Ivy Leaguers' Big Edge: Starting Pay
By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN
July 31, 2008
Where people go to college can make a big difference in starting pay, and that difference is largely sustained
into midcareer, according to a large study of global compensation.
In the yearlong effort, PayScale Inc., an online provider of global compensation data, surveyed 1.2 million
bachelor's degree graduates with a minimum of 10 years of work experience (with a median of 15.5 years). The
subjects hailed from more than 300 U.S. schools ranging from state institutions to the Ivy League, and their
incomes show that the subject you major in can have little to do with your long-term earning power. PayScale
excluded survey respondents who reported having advanced degrees, including M.B.A.s, M.D.s and J.D.s.
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Even though graduates from all types of schools increase their earnings throughout their
careers, their incomes grow at almost the same rate, according to the survey. For instance,
the median starting salary for Ivy Leaguers is 32% higher than that of liberal-arts college graduates -- and at 10
or more years into graduates' working lives, the spread is 34%, according to the survey.
One reason why Ivy Leaguers outpace their peers may be that they tend to choose roles where they're either
managing or providing advice, says David Wise, a senior consultant at Hay Group Inc., a global management-
consulting firm based in Philadelphia. By contrast, state-school graduates gravitate toward individual
contributor and support roles. "Ivy Leaguers probably position themselves better for job opportunities that
provide them with significant upside," says Mr. Wise, adding that this is the first survey he's seen that correlates
school choice to a point later in a career.
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Also, more Ivy League graduates go into finance roles than graduates of other schools, and employers
pay a premium for them, says Peter Cappelli, a professor of management and director of the Center for Human
Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "Dartmouth kids get paid more for the
same job than kids from Rutgers are [doing]," he says.
Which school pays off the most? According to the survey, graduates of Dartmouth College, an Ivy League
college, earn the highest median salary -- $134,000.
Of all Ivy League graduates surveyed, those from Columbia earn the lowest midcareer median salary --
$107,000. Meanwhile, the highest-paid liberal-arts-school graduates, from Bucknell University, earn slightly
more -- $110,000.