In my previous post, “Which Degrees Carry the Most Debt?”, I explored the growing problem of student loan debt and explained that the amount of debt you have can depend on the type of college you attend. Another important consideration for future college students, especially those who will have to take out loans, is how much money you’ll make after you graduate. Your salary, both immediately after college and several years into the future, will directly impact the amount of time it will take you to pay off your loans, not to mention other factors like your lifestyle.
You might be thinking, “How on earth would I know what I’m going to make five or ten years down the road?” Well, there are a couple of websites that can help you figure that out. One of these sites is payscale.com, which provides salary information for graduates from 1,000 colleges and for 130 different majors. To access the college data on this free site, click on “Education” and then “College Salary Report”. From that page, you can view a full list of colleges, best colleges by type (i.e., liberal arts, research universities, public colleges), and best colleges by region. Each of these groupings ranks colleges according to graduates’ average starting and mid-career salaries. The site also has tools to help you choose a major and a college.
Another useful website is alumnifactor.com. This site costs $3.99/month and provides information gleaned from surveys of graduates from 1,500 colleges. For the top 177 colleges, the site reports not only income and net worth data, but also information about more personal outcomes, like intellectual development and preparation for career success. It also ranks the top colleges based on alumni’s likelihood to attend the same school again and recommend it to others, as well as whether they thought it was a good value.
One downside to both of these websites is that they don’t give any breakdown of average salaries based on the specific degree students earn from a college. In other words, someone who graduates with an engineering degree is likely to make a lot more money than someone who earns a teaching degree from the same school. For more specific data, try Nerd Scholar, which is also free. Although the site doesn’t list specific degrees, it does provide average starting salaries and employment rates for schools within universities. For example, if you want to study business, you can compare data for business schools at different colleges.
By helping you figure out your potential salary, these websites can help you determine if a college is worth the cost and worth taking out thousands of dollars in loans to attend.