© AP Photo/Toby Talbot
Big Green grads are in the money. So says a recent study compiled by PayScale.com that looks at earnings of alumni at colleges around the country. Graduates of Dartmouth College finished on top of the list with a median compensation of $134,000, edging out alumni of Princeton University who finished second with a median comp of $131,000.
While many rankings look at what newly minted college graduates are making, we ranked the schools based on the pay of alumni with 10 to 20 years of work experience. After all, it is not how you start but how you finish. "Starting salaries do not tell you a whole lot, but there is a real divergence in dollar terms as you go over the course of a career," says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at PayScale.com.
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Looking at the pay of alumni with less than five years of work experience, Dartmouth trails 18 other colleges with an average paycheck of $58,000, although most top schools are bunched closely together. The two outliers are Stanford University with median pay of $70,400 and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where recent grads earn $72,200 thanks to lucrative engineering jobs secured straight out of school.
Top employers for Dartmouth's 2008 graduating class include Bain, Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, which are almost all high-paying posts. Yet two other big employers of recent grads fall on the other end of the pay scale: Teach for America and the Peace Corps. Both organizations are focused on helping the less fortunate and require two-year commitments. So how do Dartmouth grads, many starting at nonprofits, leapfrog their peers when it comes to compensation as they gain more experience?
"Dartmouth produces well-rounded people who can move into senior-level positions easily," says Monica Wilson, associate director of career services at the school. Another important factor in the success of Dartmouth grads is an extremely tight and loyal alumni network. Dartmouth is located in tiny Hanover, N.H., and is the smallest of the Ivy League schools with 4,100 undergrad students enrolled. Yet the alumni network is extremely impressive and stretches from Daniel Webster to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson during its 239 year history. Other prominent grads include General Electric head Jeffrey Immelt, eBay chief John Donahoe and former IBM boss Louis Gerstner.
In order to compile the ranking of colleges, we turned to PayScale.com, an online compensation comparison tool. PayScale's database includes real-time salary data culled from 13 million unique compensation profiles. PayScale allows users to compare their salary online to other people with similar individual and job characteristics.
We only included schools with more than 1,000 people enrolled. The median salary figures are only for full-time employees and exclude anyone that went on to receive a graduate degree. Salary numbers include bonuses, commissions and profit sharing but not equity compensation.
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The only public college to appear on our list of the top 20 schools was the University of California at Berkeley. It ranked 12th with a median salary of $112,000. A separate ranking of public schools shows eight California schools in the top 20. The University of California system is one of the best in the country and has 220,000 students spread across 10 campuses. However, the California schools and those schools on the East Coast get a significant boost in our rankings because they are largely placing people in careers in big coastal cities like New York and San Francisco where salaries tend to be higher.
Overall, Dartmouth students at mid-career (10 to 20 years experience) finished above any other school. Yet when it comes to the top earners from each school, Yale University grads just nipped out those from Dartmouth. The highest-paid 10% of Yale alums earn more than $326,000 compared to $321,000 for Dartmouth's best paid. The third and fourth ranked schools by this measure were fellow Ivy members Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania. The fifth-ranked and first non-Ivy school among the top earners was Colgate University located in Hamilton, N.Y., where the highest-paid graduates earn $265,000.
Wilson says that recruiters visiting Dartmouth tell her that Dartmouth doesn't have as strong a business background as some of its competitors but that students can always learn the business. What they do like, she adds: "The ability to think outside the box and adapt as easily as Dartmouth students do is what puts them ahead."
Ahead and straight to the top.