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Colleges in the Northeastern US with the highest paid graduates

Posted by mandyf on August 18, 2011

What is in a name? When it comes to colleges and universities that have a reputation for landing you a high paying job, what is in a name can be big money. In the northeastern US, the Ivy has generally always ruled the roost. A degree from Harvard or Yale was often considered as good a formula for punching your ticket to success and a high earning career as any school could deliver, but is that still true?

Payscale, an organization that tracks statistics for pay in nearly every imaginable configuration, took a look at what schools in the Northeastern US produce graduates with the best earning potential. For the purposes of their study, they consider the starting graduates to have a minimum of 2 years experience in their field, and begin calculating the mid-career phase once that person has reached 15 years of employment in their field. They also only take into account pay for a a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree only – no higher degreed people are calculated into the mix.

As they compiled their top ten colleges and universities in the Northeastern US based on this pay scale, there were some interesting omissions you will notice. Along with their data, the 2010 annual tuition (in state) for each institution is included so a comparison can also be loosely drawn between the cost of the education versus the average monetary return it supplies.

Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania weighs in at number ten. The average graduate realizes a starting salary of $56,400 annually, with an average mid-career salary of $111,000. The average cost to attend Lehigh in 2010-2011 is $39,480 with what Lehigh estimates as an average annual cost of attendance around $52,250. For a four year degree, not counting inflation, adjustments for financial aide or other considerations, that sets the cost of a Lehigh Bachelor’s Degree at about $210,000.

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia produces graduates that average about $59,600 starting out and $110,000 at the mid-career point. In 2010-2011, their total cost of attendance is estimated at $45,804, which equates to a four year degree cost of about  $183,216. That is about $27,000 less than Lehigh University with a slightly increased starting wage for graduates.

The Polytechnic Institute of New York University graduates average $62,100 annually when starting out with a mid-career salary average of $111,000. The big draw for this Brooklyn university for many however is that the average annual cost of attendance is $36,824 which is a bargain compared to much of the company it is keeping. That places the cost of a four year degree at about $147,000, which is very affordable by today’s standards.

The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (USP) raises the bar a bit more. New graduates average about $49,700 annually, while mid-career grads average about $113,000. The cost of tuition for 2010-2011 is $29,920, with a triple room running about $6,000 before fees are tacked on – and there are plenty of fees levied by this nearly 200 year old university. $40,000 is considered a fair, albeit low, estimate of the average annual cost of attendance with a four year degree costing about $160,000.

Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, is the oldest private liberal arts university in the US. Bucknell graduates average about $55,8000 upon completing their degree, and enjoy a mid-career average salary around $115,000. Prestige does not com cheap however as the current total cost of attendance is $52,280 making a four year degree stand a cost of about $210,000.

Colgate University located in Hamilton, New York, breaks the trend a little bit with new graduates earning around $48,700 annually, but a nice mid-career bounce to about $115,000. The total cost of attendance is a little bit steep with the university placing an estimate at about $54,030 – personal expenses included.


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, produces graduates that enjoy the highest average starting salary among the top ten at $68,300. As the saying goes, if you went to MIT and didn’t start at $60k, you did something very, very wrong. MIT graduates are considered prestige hires not just in the US, but globally. The average mid-career salary takes a nice jump to about $119,000 annually. The cost of a year at MIT runs about $52,000 per year for a four year degree estimate of about $210,000.

Another Cambridge, Massachusetts, powerhouse school is Harvard University. The total cost of a year at Harvard is estimated at around $60,000 which includes an estimate for personal expenses. That places a four year degree at a cost of around $240,000! The return however is that the average Harvard graduate starts out around $57,3000 annually with a mid-career boost to the neighborhood of $121,000 per year.

Dartmouth College, which was founded in 1769, costs almost as much as it is old with an annual tuition of  about $40,000 on the prepaid plan to lock in a rate. That places the cost of a four year degree at about $160,000. When room and board and all fees are considered, and you are not fortunate enough to be on the prepaid plan, the total cost of attendance rises dramatically to about $82,800 annually or about $330,000 over four years.  Dartmouth is the gem of Hanover, New Hampshire, and has a sterling reputation, but new graduates still only average about $54,100 annually with a mid-career jump to $123,000.

Princeton University in New Jersey maintains its position at the top of the heap with new graduates averaging about $58,9000 with a mid-career average salary in the range of $123,000. Currently the total cost for a year at Princeton is estimated at $48,500 which equates to about $194,000 to complete a four year degree. Princeton remains a prestige university around the world with graduates enjoying numerous career opportunities.

While not all applicants can gain entrance to the above named institutions, for those who can the earning opportunities upon graduation are excellent. As compared to the nation as a whole they each still compare favorably to southern and western universities and colleges, although not all make the top ten list so far as the entire nation. All financial data is accurate through the spring semester of 2011, tuition and fees may change on short notice however and economic swings can also change salary figures with no notice.


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