Journalists are curious by nature, so we set out to find the top engineering schools, based on how well their grads are paid. The data compilation was provided by Payscale.com.
In addition, we found it interesting that most engineering schools on our list are graduating women engineers in the 10% to 20% range. Of the top engineering schools, only Carnegie Mellon University is graduating 33% women. The average starting salaries of engineering grads at these schools is 25% to 50% higher than the average college salaries across all professions.
Click on the image below to start the slideshow. Then, in the comments section below, tell us if your school ranked and if the numbers add up.
Rank: 15 -- Montana Tech
Coming in at number 15 for engineering starting salaries, Montana Tech at the University of Montana's graduates are averaging $57,400 out of the chute. Mid-career salaries don’t hold up quite as well, coming in at $82,600. Top mid-career earners were reservoir engineers who are bringing in $152,125.
(Source: Montana Tech at the University of Montana)
This is a really interesting list, with some schools on there that I didn't even know about. It's no surprise MIT tops the list, but it was interesting to see the salaries and potential for some of the more specialized colleges. This is great information for kids thinking of engineering careers and looking to pick a solid university for their studies.
Ekizebeth, I totally agree with you that this information will be very helpfull for students chossing which university to enter . It will also help them calculate the returns they expect to get back on the amount invested in University .
Mudd isn't "more specialized". When I graduated in physics mumble years ago, while everyone took a major in math, physics, chemistry or engineering (a quantitatively oriented biology has since been added), everyone took the same classes for 3 semesters and many still overlapped in the fourth, with specialization only really starting in the 3rd year. Yes, that meant kids expecting to speclalize in pure math would take physical chemistry and introduction to systems engineering with the chemists and engineers. No grade inflation either... the most common grade in any class at Mudd was (and apparently remains) something like a C+. What you get are graduates in one major field knowing the basic vocabulary of all the others.
And unlike CalTech which has a similar immersion for the school's foci, everyone has to take a minor course of study in a humanity.
Most companies pay based on the cost of living of your area. So if the graduates mostly stay on the east and west coast, of course they will be paid more. It just so freaking much to live there, you have to pay more. I can earn more in more rural America doing ME work and have more in savings than any of those you listed because my cost of living is 1/4 to 1/3 of those areas... Not saying your stats are bad but they don't take into account where the jobs are. Now, you can run the numbers and compare salraies per college in the same regions, and that is more fair to publish for those seeking to move.
Hmm. Can I question the data? I'd liked to see exactly how the information was attained. I don't doubt that MIT should top the list, but there's a bunch of others that I would expect to see on the list. And there were more than a few that I never heard of. Maybe someone from Payscale.com could respond?
Rich, PayScale explains its methodology on this page: http://www.payscale.com/about/methodology
Basically, they're managing incoming surveys of pay data. They do explain the validation process:
"Each completed survey is run through a data-cleaning algorithm. Additionally, our crack team of data scientists analyzes the data to identify potential biases and outliers."
So, while PayScale stands by its data, the company does not conduct comprehensive and systematic outreach to job holders.
Interestingly, PayScale's client base consists of universities and colleges that want data about their graduates' salaries. So presumably, PayScale is generally doing a better job of tracking alumni salaries than the universities and colleges themselves.
Sounds like a pretty reliable source then, Rob! It sounds like maybe pure salary alone, then, isn't really enough to judge the quality of the school. Perhaps there is another reason some of the students coming out of some of these little-known institutions are netting so much after graduation.
I was surprised how low starting salaries are, especially for high-cost private schools in high-rent regions. One might have a hard time making loan payments after a CalTech or MIT education, and tough for those BS graduate to even consider graduate school unless they have rich parents. My son had multiple offers of 70-85K after a UC Berkeley computer science BS several years ago, which is reasonable for the San Francisco area. He was soon well above that, but still far from a salary that could finance even a small home there. A salary <$60K would yield almost a poverty lifestyle in NYC. The Rose-Hulman salaries looked most promising, especially since most grads stayed in the low-cost Mid-west, where one can buy a house for the price of a VCR.
I don't want to come across as confrontational, but if someone can't support themselves as a single person graduating on $58,000, they should re-examine their lifestyle choices.One might be feeling a little too entitled to the finer things before really earning them.
My son is starting his Doctorate program in Southern California (UCRiverside) and will be living on a paltry $24,000 annual stipend.That's less than half these starting salaries.
Exactly.Very Impressive.My first salary out of Engineering school in '83 was $17,500.Twenty years later, I was hiring fresh-outs in 2002 and couldn't believe HR was offering them close to $50,000.I thought those numbers were staggering, and today's (10 more years later) are crossing the $60's ! A single guy could really live well on that!
In 85', my mom bought a house in CA for $175k. Today, that same house would be about $700k with Chinese investors driving up the price. A house cost 4 times as much. Your 83' salary times 4 for now is about right. Gas back then was $1.15. Now is $4.20. Again, close to 4 times. Lunch at work use to be $3 in the 90's. Now is $7. With a drink is $9.
If you follow a sliding scale of everything 4x, you're right.But much to our collective chagrin, salaries have never paralleled inflation. Altho' according to these top 15 universities, they pretty-much do! Pity the non-engineers at lesser schools to get the big salaries ,,,,,
On another note, I had expected the So.CA housing marketing to be staggering for my son (to your point, of ~$700k) but the housing crash of '08 has hit the area, and he is looking at 3 bedroom ranches in the $150's.I was very (happily) surprised, for his opportunity !
Good point, Rich. I noted my surprise at some of the schools in my previous comment--schools I didn't even recognize. But as you note there are a lot of other institutions that could be on here, but aren't. Would be interesting to find out more about the data, too.
@Arden Dulou: I was going to make the same point. As Design News salary surveys have repeatedly shown, there is a big regional variation in engineering salaries across the U.S., which tracks (more or less) with cost of living.
Montana Tech probably made the list because of the oil and gas boom in neighboring North Dakota; then again, I've read that you can make $11 an hour and get a $300 signing bonus just to work at McDonalds in North Dakota these days. Not coincidentally, North Dakota also has among the highest housing and food costs in the nation. After the boom ends, North Dakota will probably go back to being just another rural Western-Midwestern state.
One thing I didn't see in the article is a discussion of tuition costs. I think Montana Tech and Missouri S&T (a.k.a. Rolla) are the best values on the list, at least for in-state residents. For many of the private schools on the list, the starting salary is about equal to one year's tuition. That doesn't sound like such a great deal, unless you have a good scholarship.
I don't agree with the mindset of approaching college purely as an investment decision, but since we live in a market economy, it would be unwise to ignore economic realities. A high starting salary can easily be offset by high student loan debt, high cost of living, etc. I certainly hope no students make decisions about where to go to school based on lists like this.
Arden, that is a very good point. I was thinking the same thing as I went through the slideshow. Frankly, I am on my second and last looking at engineering/computer science schools. The final decision has been made. It was not one of these, but we looked at several of them and visited a number of them.
Cost of living considerations have always been important. I had a professor at Villanova many years ago who got a job in New York City toward the end of the semester. He went from a large townhouse to an apartment on a much higher salary. Sometimes the differences can be striking.
The jobs available to school engineering grads depends on location and the available local industries near a particular school not so much the quality of the college academics itself. Location is the most important factor for salary not education quality. MIT is over rated.
I agree, the location of your first job will have a large effect on your salary. If a school is in a location where salaries are high, and graduates stay in the area, then the school will have an advantage. But if you read the paragraph on MIT, you would see that 3/4 of their graduates leave Massachusetts. Your basis for calling MIT overrated is not really valid.
So what we are saying is that higher paying jobs are higher paying largely because of location. If graduates of a school have an advantage in getting local jobs, and those jobs pay more because of that location, then this study is biased in favor of that school.
My point is, MIT does not fit that category - graduates have no location advantage if they are working for Google or Apple. If every Stanford graduate worked for Google and Apple, I would say that based on that information Stanford might be overrated.
When I first started clicking through these schools I was quite sure that I would NOT see my alma mater because it is a somewhat obscure school. Much to my surprise The Colorado School orf Mines placed 4th. It kind of debunks the school location idea. I know from years in IT that the average pay scale in Colorado stinks.
As I look through this, I presume that the only schools shown in this list are the ones that can be easily identified as engineering schools, and not as major universities. By that I mean that we don't see Purdue, Penn State, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, University of Texas, Southern Cal, Northwestern, Stanford and many other universities in which engineering is a just small portion of the overall enrollment. Rob, is that the case? Would it have been possible to break out, for example, the engineering population at Purdue and find out what their average salaries were?
That's a great line of questioning, Chuck. I was surprised to not see U of Mich. or Stanford, since they are both top engineering schools that are near industries that employ engineers by the thousands. I'll be talking with PayScale, so I'll ask whether the survey just looked at engineering schools rather than schools with engineering "departments." I would think the engineering departments at Michigan and Stanford are larger than many -- if not most -- engineering schools.
I also noted that the buildings selected for the photos are likely the campuses' iconic buildings and architectural award winners but not necessarily connected to engineering. I know from an article in another engineering journal that the building shown for RPI is a performing arts center (way cool just the same). The photo selected for Rose-Hulman looks like a chapel.
Not in all cases. For my school (Georgia Tech) the picture is ... well, I'm not sure where that picture was taken. Probably somewhere in the northern part of the campus where a bunch of new buildings have been put up, long, long after I graduated. If they'd wanted to use an iconic (and more appropriate picture) they would have used a photo of the Tech tower. The picture they did use looks like some generic high-tech office park.
We have three alum here (2x '84, 1x '85) in our one little division of a certain major defense contractor in Maryland so Whoopee Tech folks don't always stay in the Boston area. I do think that salaries for various schools may be skewed by where the students home was (near school) then got jobs locally to stay near family.
Even though I didn't go to Georgia Tech, I like that T-shirt, rickgtoc. For years, I've heard schools call themselves "the Harvard of the West," and "the Harvard of the South," and "the Harvard of the Midwest," etc, etc, etc. Yours is better...and deserving. Georgia Tech's a great school.
Ha! I used to have one of those shirts. A woman came up to me in the grocery store after seeing my shirt and began carrying on about what a wonderful school MIT was. I didn't have the heart to tell her she'd missed the whole point of the shirt!
WPI graduates also become game software developers like my son-in-law to be on June 1st when he weds my daughter. Prior to meeting him I didn't think much of WPI, mostly due to its location in a rusting old New England industrial city.
I was surprised that RPI in Troy NY didn't do as well. Also, how about engineering graduates from liberal arts colleges and universities? I'd think a couple of the big named schools would provide very good sendoffs to newly minted engineers.
Nice but.... I think an even more important metric is what is the total employment in terms of percentage for these recent graduates. Salaries matter little if employment numbers are low and thereby could deem these figures next to wortheless.
I'm suprised that Purdue University is not included in the list....perhaps the Boilermakers, despite being perennially listed in the top 10 ranked engineering schools, are producing more philanthropic engineers willing to improve society for less? Or, perhaps Purdue needs to include also some salary negotiation guidance to new grads! More likely, I think, is that Purdue graduates are too busy with their engineering work to respond to such frivolous surveys! ;)
For me, the only real surprise was Montana Tech, but as readers have pointed out, there's a strong geographiocal factor there. Harvey Mudd and Rose-Hulman, while not well known, are repeatedly at the top of U.S. News & Reports' best engineering schools list, usually as the top two in the "highest degree is a bachelor's or master's" category. And MIT and Cal Tech are always at the top of the category called, "highest degree is a doctorate."
This is the data that high school guidance counselors need to show their graduating seniors. You seem to hear alot about how hard an engineering degree is versus a liberal arts degree and that seems to push away some potential candidates. Perhaps seeing the potential pot of gold would help to motivate some into the harder path.
Amazing high salaries are claimed. But what else would the school possibly say if they want to attract engineering students.
But it seems to me that there is a bit of inflation going on. Of course, in other parts of the country not so depressed as the greater detroit area incomes may be a bit higher. But just like all of those salary surveys, if the resulkts are truthful than I am depressed.
I would suggest only accepting claimes backed up with a copy of a 1099 form.
that a smart person would be more interested in mid-career salaries, adjusted by geographical standard of living pay differences, if they were interested in pay at all. In fact the last person I would want to hire is someone picking a school by the amount of money they could expect to make immediately after graduation. And I mean the absolute last. Though I would personally expect that statistically those would be the first to drop out. Is anyone aware of a list that has adjusted salaries of engineers at mid-career?
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