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Payscale’s College Salary Report is based on a comprehensive database. Every year, our sample size becomes larger and more robust. This year, our rankings come from the alumni salary data of 3.5 million respondents, representing more than 4,000 colleges and universities across the U.S. The data presented here will help you research schools, majors and careers. You can use this information to help you discover which fields of study offer the most income potential, as well which are most transferable to different career paths.

The Best Colleges Based on Salary Potential

Because Payscale’s College Salary Report collects information from millions of individuals, we’re able to provide snapshots based on different career stages. Thus, this report can help you determine how much income you could attain by the time you reach mid-career, based on which college or university you attend. We call this salary potential. In addition to choosing the right institution, you’ll want to consider which field of study you pursue. Some fields might have higher earning potential, but less flexibility in terms of job choice. Ultimately, the major you choose will also have a significant effect on your lifetime earning potential.

Payscale’s College Salary Report helps you research colleges, majors and careers based on how much salary you could earn by the time you reach mid-career if you attend a specific college. We call this salary potential, and we use it to calculate our rankings which come from the alumni salary data of 3.2 million respondents representing over 4,000 universities across the U.S.

Why Rank Colleges By Salary Potential?

Choosing which college or university to attend, and which field you want to study can be a daunting decision. Where you choose to go to college, what type of degree you decide to pursue, and the major you choose to study can greatly impact your future salary potential. That’s not to say that college students should choose their school and degree based on the potential to make a lot of money. There are many other personal factors to consider. However, understanding what your post-graduation earning power is likely to be is essential in order to make a sound financial decision when selecting a college and major.

College Rankings Highlights and Trends

Our data is routinely being updated. However, there are a number of factors that remain constant year after year. There’s no doubt that higher education is still a significant financial investment. How and where you choose to make that investment is an important decision. With that being said, here are some of the latest trends and highlights from this year’s data that can help you and your family make the best decisions when it comes to choosing a college.

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2021 Associate Degree Rankings

Two-year degrees are a more affordable (and often overlooked) option for college-bound students. In fact, many states are now offering two years of free community college. However, for students who are taking out loans entirely on their own, picking a college that has a high salary potential could cut your student loan payback time in half.

The majority of the highest earning two-year programs are schools with strong reputations and a specific focus in nursing and healthcare professions. This year, Helene Fuld College of Nursing, Pacific Union College, and Laboure College top the list of schools with the most financially rewarding associate degrees.

Top Two-Year Schools for Salary Potential

1. Helene Fuld College of Nursing — Mid-Career Median Salary: $95,600

Helene Fuld College of Nursing is located in New York and has been around since 1945. They offer LPN to RN program so students can earn their Associates in Applied Science within two years. There are around 450 full-time students enrolled in the school.

2. Labouré College — Mid-Career Median Salary: $90,800

Labouré College is a private college specializing in nursing and healthcare education with a Catholic heritage in Milton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1892, Labouré offers online and on-campus certificate, associate, and bachelor degree programs.

3. Pacific Union College — Mid-Career Median Salary: $89,200

Pacific Union College is a private, liberal arts college located in Angwin, California near the Napa Valley. PCU is a small college, with a student teacher ratio of 13:1. Students can earn a two-year degree in a number of healthcare, aviation, emergency services and more.

2021 Bachelor Degree Rankings

Bachelor Degrees remain a common choice for those seeking a degree. However, bachelor degrees can be expensive, especially if you don’t have monetary support from scholarships or grants to cover your tuition and fees. And even with support from scholarships, student loan debt is simply an expected hardship when getting a college degree these days. This is why it’s important to choose a college with a high salary potential. In terms of four-year degrees, a few universities stood out on top, but for their own unique reasons.

The top of the list continues to be dominated by the Ivy League, elite technical universities, and military academies. Harvey Mudd is again the number one slot this year with mid-career pay of $158,200, $3k above the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the second place slot. Harvey Mudd College is a liberal arts school that grants degrees exclusively in science, engineering and mathematics. Samuel Merritt University comes in third and the US Naval Academy and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) round out the top five.

Top Four-Year Schools for Salary Potential

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Mid-Career Median Salary: $167,200

MIT is one of the more prestigious universities that earned a top spot in our bachelor’s degree category. Located in Cambridge, MIT is a renowned research university known for its advanced research in areas like technology and science. At MIT, 85 percent of undergraduates use enriched research to complete their degrees.

2. Harvey Mudd College — Mid-Career Median Salary: $166,600

Harvey Mudd College is a private college located in Claremont, California. This is the third year in a row for HMC to take a top spot on our College Salary Report. What makes this college so great? To start, HMC is a STEM-focused institution, specializing in science and engineering degrees. The college has an undergraduate student population of 809 and has a scenic campus.

3. Princeton University — Mid-Career Median Salary: $161,500

Princeton is an Ivy League school located in New Jersey. This prestigious research university rounds out the top three among Bachelor's schools.

Best Schools by State

Picking the right college for you can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out the best colleges with the highest paid graduates by state.

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington, D.C.
West Virginia