High-Ranked Schools Churning Out High Earners – But Does It Matter?

Careers
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on January 7, 2016 at 9:51 am
High-Ranked Schools Churning Out High Earners – But Does It Matter?

Everyone knows going to a prestigious college or university should help you get a high salary upon graduation, but a new study from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University shows just how much income graduates of high-ranked schools are earning.

Aiming to take a little guesswork out of the college search by providing parents and high school students with a list of the schools that are churning out the top earners, the Center on Education and the Workforce found graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earn $91,600 annually ten years after initially enrolling, the highest among four-year colleges.

Others schools where graduates went on to earn a lot include the University of Colorado Denver where median earnings are $73,800, Georgetown University where median earnings are $83,300 and the University of the Pacific with median earnings coming in at $66,400. Graduates of Harvard, on average, earn $87,200, while Washington and Lee University graduates are bringing in $77,600 and Stanford University graduates are earning a median of $80,900 ten years after initially enrolling.

State schools didn’t fare as well with California State University-Berkley graduates earning a median of $48,100, while graduates of The University of Texas-Pan American earnings are $40,500, on average, ten years after initially enrolling. Meanwhile, graduates of SUNY at Albany earned $50,900 and $42,000 at the University of Charleston.

School prestige isn’t everything

While the ranking paints a picture of the haves and have-nots, with the pricier schools earning graduates more money than cheaper state schools, it doesn’t tell the full story. Sure there is prestige in attending a high-ranked school, but more important these days is the college or university’s alumni network and the amount of practical, hands-on experience students are receiving at the college they attend.

“Companies are starting to see there is not a perfect correlation with schooling and workplace performance,” says JD Conway, technical recruiter and talent acquisition partner at BambooHR. “Your ability to write a paper or do a calculus problem doesn’t translate to performance in the workplace.”

With the nation facing record student loan debt of $1.3 trillion and many students coming out of school with worthless degrees, a debate over the value of a college education has been raging for some time now. Employers have been increasingly vocal, with firms like McKinsey & Co. coming out with studies that show students aren’t graduating with the skills necessary for even entry-level jobs.

Earlier this year consulting firms Ernst & Young, Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers made headlines when their U.K. units announced they were lowering the emphasis on formal education when recruiting graduates. Deloitte plans to hide the name of the candidate’s school from recruiters for entry-level jobs, while Ernst & Young is no longer requiring a college degree. The moves aren’t surprising since skill always trump education when it comes to productivity and enhancing the performance of a company.  Companies that had long relied on the pedigree of the candidate are just now realizing this.

Skills, hands-on experience matter more to employers

According to career experts, technology is playing a big role in companies deemphasizing degrees and focusing more on skills, with graduates with high-tech skills in high demand. Coming out of MIT is definitely going to give you an edge, but ultimately employers want to know the person can actually do the job and not just on paper.

“While attending a school with a strong reputation continues to be helpful, technology has pushed employers to equally consider the skill set of a job candidate,” says Lucas Puente, economic analyst at Thumbtack, the consumer service website. “It’s now rare for a company to fill a technical job in Silicon Valley without administering a ‘challenge’ that directly measures the skills needed in that role.”

According to Conway, what can be more important to students than a high-ranked school is what the college or university has to offer in terms of the program and the networking opportunities for the students attending the school. After all, getting a degree in computer programming from a top-ranked school won’t help if the student doesn’t get any practical experience writing code, whether that’s through the school’s own curriculum or an internship.

Because of that, students want to attend schools with deep corporate relationships and good internships, so that practical experience is easy to come by. “There are prominent schools with excellent master’s programs, but they provide so much theoretical learnings that people leave and have a hard time finding positions,” says Conway. He pointed to one CTO he worked with in the past that didn’t care if the candidate was a high school dropout as long as he or she could write computer code. “Students need to start getting applicable work experience as soon as possible.”

Image: Great Dome at MIT – one of the schools said to be churning out highest-earning graduates. MIT.

Donna Fuscaldo
Donna Fuscaldo is a freelance journalist hailing out of Long Island, New York. She has also written for Bankrate.com, Glassdoor.com, SigFig.com, FoxBusiness.com, Business Insider, Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal.

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