In today’s tech-savvy world, it comes as no surprise that students in engineering and computer science fields stand to earn some of the highest starting salaries upon graduation. Employers are proving more than willing to invest in employees with innovative minds and the degrees to prove it. But it’s not just what you major in that determines your future salary—it’s also where you go to school.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), freshly minted engineering graduates are earning about $62,719 per year, up very slightly from the 2013 average of $62,535. The starting salary for most computer science grads is about $61,741 per year, an increase of almost 3% from 2013.
But there are some schools graduating more top earners than most. To find the schools with the highest paid engineering and computer science grads, we took a look at three years’ worth of self-reported data from over 130 of the nation’s top colleges. The highest of the top salaries hover in the $80,000 range, well above the reported national averages.
- The top 15 salaries increased by an average of $4,720 from last year’s reported top salaries.
- Graduates of the top five colleges earn more than $70,000 per year.
- Engineering and computer science grads make 44% more than their liberal arts counterparts, on average. This equates to a difference of over $21,000 annually.
We also shine the spotlight on several successful alumni, all of whom say their alma maters gave them the skills and tools they need for workplace problem-solving. If you’re looking for a great return on investment for your engineering or computer science degree, these schools are worth your consideration.
Colleges With the Highest Salaries for Engineering and Computer Science Grads
1. Carnegie Mellon University-School of Computer Science
What you’ll make: $89,832
Graduates from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University are earning the highest starting salaries in the country at $89,832—that’s more than 37% higher than the national average. The Pennsylvania research university is known for its engineering and technical programs and is highly selective in admissions. The School of Computer Science enrolled just 622 undergraduates in its 2013 class. Majors at the school include computer science, computer science and the arts, music and technology, computational biology, human-computer interaction, and robotics. The school is highly regarded for its computer science program, as well as specialty areas including programming languages, artificial intelligence, systems and theory.
2. California Institute of Technology
What you’ll make: $83,750
There are about 977 undergraduates enrolled at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Graduates of the highly selective science and engineering school can expect to make an average starting salary of $83,750. Rather than declaring majors, students specify an academic option at the end of freshman year. Students can earn degrees in biological engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science and more. About half of Caltech grads pursue graduate degrees after earning their bachelor’s.
A Recent Grad Says…
Name: Dan Pipe-Mazo
Major: Electrical engineering
Company: Qualcomm Corporate Research and Development
Dan says: “Caltech Electrical Engineering (EE) gave me the engineering background necessary to conquer difficult problems. An EE degree from Caltech covers courses in physics, circuits, systems, digital design and embedded software. This allowed me to conceptually understand the entire stack of engineering that goes into today’s cutting-edge technologies at a high level and prepared me to thrive in virtually any role.”
3. Stanford University-School of Engineering
What you’ll make: $74,467
Graduates of the Stanford University School of Engineering in Northern California can expect average starting salaries of more than $74,000. The school takes a global, interdisciplinary approach in its mission to educate engineers. Stanford engineering students, alumni and faculty have laid much of the technological and business groundwork for Silicon Valley companies. Due in part to Stanford’s reputation and location, there are a wealth of job opportunities for graduates, particularly in the Valley.
4. Harvey Mudd College
What you’ll make: $72,500
Graduates of Harvey Mudd College—a premier engineering, science and mathematics liberal arts school—stand to earn starting salaries of $72,500. Located in Claremont, California, as one of seven colleges in the Claremont College consortium, Harvey Mudd enrolls only 800 undergraduates. The three most popular majors are engineering; computer and information sciences and support services; and physical sciences. Nearly 60% of graduates join the workforce following graduation, while the rest typically go on to graduate school.
A Recent Grad Says…
Name: Margaret O’Keefe
Major: Computer Science
Company: Spot Trading, LLC
Margaret says: “From my computer science courses at HMC, I was prepared well enough in the programming languages I use to jump right into coding. Additionally, the required core courses gave me enough of a mathematics background to understand the financial side as well.”
5. University of Pennsylvania-School of Engineering & Applied Science
What you’ll make: $70,123
A degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, just one of two Ivy League schools on the list, will get you a starting salary of $70,123 upon graduation. The School of Engineering and Applied Science, also known as SEAS, offers degrees in six departments, including bioengineering; chemical and bimolecular engineering; computer and information science; electrical and systems engineering; materials science and engineering; and mechanical engineering and applied mechanics. There are six dedicated research labs and more than a dozen research centers and institutes. Students can even earn dual master’s degrees in conjunction with the Wharton School of Business.
6. Texas A&M University-Dwight Look College of Engineering
What you’ll make: $69,084
The Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M in College Station is one of the largest in the country, boasting more than 350 faculty members and 12,000 engineering students. Graduates can expect to earn a starting salary of about $69,084. There are 22 different engineering programs offered by the college including aerospace, biomedical, chemical, computer science, health physics, ocean, petroleum, safety and more. Texas A&M is a Tier 1 research university and it shows in its course offerings: More than 3,000 undergrads enroll in research courses each year.
A Recent Grad Says…
Name: Fadi Shadi
Major: Chemical engineering
Company: Occidental Oil
Fadi says: “Chemical engineering helped me develop a way to think about problems in a more realistic and analytical way. I can make reasonable assumptions when little to no information is available but also relate seemingly unrelated information. That really bridges the gap between hard calculations in engineering and design and evaluating the risks associated with those designs.”
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
What you’ll make: $68,320
Graduates of MIT’s School of Engineering can expect to make a starting salary around $68,320. MIT, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, enrolls about 11,300 undergraduate and graduate students across all disciplines. Students of the School of Engineering comprise about 60% of the university’s entire population. The school has 10 different engineering departments, including chemical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. All students are expected to fulfill general requirements in physical, natural and social sciences. Over 88% of MIT undergrads participate in the Research Opportunities Program by the time they graduate.
8. Carnegie Mellon University-Carnegie Institute of Technology (College of Engineering)
What you’ll make: $68,317
New grads from Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering earn around $68,317 on average. It’s not surprising, considering Carnegie Mellon has some impressive alumni—it’s been home to 49 National Academy of Engineering members. The college is consistently ranked high annually for its programs and is committed to innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities for its students. Even though students in the College of Engineering comprise about 29% of the student body at Carnegie Mellon, the acceptance rate was just 4% among its 9,900 fall 2014 applicants.
9. Georgia Institute of Technology-College of Computing
What you’ll make: $67,667
Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Computing offers the highest job placement rate and highest starting salary—an average of $67,667—of any major at Georgia Tech. The Atlanta-based college has 18 degree programs under three schools: computer science, interactive computing and computational science and Engineering. About 1,000 undergraduates are enrolled in the College of Computing.
10. Cornell University-College of Engineering
What you’ll make: $67,422
Unlike most other engineering schools in the country, Cornell’s College of Engineering has a high percentage of undergraduate women—around 38.1%—and that number is increasing each year. There are about 3,000 undergraduate students enrolled at the school in Ithaca, New York. Students have a choice of 13 undergrad majors, including systems engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and more.
11. University of Virginia-School of Engineering & Applied Science
What you’ll make: $65,890
University of Virginia School of Engineering & Applied Sciences has about 2,688 undergraduates, about 31% of whom are women, higher than the average in this field. Graduates can expect a median starting salary around $69,890. What’s more, the highest starting salary among Class of 2013 graduates was $130,000. The school offers 10 undergraduate degree programs in areas such as computer science, electrical engineering, civil engineering and more. About 15% graduate from the school with a double major.
A Recent Grad Says…
Name: Camrynn “Cammie” Genda
Major: Systems engineering and economics
Company: Department of Defense, United States Marine Corps
Cammie says: “Systems engineering taught me how to take any given problem and arrive at a data-driven solution. What is most meaningful to me about this process is that if used in certain ways, it can save lives! For example, while helping design the Amphibious Assault Vehicle for the Marines (an amphibious tank), I designed algorithms to determine cost-effective ways to address mission failures of amphibious tanks in theater. This helps minimize the number of Marines’ lives lost while they are in combat.”
12. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign-College of Engineering
What you’ll make: $65,842
The College of Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says each student receives two or more job offers, on average, upon graduation. The starting salary these students can expect is around $65,842. More than 50% of students at the college perform research and its graduate department is home to more than 30 startup companies. About 8,393 undergraduates and 3,145 graduate students attend the college, located at Champaign-Urbana in east-central Illinois. The school is well-known for its biological and agricultural engineering programs, though students can earn engineering degrees in 15 programs across 12 departments.
13. Colorado School of Mines
What you’ll make: $65,831
Colorado School of Mines is a public research university located in Golden, Colorado. The school boasts the highest admissions standards of any public university in Colorado—each year nearly 13,000 students vie for just 875 spots in the freshman class. Total enrollment as of fall 2014 was 5,795, including both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can earn degrees in multiple areas of engineering, including metallurgical and materials, environmental and more. Mines boasts unique and “broad expertise in resource exploration, extraction, production and utilization.” The average starting salary for Mines graduates is $65,831.
14. Georgia Institute of Technology-College of Engineering
What you’ll make: $64,000
Georgia Institute of Technology makes the list a second time with its College of Engineering. There are more than 9,000 students enrolled in the college, which turns out 65% of all Georgia Tech graduates. They can expect to earn a $64,000 starting salary. There are more than nine degree programs in different areas of engineering including aerospace, biomedical, mechanical, nuclear and radiological, civil and environmental, and more.
The college’s unique co-op program gives students work experience—including a paycheck—in their field for three tuition-free semesters.
15. Stevens Institute of Technology
What you’ll make: $63,183
Graduates of Stevens Institute of Technology can expect to earn a starting salary around $63,183. Total enrollment at the Hoboken, New Jersey-based campus is 2,691. Stevens is known as the Innovation University. Its Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science offers degree programs in eight areas of engineering and science. About 75% of its undergraduates participate in cooperative education, internships or research. Job placement rate within six months of graduation is about 94%, and 39% of students receive multiple job offers.
A Recent Grad Says…
Name: Ashley Montufar
Major: Mechanical engineering (undergrad); engineering management (master’s)
Company: Exxon Mobil
Ashley says: “Being an engineer teaches you how to be a problem solver.” Since mechanical engineering is such a broad field with a wide array of possibilities, Ashley explained, “my major allowed me to really explore different options. This exploration occurred both in the classroom and through real-world experience.”
Student loan repayment options
If you took out federal and private loans to pay for an engineering degree and you’re having trouble making payments there are some options available. For federal loan borrowers, a standard 10-year plan is a good choice to pay off your loans and pay less in interest over time compared with other options.
But if you can’t afford the standard plan, then income-driven repayment may help. With income-driven repayment, the monthly payment is set at a percentage of your discretionary income and the loan term is increased from 10 years to 20-25 years. You’ll have more manageable monthly payments, but you’ll end up paying more in interest. At the end of the term, any remaining balance is forgiven.
If you have private loans, consider student loan refinancing to save money on payments by replacing current loans with a new loan at a lower interest rate. You can refinance your federal loans into a new private loan, but you’ll lose federal protections, flexible repayment options, like income-driven repayment, and loan forgiveness opportunities. Consider refinancing if you don’t plan to take advantage of federal programs and protections.
|1||Carnegie Mellon University||School of Computer Science||$89,832|
|2||California Institute of Technology||$83,750|
|3||Stanford University||School of Engineering||$74,467|
|4||Harvey Mudd College||$72,500|
|5||University of Pennsylvania||School of Engineering & Applied Science||$70,123|
|6||Texas A&M University – College Station||College of Engineering||$69,084|
|7||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||$68,320|
|8||Carnegie Mellon University||Carnegie Institute of Technology (College of Engineering)||$68,317|
|9||Georgia Institute of Technology||College of Computing||$67,667|
|10||Cornell University||College of Engineering||$67,422|
|11||University of Virginia||School of Engineering & Applied Sciences||$65,890|
|12||University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign||College of Engineering||$65,842|
|13||Colorado School of Mines||$65,831|
|14||Georgia Institute of Technology||College of Engineering||$64,000|
|15||Stevens Institute of Technology||$63,183|
Collected by NerdWallet from individual colleges’ self-reported data.