PayScale's annual College Salary Report, released today, serves as a glaring reminder of the above truth. Based on college rankings for associate, bachelor and graduate level degree programs at more than 1,000 colleges and universities, the study reveals that where a degree is from, along with what major it's for, play a big role in future earnings.
Before we examine the colleges and majors that yield the highest median mid-career salaries, a quick reminder: While a college's pedigree and a major's marketability matter, success isn't tethered to either (or, in many cases, a college degree at all). As illustrated by individuals such as Steve Jobs (a Reed College dropout) and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner (an English major), the most successful paths are often marked by sharp pivots, unconventional twists and mold-breaking starts and stops.
That said, if you're looking for a solid path to a six-figure salary, you may want to consider the below schools and majors. Note: The results were derived from the responses of 1.4 million college graduates who filled out the PayScale Salary Survey.
Colleges and universities
SUNY-Maritime College, a small public college in New York City, tops the list for bachelor's-only graduates, according to PayScale. Alumni from SUNY-Maritime (who did not go on to earn another degree) report a median mid-career income of $134,000, narrowly beating out Harvey Mudd in Claremont, Calif., whose bachelor-degree only graduates can expect to make $133,000 a year mid-career.
When you expand this lens to include post-graduate degrees, Emory University's School of Law places first. Mid-career, its graduates report earning an annual salary of $201,000, handily beating median mid-career incomes of alumni from higher-profile schools, including Harvard Law ($186,00), Wharton Business School ($182,000) and Stanford Business School ($175,000).
Unsurprisingly, degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) pay, on average, much higher returns than degrees in education, arts and liberal arts. Engineering is a particularly lucrative major – 13 out of the top 15 highest-earning bachelor's majors are engineering-focused, according to the report.
But not all liberal arts majors have bleak average mid-career incomes. Those who earned a bachelor's degree in industrial design report a mid-career median salary of $84,000, while those who graduated with a bachelor's degree in philosophy report a mid-career median salary of $85,000. Those results did not include respondents who got their bachelor's and then went on to get a higher degree.
Tell us: What did you major in? And how did it impact your annual earnings?