I've been working on a series of posts about how starting salaries vary across universities for various majors. First I presented all the data I found. Then I stated that I thought major choice mattered more than university choice. Most recently I made the observation that highly ranked universities often didn't relate to higher salaries.
At the end of the last article I made a couple points. The U.S.News rankings are university wide rankings and schools have different reputations in specific fields of study. For example Purdue is ranked #62 among national universities but they are ranked much higher at #11 for engineering schools. If you're looking at engineering degree holders then looking at the U.S.News best Engineering schools ranking list would matter more than the general national ranking of the university.
Second major factor to consider is that pay rates vary considerably based on location. Pay is going to be higher in an expensive state or city versus a low cost area. You would expect that graduates of California schools would likely end up having higher wages since most of the alumni would end up working in California. On the other hand students of Kansas schools may end up with lower average wages if more of them ultimately work in Kansas.
To examine the impact that these two factors have I'm going to look at civil engineering specifically as a case.
Impact from ranking for Engineering
Here is the civil engineering information sorted by the ranking for engineering schools :
|engr rank||us rank||school||Civil engr|
There seems to be a little more correlation between the rankings of the engineering schools and the starting salaries, but its still not that strong. The top school in engineering ranking still gets lower salary than three of the schools below them. However the 3 lowest paid schools are in the bottom half ranked schools and the 2 highest paid are in the top half.
Starting Salary versus Average Local Wages
Lets look at the starting salaries versus the average wage for the civil engineers in the state. I got the average wage for civil engineers from BLS state level wage data.
|school||Civil engr||state avg|
There is some correspondence between the average wages for civil engineers and the starting pay. In Texas for instance they have a relatively high starting pay of $89,110 and the U. Texas starting salaries are also quite high at $57,454. High wages in the state of Texas for Civil engineers might at least partially explain why U. Texas grads have such high pay.
Engineering ranking versus Starting salary as % of Average salary
We can normalize for the variation in regional wages by looking at the starting salary as a percent of the average wage for civil engineers in the state. Lets look at the schools sorted by engineering school rankings and see how the % of wages compares:
|engr rank||school||Civil engr||state avg||%|
If you look at it this way, Purdue actually fares the best in starting wages versus average salary. Theres still not much of a correlation. The school with the highest and lowest starting wage versus average local wage are both in the middle.
For Civil Engineering at least I still don't see much of any solid correlation between university rankings even when looking specifically at the reputation of the engineering school itself and when controlling for the average wages in the area.
I ran all the same numbers for Chemical Engineering as well and heres the result from them.
|engr #||school||start||state mean||%|
Again I don't see strong correlation between engineering school ranks and the starting wages even when normalized to state average wages.
It certainly makes more sense to look at the reputation of a school for the specific field of study than to look at the national level university rankings. But even there it doesn't seem to show a strong correlation between starting wages and school rankings.
The average pay for a state can certainly impact starting wages. You would assume there would be a relationship between the two. I think we can see that to some degree in for some places like Texas where state average wages are the highest and the starting wages for U. Texas grads are also higher.