Mudd, with graduates earning $86,300 and $84,100 respectively, Harvey Mudd students come out as the highest-earning graduates, with a median mid-career salary of $88,800, according to PayScale. 

Even though all the universities on this list are STEM-focused institutes and universities, Harvey Mudd College, the only liberal arts college on the list, has a distinctive value proposition. 

“We want to produce well-rounded, socially conscious mathematicians, scientists and engineers,” says Peter Osgood, Director of Admissions of the college. “We invest in soft skills because they are really valuable to companies that are looking for people who have strong technical backgrounds but who can also work in teams, relate to people and see things from a different perspective.”

See the top 15-earning colleges below:

15. Harvard University $74,800

14. SUNY Maritime College $74,900

13. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology $75,000

12. Stevens Institute of Technology $75,100

11. Princeton University $75,100

10. Colorado School of Mines $75,600

9. Carnegie Mellon University $75,900

8. United States Air Force Academy $76,300

7. Stanford University $79,000

6. United States Naval Academy $80,100

5. United States Military Academy $80,200

4. United States Merchant Marine $80,600

3. California Institute of Technology $84,100

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $86,300

1. Harvey Mudd College $88,800

I cover higher education as an editorial intern at Forbes. I am a rising senior studying communication and philosophy at Boston College, where I write about culture and

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