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Top 10 Colleges Whose Graduates Earn the Most Money

Who says college isn't worth it? Graduates of each of these 10 small colleges can look forward to cashing in when they hit the job market.

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The results are in

Yes, college is supposed to be the four of the best years of your life—but it’s also supposed to “set you up for success,” points out Zippia, the career advice website. But landing a well-paying job after graduation is no sure thing. Last year, Zippia studied four-year institutions in each state to see which ones produce the highest earning graduates. (Top of the list: Harvard and Stanford—big surprise.) This year, Zippia focused on small colleges in each state and tracked the salaries of each college’s graduates 10 years down the road to find the schools with the biggest bang for the buck.

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Group of Asian Female Graduates in Red Graduation Gowns Standing by Charles River at SunsetRachel Moon/Shutterstock

University of Maryland: Baltimore, Maryland

Average earnings: $102,900

With the average grad earning a six-figure salary, the University of Maryland–Baltimore has a “stranglehold on the number one spot,” Zippia notes. The website attributes this to the university’s schools of medicine, law, and nursing, all of which steer students to high-income careers. To get a financial head-start, newly-grads should learn the basics of stock investment. 

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Students graduate holding a diploma with red ribbonSolomiya Malovana/Shutterstock

Brown University: Providence, Rhode Island

Average earnings: $87,600

“It should be expected we’d see at least one prestigious Ivy Leaguer on the list and here they are at number two,” reports Zippia. Brown’s prestige certainly factors into its grads landing jobs that pay well. The school’s selectivity may play a role as well: With just a 9 percent acceptance rate, Brown attracts top students who have demonstrated their willingness to face challenges and their ability to succeed. Don’t miss these weird jobs you didn’t know you could apply for.

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A graduate hugging her mother.WathanyuSowong/Shutterstock

Harvey Mudd College: Claremont, California

Average earnings: $84,900

Part of the Claremont College system in California, Harvey Mudd emphasizes STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. Those are fields in which employees are in high demand—and demand drives up salaries.

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I have finally graduated! Happy young African man in graduation gowns holding diploma and rising arms up while his friends standing in the background g-stockstudio/Shutterstock

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: Houston, Texas

Average earnings: $82,100

“These people are working towards solving cancer. They better be paid well,” states Zippia. Again, the demand for cancer treatments and care is high. Check out these habits of parents who didn’t take out loans to pay for college.

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Graduates with diplomas. Student graduates standing in a row and holding his diplomasEvgheni Lachi/Shutterstock

Amherst College: Amherst, Massachusetts

Average earnings: $82,000

Harvard may be the more selective and well-known university in the state, but it’s Amherst College’s grads who are pulling in the salary. It’s known as one of the “Little Ivies,” and each of the Little Ivies is as selective or even more so than some of the Ivy League schools. One Amherst alum who spoke to Reader’s Digest maintains that despite Amherst’s tiny size (2,000 undergrads total), its alumni network is well-connected and involved with the student body, which helps explain why grads get top job opportunities.

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Graduation Caps Thrown in the AirConnectingTheDots/Shutterstock

Lafayette College: Easton, Pennsylvania

Average earnings: $81,000.

Another Little Ivy, Lafayette College graduates about the same number of students as Amherst each year. Those grads make nearly as much as Amherst grads, based on Zippia’s research. It’s entirely possible that Lafayette’s success in getting its grads good jobs is that it’s one of the few liberal arts colleges of its size that also offer its students engineering degrees.

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Happy International Student Standing with diploma at modern university in Graduation ceremony.Nattanan Zia/Shutterstock

Helene Fuld College of Nursing: New York, NY

Average earnings: $79,300

Nurses are in very high demand, according to Indeed, and that demand is expected to remain strong. This contributes to the high pay offered to this nursing school’s graduates. So does its location in New York City, where salaries (and the cost of living) are higher. Don’t miss this advice from recent grads who landed a good job right out of college.

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Bates College: Lewiston, Maine

Average earnings: $75,700

Another small liberal arts college—and Little Ivy—Bates offers, among other things, a small faculty-to-student ratio. Zippia also notes that Bates has one of the most beautiful campuses around, helping draw a highly driven student body. Learn the best way to plan college tours with your teen.

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people in a gown holding a diploma.hxdbzxy/Shutterstock

Carleton College: Northfield, Minnesota

Average earnings: $65,600

“Carleton College is recognized for its production of a large amount of Fulbright Scholars over the years,” Zippia notes. Fulbright Scholars are known for being well-rounded and worldly, two attributes that rank high among highly successful people. Plus, the professors are considered some of the country’s best.

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Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences: Kansas City, Missouri

Average earnings: $64,700

Part of the prestigious St. Luke’s Health System, this nursing school can place grads right into well-paying jobs in this surprisingly affordable and livable city. Regardless of where you earned your degree, watch out for these 10 worst mistakes made by first-time job hunters.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.