Study Finds Berkeley Graduates Earn High Mid-Career Incomes

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A recent study comparing the median salaries of college graduates ranked UC Berkeley alumni as the 12th highest mid-career income earners in the nation.

In PayScale's 2008 College Salary Report, UC Berkeley was the only public university to appear on the study's list of top 20 highest median salaries. Dartmouth College, Princeton University and Stanford University came in first, second and third place respectively.

According to PayScale, the world's largest employee compensation database, UC Berkeley undergraduates earn a median salary of $59,900 zero to five years after graduation, and $112,000 after 10 to 20 years.

The study drew data from full-time employees in the U.S. who possess a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees from all U.S. colleges and universities. Only employees who had completed the Web site's survey were considered in the study.

The study also surveyed highest salaries based on major. The list of top 10 highest earning majors included six different engineering fields, economics, physics, computer science and mathematics. Chemical engineers topped the charts, earning a starting median salary of $63,200 and a mid-career median salary of $107,000.

According to the Career Center's most recent survey of graduates, UC Berkeley chemical engineering majors earned median salaries of $60,808 while economics majors earned median salaries of $55,439.

UC Berkeley mechanical engineering department chair Al Pisano said the major's No. 9 ranking "certainly appeals to students" and may assist efforts to recruit students in the department.

"The starting salaries might even be a little higher," he said. "The bigger named schools with stronger academic programs might command even higher salaries with their graduates. I am very pleased that students work very hard and get rewarded when they get out there."

Erez Cohen, a junior industrial engineering and operations research major, said future salary considerations influenced his major choice.

"I checked on the Cal career Web site, and it says IEOR is one of the highest career picks second to EECS," Cohen said. "(Salary) definitely is not the only thing ... but money is an issue."

However, Suzanne Helbig, Career Center marketing coordinator and career counselor, said students generally are more interested in the content of their majors, evaluating whether it aligns with their interests and life goals.

"(Salary matters) for some students, but not the majority," she said. "Most students want to be engaged in what they're doing on a day-to-day basis."

Senior Ashley Spalding, who switched majors from mathematics to environmental economics and policy, said her shifting academic interests influenced her decision.

"I felt environmental economics was more interesting," she said. "I wanted to do something besides crunch numbers all day even if it made me a lot of money. I wanted to do something more important than that."


Contact Alex Gong at [email protected]

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