The Best Graduate Schools Based on Alumni Salary

Going to graduate school is not a decision to take lightly. It costs a lot of money to earn an education, but having a graduate degree can also be a great way to ensure that you’ll receive a higher salary in your profession. This makes choosing the right graduate school a challenge. You want to find the one that will benefit you in the long run without putting you in severe debt.

In this list, we will talk about the top schools with the highest “salary scores.” These scores have been estimated by GradReports, based on how much money the alumni from each graduate school across the nation earn. The schools on this list vary in tuition costs, but they can all boast about having the highest-earning graduates in the country.

These are the top ten graduate schools based on the average salary of their alumni. Tuition for some of them may seem high, but fear not; even the most expensive grad schools will typically help fund their students or offer tuition assistance of some sort through fellowships, research & teaching assistant opportunities, and other aid, so that everyone has the chance to achieve their goals.  

Ready to discover a little more about which graduate school is right for you in terms of courses offered, overall cost, and earning potential? Keep reading to find out!


10. University of Chicago

The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 in the Hyde Park neighborhood as a private research university. Today, about 10,000 graduate students enroll at the school each year. There are also campuses located in London, Hong Kong, Beijing, Delhi, and Paris, so students from across the world have the opportunity to earn their master’s or doctorate degrees from this well-respected institution.

With a salary score of 93.54 and an annual tuition of about $58,968, the University of Chicago is a great choice for post-graduate studies. They offer over 100 graduate programs. Fields of study include business, public policy, science, engineering, medicine, social services, humanities, law, and liberal arts.

9. Harvard University

Harvard University is an Ivy League school located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that was founded in 1636. Nearly 20,000 students enroll in post-graduate studies at Harvard annually. It’s no wonder why folks are drawn to this school’s post-graduate programs, as Harvard has more alumni and faculty who have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals than any other university in the world.

Harvard offers 12 graduate schools where you can choose to study business, education, government, engineering, medicine, law, design and public health, among many other disciplines. This university holds a salary score of 93.76, and annual tuition is $47,562.

8. Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University was established as a private Jesuit university in 1851. The school is located in Silicon Valley in California. The school has six colleges that offer undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. There are a little over 3,000 students in attendance at the graduate schools annually. Many notable people have attended this school, including Pulitzer Prize winners, NBA MVP winners, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legends, and successful politicians.

At Santa Clara, you can earn a master’s in business, education, counseling, psychology, law, theology, pastoral ministries, and engineering. Their salary score for graduate students is 94.06, and the annual tuition is about $22,144.

7. CUNY Hunter College

The City University of New York (CUNY) is a public university that offers hundreds of courses in a multitude of fields at five different schools. One of those is Hunter College, which was founded in 1870. Originally a woman’s college, Hunter has also been accepting male students since 1946. It’s one of the best places to go if you are looking for an incredible salary.

At Hunter, you can earn a master’s degree in nursing, social work, urban public health, education, or the arts and sciences. What’s even cooler is that even though their annual tuition comes out to about $20,228, 75% of the students graduate from their program with no debt due to the financial resources the school provides. Hunter College’s salary score comes out to about 94.07.

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6. Northwestern University

Northwestern University was chartered in 1851 as an educational establishment for the Northwest Territory of the United States. By the turn of the 20th century, it had become the third-largest university in the country. Now, they have insanely impressive alumni, including 22 Nobel Prize laureates, 40 Pulitzer Prize recipients, six MacArthur Fellows, 23 National Medal of Science recipients, and 84 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Ten living billionaires call this school their alma mater, too!

This university has an incredibly robust system of graduate programs. There are over 70 master’s programs students can choose from. Studies include music, communication, social policy, arts, science, engineering, law, medicine, and business. The salary score of alumni in the graduate schools is 94.55, and the tuition for a year of schooling is about $54,620.

5. Saint Mary’s College of California

158 years ago in 1863, Saint Mary’s College was founded. In 1889, it was moved across the San Francisco Bay to its current location in Moraga, California. This school offers 26 graduate degrees. These include the Master of Business Administration, Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts.

Saint Mary’s is very small, so the students receive exceptional attention and focus from the faculty. There are less than 4,000 undergraduates per year, and the post-graduate students add up to just over 1,000. The school’s salary score is an impressive 95.17, and annual tuition is about $39,077.  

Related: The Best MBA Programs in the United States

4. Cornell University

In the Finger Lakes of Ithaca, New York, stands Cornell University, which offers graduate programs to about 6,200 students annually. They offer graduate degrees such as Master of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Business Administration. You might feel inspired by this quote from the co-founder, Ezra Cornell, from 1868: “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Cornell graduates are especially noteworthy in the field of education and academia, and the university provides plenty of resources for such students to succeed in that area of study. There are also seven graduate divisions here, so you have plenty of options to choose from if you want to attend this school. Cornell University’s salary score is 95.52, and annual tuition costs about $29,584.

3. University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley was established in 1868 as the first campus of the University of California. About 12,000 graduate students participate in the graduate programs at this university each year. If you need any more reason to be enamored by this school, consider that their alumni include 110 Nobel laureates, 14 Fields Medalists, 103 MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, 28 Wolf Prize recipients, 30 Pulitzer Prize recipients, and six chief justices of the United States.

UC Berkeley offers advanced degree programs in engineering, environmental design, business, information, law, journalism, science, optometry, public health, public policy, social welfare, natural resources, chemistry, and education. You can also pursue a Master of Arts or a Master of Business Association. Their salary score is 96.22, and the annual tuition is $29,233.

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2. Stanford University

The private university known so well as “Stanford” actually has a longer name that many folks aren’t aware of: Leland Stanford Junior University. The school was founded by Leland and Jane Stanford and named after their late child in 1885. Today, it’s recognized as one of the most prestigious schools in the country. 84 Nobel Laureates, eight Fields Medalists, and 29 Turing Award laureates attended Stanford, and the businesses and companies that this school’s alumni have created produce about $2.7 trillion in annual revenue.

Stanford University offers graduate studies in their schools of education, business, medicine, environmental sciences, humanities, law, and engineering. The salary school for graduates of these schools comes out to about 97.90. The annual tuition is about $51,354.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private university founded in 1861. The founders wanted the school to focus on laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering, which was counter to the more industrialized route other schools were taking at the time. Today, this school counts 97 Nobel laureates, eight Fields Medalists, 58 National Medal of Science winners, 29 National Medals of Technology and Innovation winners, nine Knight-Hennessy Scholars, 41 astronauts, 80 Marshall Scholars, and 50 MacArthur Fellows among their alumni.

There are around 7,000 students currently enrolled in one of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s graduate schools. The graduate schools offer studies in science, management, humanities, arts, social sciences, and architecture and planning. The U.S. Department of Education puts MIT’s salary score at 99.56. The annual tuition sits at about $54,976.

Now that you know the top ten graduate schools in the nation based on salary score, you can decide which one is right for you based on your goals. These rankings change annually, and it’s important to note that many of the schools on this list are located in cities where there is a high cost of living. Thus, salaries will likely be higher in those areas, too. Going to the number one graduate school in the nation won’t necessarily guarantee you an amazing job–and going to one that isn’t on this list won’t hurt you, either. However, this knowledge can help you feel more prepared when planning for your future.

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