4 Colleges in grid
Courtesy of Colorado School of Mines; University of California; San Diego; Michigan Technological University; California Polytechnic State University; San Luis Obispo

11 Public Colleges Where Grads Make Six Figures

Dec 01, 2016

Want to make a six-figure salary, but can't afford a fancy private college?

An analysis of graduates' compensation data shows the path from an affordable public college to a high-paying job depends on three basic factors: What you study, how hard, and where.

As for the what: Research by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce finds, for example, that the typical finance major at all kinds of colleges -- public and private -- ends up earning at least $100,000 at some point in his or her career. Engineers and food science majors have at least a 25% chance of breaking the six-figure barrier, Georgetown found.

How hard, meanwhile, is kind of a no-brainer. Research by Gallup and by Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum have found that students who study hard and are involved in their schools tend to have more success in their careers.

But the "where" is interesting. The type of college -- public vs. private -- doesn’t have the impact you might expect. One recent study found that graduates of the most selective public colleges, for example, out-earn graduates of the most selective private colleges -- and that the advantage is even greater when comparing minimally selective schools.

PayScale.com data, meanwhile, shows that selective public universities in California tend to produce high earners -- although bear in mind that the state has a high cost of living -- as do schools that specialize in technology or other in-demand skills (such as maritime academies).

Here are the 11 public universities whose alumni earn an average of more than $100,000 within 15 years of graduation -- without having to attend graduate school.

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Brittany App—Brittany App

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 131

  • Average mid-career salary: $100,000
  • Average early career salary: $58,100
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $26,148
Michigan Technologic University
Courtesy of Michigan Technological University

Michigan Technological University

Houghton, Mich.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 90

  • Average mid-career salary: $101,000
  • Average early career salary: $63,100
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $28,300
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Courtesy of New Jersey Institute of Technology

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Newark, N.J.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 178

  • Average mid-career salary: $101,000
  • Average early career salary: $55,700
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $36,230
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Sam O'Keefe

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, Mo.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 119

  • Average mid-career salary: $103,000
  • Average early career salary: $63,100
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $23,800
University of California, San Diego
Courtesy of University of California, San Diego

University of California-San Diego

La Jolla, Calif.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 14

  • Average mid-career salary: $106,000
  • Average early career salary: $53,700
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $31,500
California Maritime Academy
Courtesy of California Maritime Academy

California State University Maritime Academy

Vallejo, Calif.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 178

  • Average mid-career salary: $107,000
  • Average early career salary: $57,100
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $26,500
Colorado School of Mines
Courtesy of Colorado School of Mines

Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colo.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 139

  • Average mid-career salary: $110,000
  • Average early career salary: $65,600
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $32,700
Massachusetts Maritime Academy Mini Cruise 2013
Liz Novak

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Buzzards Bay, Mass.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 43

  • Average mid-career salary: $110,000
  • Average early career salary: $58,400
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $25,500
Virginia Military Institute.
Kevin Remington—Virginia Military Institute

Virginia Military Institute

Lexington, Va.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 42

  • Average mid-career salary: $111,000
  • Average early career salary: $56,400
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $29,000
Skyline views of Atlanta and Georgia Tech taken from the roof of the library.
Raftermen Photography—Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 35

  • Average mid-career salary: $112,000
  • Average early career salary: $63,800
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $28,100
University of California, Berkeley
Virginia Yeh

University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, Calif.

MONEY Best Colleges Rank: 5

  • Average mid-career salary: $116,000
  • Average early career salary: $60,300
  • Average in-state cost for 2016-17 (without aid): $33,400
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