The worth of a college degree can vary widely across Alabama schools and majors – at least in terms of post-graduate salaries.
Auburn University chemical engineering graduates made a median salary of $75,285 one year after graduation, the highest of any Alabama bachelor’s program, according to the 2022 U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
Auburn was also one of three Alabama master’s programs that saw graduates earning more than six figures after their first year of holding an advanced degree.
Meanwhile, some of the state’s lowest-earning programs reported median salaries as low as $11,817 for bachelor’s graduates.
AL.com analyzed pre-pandemic earnings data for college graduates one, two and three years after earning a degree. The scorecard matched up 2018 and 2019 earnings data from the national treasury, which surveyed alumni who graduated in 2015 through 2018.
The numbers are adjusted to 2020 dollars and, for privacy reasons, don’t include earnings data from smaller programs. They also only measure earnings of graduates who received some amount of federal aid while in school, are working and are not currently enrolled in another degree program.
Top earnings by Alabama college degree programs and fields of study
Average median earnings for bachelor’s degree programs in Alabama amounted to $37,368 one year after graduation and $43,945 three years after graduation.
Alabama master’s degree graduates earned an average median salary of $55,290 straight after graduating, while graduates of two-year programs earned an average median salary of $35,898 one year out of college.
Across degree levels, engineering, business and medical programs topped earnings charts for new graduates.
Community colleges offering registered nursing and nursing administration programs, including Chattahoochee Valley and Wallace State’s Selma campus, reported median salaries as high as $60,000.
Mental health, education and biology master’s programs were more likely to produce lower-earning graduates, while some liberal and fine arts programs reported lower salaries among associate’s and bachelor’s graduates.
The numbers don’t account for graduates who are currently unemployed, which varied among programs.
Among larger bachelor’s programs, University of South Alabama biology graduates were more likely to be unemployed, with 13% of 126 graduates not working and not enrolled in school one year after college. International relations, English and nutrition majors at The University of Alabama had higher unemployment rates among small- to medium-sized programs.
The treasury also tracked differences in salaries between male and non-male graduates three years after earning a credential. Of the 163 degree-granting programs that provided gender pay data in Alabama, 145 reported higher median salaries among male graduates.
Top-earning schools and bachelor’s programs, one year out of college:
- Auburn University – Chemical Engineering: $75,285
- University of Alabama at Birmingham – Materials Engineering: $73,616
- Auburn University – Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering: $72,274
- University of South Alabama – Chemical Engineering: $71,073
- The University of Alabama – Computer and Information Sciences: $70,168