Courtesy of Colorado School of Mines; University of California; San Diego; Michigan Technological University; California Polytechnic State University; San Luis Obispo
By Kim Clark
December 1, 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

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 Technological University

Courtesy of 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

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

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

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 State University Maritime Academy

Courtesy of California 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

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

Liz Novak

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

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

Georgia Institute of Technology

Raftermen Photography—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

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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