The Starting Salary Out of the 30 Best Colleges

PeopleImages / iStock.com

PeopleImages / iStock.com

University rankings often factor strongly into the college application process for high school students and their parents. However, one of the biggest career mistakes that graduates make is not considering the typical starting salary from these colleges. You might miss out on a bigger paycheck — and less student loan debt — when you choose a higher-ranked university over one that offers a better bang for your buck.

To help increase your chances of finding employment across America, GOBankingRates compiled a national list of the 30 best colleges as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. From there, we researched salary information for alumni with zero to five years of professional experience to generate the median starting salaries from the 30 top colleges in the U.S.

Click through to see the highest starting salaries for new graduates from the best colleges.


New York University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 30 (tie)

Starting Salary: $58,700

The last college on this list of the best universities in the U.S. offers neither the lowest starting salary nor the lowest cost of attendance. Its starting salary for a bachelor’s degree beats four other universities, and the $51,828 price tag sits roughly in the middle of the pack.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

Tufts University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 29

Starting Salary: $60,400

Tufts University has produced plenty of successful alumni who are CEOs, such as JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. The cost of tuition for one year is $55,172, which is the fourth-most expensive in these rankings.

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

U.S. News Ranking: No. 28

Starting Salary: $59,300

The University of Michigan — Ann Arbor is one of the best colleges that cost less than $20,000 per year. If you live outside of Michigan, however, tuition will cost you $26,243, which is still the third-cheapest on this list of the most prestigious universities.

Bryan Pollard / Shutterstock.com

Wake Forest University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 27

Starting Salary: $56,000

Although Wake Forest University is not at the bottom of these rankings, it offers the lowest starting salary of all the colleges — despite its $52,348 cost of attendance. You might want to consider applying for a private student loan if you’re admitted to this university.

Melinda Fawver / Shutterstock.com

University of Virginia

U.S. News Ranking: No. 25 (tie)

Starting Salary: $59,500

The University of Virginia is known as one of the most beautiful colleges in America, but non-Virginia residents will have to fork over $44,274 in tuition fees. And, the other university tied for No. 25 might be a better deal — it offers over $10,000 more in median starting salary.

Make Your Money Work Better for You
tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Carnegie Mellon University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 25 (tie)

Starting Salary: $70,900

Though Carnegie Mellon is the priciest college in Pennsylvania, it’s also the only school on this list to break the $70,000 starting salary threshold outside of the top 10 universities in the U.S. The $54,244 tuition becomes more reasonable with those numbers in mind.

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Emory University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 21 (tie)

Starting Salary: $56,700

Emory University is one of America’s largest charitable organizations. However, if you’re looking to make a big profit, you should consider other options for college — Emory provides the second-lowest starting salary on this list for a tuition cost of $50,590.

Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

University of Southern California

U.S. News Ranking: No. 21 (tie)

Starting Salary: $59,400

Los Angeles is one of the best cities to score your dream job, but USC might not offer the same return on investment. You would make a smaller starting salary compared to the universities tied for No. 25, yet pay more in tuition fees — $55,320, to be exact.

Wolterk / iStock.com

University of California, Los Angeles

U.S. News Ranking: No. 21 (tie)

Starting Salary: $57,500

UCLA ties with its crosstown rival USC on the U.S. News’ Best Colleges ranking. USC wins out when it comes to starting salaries, but Californians will pay a much more reasonable tuition at UCLA: the $13,285 price tag is the lowest amount on this list.

Click to See: Why It’s So Important to Negotiate Your Starting Salary

Make Your Money Work Better for You

University of California, Berkeley

U.S. News Ranking: No. 21 (tie)

Starting Salary: $65,400

Of the four colleges tied for No. 21, Cal offers the highest starting salary. This school is also a steal with the second-lowest overall cost of attendance at $14,184.

Once you’re admitted into your dream college, you can use these tips to get the job you want.


Georgetown University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 20

Starting Salary: $61,400

At $53,520, the cost of attendance at Georgetown University is on the higher end, but the median starting salary isn’t as remarkable. There’s a nearly $5,000 jump in pay from No. 21, however.

Find Out: Why Job Hopping Is a Disaster in the Long Run


Washington University in St. Louis

U.S. News Ranking: No. 18 (tie)

Starting Salary: $60,100

Washington University in St. Louis is one of the top universities in the U.S. as well as one of the most expensive colleges in the state. Tuition fees amount to $52,400 per year.

Chuck W Walker / Shutterstock.com

University of Notre Dame

U.S. News Ranking: No. 18 (tie)

Starting Salary: $62,500

Though both are ranked No. 18, it costs about $1,000 more to attend the University of Notre Dame — one of the prettiest colleges in the country — compared to Washington University in St. Louis. You’ll also see $2,400 more in starting salary.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

Vanderbilt University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 14 (tie)

Starting Salary: $61,100

Out of the four universities tied for No. 14, Vanderbilt brings the lowest median starting salary to the table, and tuition will cost you $48,600 per year.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Vanderbilt is well-known for the undergraduate Blair School of Music.

Money Matters: How Do I Cut College Costs?


Brown University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 14 (tie)

Starting Salary: $63,000

You’ll pay $52,231 in tuition costs to study at one of the best colleges in America. Brown takes an open curriculum approach to general education, so students can make the most of their money by directing the course of their undergraduate studies.

Click to See: The Cost of College the Year You Were Born


Cornell University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 14 (tie)

Starting Salary: $65,600

The $54,818 cost of attendance at Cornell University is the highest among the No. 14-ranked colleges. Instead of going into debt to finance an expensive degree, you can save a lot of money by taking free online courses at Ivy League schools.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

Rice University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 14 (tie)

Starting Salary: $65,700

Compared to the other three colleges ranked No. 14, Rice offers the highest median starting salary for the cheapest tuition cost: $46,600.

Your chances of finding high-paying entry-level jobs are higher if you have the right degree from a good college.

BSPollard / iStock.com

Northwestern University

U.S News Ranking: No. 11 (tie)

Starting Salary: $59,500

Northwestern University is one of only two schools in the top 20 to have a median starting salary of less than $60,000. It’ll cost you $54,120 in tuition per year to enroll in this college in Illinois, which is one of the most expensive states for public four-year colleges.


Johns Hopkins University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 11 (tie)

Starting Salary: $63,200

Choosing a good college might also improve your chances of getting a good job. Compared to Northwestern University, which is also ranked No. 11, you’ll pay over $5,000 less in tuition at Johns Hopkins University and make almost $4,000 more in starting salary.

Dan Lewis / Shutterstock.com

Dartmouth College

U.S. News Ranking: No. 11 (tie)

Starting Salary: $66,300

New Hampshire, home to Dartmouth College, is the state where student loan debt is the highest. However, the payoff is relatively even at Dartmouth: You’ll pay $53,496, the ninth-highest tuition cost, in exchange for the ninth-highest median starting salary in these national college rankings.

Make Your Money Work Better for You
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

California Institute of Technology

U.S. News Ranking: No. 10

Starting Salary: $82,000

With its focus on science and engineering, Caltech boasts the highest starting salary out of the best colleges in the U.S. Even better, the cost of attendance is only $50,487 — nowhere near the most expensive college on this list.

Good to Know: The Best Job for Your Myers-Briggs Type

Chadarat Saibhut / Shutterstock.com

Duke University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 9

Starting Salary: $65,300

About 18 students from each class receive a full-ride scholarship, so you have a shot at free education. Duke claims the second-highest cost of attendance at $55,960; however, its median starting salary falls roughly in the middle.

Consider: 10 Low-Paying Jobs That Will Actually Pay Off in Retirement

SINITAR / Shutterstock.com

University of Pennsylvania

U.S. News Ranking: No. 8

Starting Salary: $68,100

The No. 8-ranked University of Pennsylvania remains competitive with the seventh-highest median starting salary as well as the 10th-cheapest tuition costs at $49,220 per year. If you’re concerned about unemployment, consider applying for a job in an industry that needs more workers.

Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock.com

Columbia University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 5 (tie)

Starting Salary: $66,000

Located in expensive New York, Columbia University comes with the highest cost of attendance at $57,208. Unfortunately, its 10th-best median starting salary doesn’t match the astronomical sticker price of tuition.

Look Up: High-Paying Jobs You Didn’t Know Existed

Diego Grandi / Shutterstock.com

Stanford University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 5 (tie)

Starting Salary: $73,300

This highly ranked university provides the third-highest median starting salary, which makes Stanford’s tuition cost of $49,617 a worthy investment.

If you don’t want to put your career at risk, you should avoid jobs that are going extinct.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

U.S. News Ranking: No. 5 (tie)

Starting Salary: $78,800

Just behind Caltech, MIT offers the second-highest median starting salary, likely due to its focus on scientific and technological research.

With its identical ranking, slightly lower cost of attendance and higher starting salary, MIT might be a better deal than Stanford. But ultimately it comes down to personal preference as you’ll be able to find high-paying tech jobs coming out of either school.

HaizhanZheng / iStock.com

University of Chicago

U.S. News Ranking: No. 3 (tie)

Starting Salary: $58,100

The University of Chicago might have a more reasonable cost of attendance at $48,759, but it’s the only top 10 school to equip graduates with a median starting salary of less than $65,000. If you’re deterred by high-risk, high-paying jobs, try finding a company with good job security.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Yale University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 3 (tie)

Starting Salary: $66,800

It costs $53,430 to attend Yale University in Connecticut, which is one of the states with high levels of student loan debt. Of the two schools ranked No. 3, Yale is more expensive by almost $4,000, but you’ll see a greater return on investment in terms of starting salary.

Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock.com

Harvard University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 2

Starting Salary: $69,200

This iconic college surprisingly has the fifth-lowest tuition costs as well as the sixth-highest median starting salary. With a name like Harvard backing your resume, you might be able to find hot jobs that pay more than $150,000.

Pete Spiro / Shutterstock.com

Princeton University

U.S. News Ranking: No. 1

Starting Salary: $69,800

The best college in America offers neither the highest starting salary nor the most expensive cost of attendance at $49,330. Princeton requires its undergraduate students to write a senior thesis or adopt an independent project, which is a unique aspect of its academic program.

Click through to read about the top cities for the most popular degrees.

More on Making Money at Your Job

Methodology: GOBankingRates generated a list of the 30 best colleges based on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings. From there, we researched the median salaries for alumni with zero to five years of experience (to approximate “out of college”). Salary data was sourced from PayScale.