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WSJ compensation survey

with 7 comments

The WSJ has posted some interesting compensation data which can be sorted by college and degree type. The data covers people less than 5 years out of school and more than 10 years out (“mid-career”), in all cases excluding those that earned advanced degrees — so that the outcomes are most sensitive to the undergraduate background of the respondents. Note you can click the column heading to sort by that variable (starting salary, 75 percentile mid-career salary, etc.).

There’s also an accompanying article. The author notes that schools (Ivies) at which a large fraction of students head into finance tend to have the highest starting and mid-career averages. Engineers have high starting salaries but not as much appreciation.

A social scientist can now regress the salaries on avg SAT and school / major to calculate the economic “value add” for a particular major or institution. (See UT Austin data here.) A significant confound is that people who *do* get advanced degrees would not appear in this data. (Almost half of all Caltech undergrads get PhDs and probably well over half get other advanced degrees.)

Some random results:

Caltech grads had the highest median starting salaries at $75k; by midcareer Dartmouth is number one with median compensation of $134k (MIT $126k, Caltech $123k).

Salaries by degree | starting | 10th-90th percentile midcareer range

Physics | $50k | $56k — $178k
EE | $60k | $69k — $168k
English | $38k | $33k — $136k
Economics | $50k | $50k — $210k
Philosophy | $40k | $35k — $168

ā€¢ Survey respondents included two sets of U.S. bachelor’s degree graduates: Full-time workers with 5.5 years of experience or less and full-time employees with 10 or more years of experience.

ā€¢ The survey excluded respondents who reported having advanced degrees, including M.B.A.s, M.D.s and J.D.s. Self-employed, project-based, and contract employees were also not included.

ā€¢ Salary included annual cash compensation, including base salary or hourly wages, combined with commissions, bonuses, profit sharing and other forms of cash earnings.

Written by infoproc

July 31, 2008 at 3:18 pm

7 Responses

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  1. I graduate with my BS in physics 25 days before I turned 27. I started @ $58k from a Pac-10 school. Seven years later, I make $81k. I have a master’s degree in OR from a name brand school, and I look around and think, “Whoa, am I underpaid.”

    I work for a defense contractor. I came to the industry with four good years of work experience [between stints in school] that my company completely discounts. I get, on average, 3.7% raises, with no opportunities for bonuses. The industry pays a rate for minimum performance, not average or exceptional performance.

    I am angling for a job that should pay in the $100k-$110k range that has a combination of financial and technical responsibility [you know, if they ever call me for an interview]. I could probably make more like $150k if I was willing to commute 1.5 hours each way (NYC).

    It’s frustrating. I actually have a line on a gig with my company that will be exceptionally cool, topically. Plus, it is a mile and a half from my house. I get paid for my OT, and if they could promise me 50 hour workweeks, I would quit looking for other jobs. If they could promise me 45 hour workweeks, I’d definitely slow down.

    I have a friend who was, two years ago, in almost exactly the same boat as I am now. He wanted a 10% raise to stay. Company didn’t give it to him. He left for 35% more.


    July 31, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  2. I wonder who is the best tuition bang for the buck. My bet would be Berkeley.

    Dave Bacon

    July 31, 2008 at 7:38 pm

  3. Dave,

    You are correct. Berkeley's numbers are just a little behind Stanford's, which are on par with the Ivies.

    On the other hand, these days if you get into Harvard and your parents aren't very high income (< $180k per year), it could be cheaper than Berkeley! I think they are setting total parental contribution at 10% of family income below that threshold. My kids have to start studying now! šŸ™‚

    The harder question is who adds the most value after controlling for SATs…


    July 31, 2008 at 7:44 pm

  4. Hi, I found your blog whilse searching my website name…

    I am not sure if you remember me I am Nimbupani…compared india and china…

    I didnt wrote much after that..I came back to india and then travelled to europe and US…
    I moved my blog to my website


    July 31, 2008 at 9:38 pm

  5. this, from the st louis fed reserve, may be the single most significant set of data points in determining your future compensation

    mock turtle

    August 1, 2008 at 2:36 am

  6. I have a few questions which I hope aren’t too dumb :

    What kind of jobs do typical physics/math graduate take after a Bsc ?

    10 years down the road, what kind of jobs or positions do they typically hold ?

    Let’s assume we’re talking about math/physics graduates from ordinary state schools, nothing too elite and nothing too shabby either.

    The 10year median salaries posted for physics/math grads aren’t bad at all for undergrad only. Are those trader jobs or some other wall street positions ?

    Actuaries usually only do an undergrad but they don’t seem to reach those salaries unless they get their qualifications.

    Maybe the highly paid physics/math people have CFAs that aren’t taken into account ?


    August 1, 2008 at 5:53 am

  7. Calgarian,

    I honestly don’t know how to account for the high earnings of (say) 90th percentile BS-only physics grads. It’s possible a lot of them are in finance or technology fields (for example, semiconductors, working their way up as engineers or engineering managers). I don’t think it’s all finance because 10% of the BS-only physics population is still a lot of people.

    The other thing to keep in mind for *all* degree types is that in the US anyone can start a business, and if it is successful you can make a lot of money. Many of these BA/BS-only people who are high earners might be small or medium-sized business people.

    It would be nice to have deeper access to the survey data in order to answer your question!


    August 1, 2008 at 5:14 pm

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