Ways To Chart That Post-College Paycheck

Ways To Chart That Post-College Paycheck

Through the current state of human genome mapping, we can now take a small test tube of blood and accurately predict someone’s height, weight, age, hair, and eye color — and even what her face looks like.

If biology has progressed that far, is it really possible to project what a college student might make in the job market — before her first day of freshman orientation? Well, no, not exactly. But it is possible to hit some projected ranges.

It remains a truism that college graduates make $1 million more than those who stopped education after high school. But drill down into such data as from the U.S. Census Bureau and there are huge variations both by subject and across majors. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has a refined study on income potential.

But there are others. For instance, the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project parses data by percentile, so that, for example, economics majors’ earnings are about three times as large at the 90th percentile compared with the 10th percentile. Where you count economic beans after college matters — and thus there is stunningly greater value in degrees from such schools as the University of Michigan than your local commuter college. Thus one can arrive at a much narrower range building off university quality.

There also is a data farm called Educate to Career, which ranks about 1,200 universities and colleges — showing, for instance, starting salary averages by major within those schools. The median social work degree grad starts around $44k, while the median engineer begins in the $80s.

Readers can drill down to find out, for example, the average SAT score at Carlton College, and that the school produced 34 computer science grads in recent numbers.

The ETC College Ranking Index is full of interesting metrics used in its algorithms. Some of the metrics include Major, weighted against national norms; percentage of persons employed within one year of graduation (weighted on an occupational trend basis); and the all-important net cost of in-state tuition. Using Purdue University as an example, one can learn the four-year graduation rate is 37.5%, the “net” annual price of tuition is $5,414 and the average engineering grad starts out at $47,500.

The ETC index has an interesting take on why Ivy League schools do not fare as well as other top universities. But the bottom line is that the index can help identify schools providing quality education with proven career placement at a lower net cost than at some of the elite universities.

— Mike Ryan