Georgetown Ranks Colleges by Earnings with Few Surprises


A new study released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has ranked colleges by earnings potential.

The Georgetown Center used data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard in the creation of their list to see how much former students of over 1,400 colleges and universities were making each year.  Three rankings were given based on aggregate school earnings, the quality of the institution, and academic preparation.  Only institutions with four-year bachelor’s degree programs were considered for the study.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology took first place when looking only at earnings, with the average MIT graduate earning an annual salary of $91,600 10 years after beginning school.  The United States Merchant Marine Academy took a close second place, with graduates making around $89,000 per year.  Rounding out the top three was Harvard University, with their former students earning an average of $87,200 per year.

The top 20 schools have a number of things in common, as many are elite private schools or reputable liberal arts colleges.  Most of the schools hold a focus on technology and engineering, or specialty training, writes Danielle Douglas-Gabriel for The Washington Post.

“When you go to college, 30 percent of your courses is your major and the rest is general education, so in the case of MIT, it’s the majors that drive the earnings. In the case of Harvey Mudd or the Merchant Marine Academy, its the occupation,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director and research professor of the Center. “It looks like the optimal case for earnings is to combine general education with occupational education.”

Looking at the second set of rankings, differences in the compositions of majors across universities were taken into account in an effort to determine the role played by the quality of the school.  Researchers discovered that attending a school like Harvard or Georgetown typically resulted in higher wages despite not having a large number of students enrolled in lucrative programs.

Students who attended Harvard make about $29,200 more than expected for their major due to the reputation and selectivity of the school, along with its ability to retain faculty members of a higher quality.  The same results are seen at the University of Colorado-Denver, where students make around $26,600 more than would be expected.  Researchers suggest this is because the school has a high percentage of older learners who have an easier time finding a job because of their previous work history, reports Justine Hofherr for

The third set of rankings takes into account the quality of the student body both when they gain admission to the school and again upon graduation.  Students who hold higher standardized test scores are considered to be more likely to succeed, as are those who pursue an advanced degree, with graduate degrees bringing an average of 28% more in earnings than a bachelor’s degree alone.