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  • Engineering Salaries from MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley

    Posted by Frugal on August 5th, 2006

    Ever wonder how much is the salary of the graduates from the top 3 engineering schools according to US News? I just came across the exact pages. Here is the 2004 salary survey for MIT(2005 data seems to be a little messed up), and here is the 2006 salary survey for Stanford. I couldn’t find the corresponding page for UC Berkeley, but from PayScale, I was able to find some salary information for UC Berkeley graduates. The PayScale data for MIT is here, and for Stanford is here.

    A couple of observations:

    1. The payscale data from MIT seems to be higher than the others probably because the percentage of highly paid engineers is bigger.
    2. From both MIT and Stanford data, it appears that the highest paid graduates are the computer science, or software engineers. This is consistent with the data in my post of Engineer Salaries in Silicon Valley.
    3. Comparing the data to the post of engineer salaries in silicon valley, both the new graduates from MIT and Stanford tend to be quite high. Graduating from a top school does help.

    Of course, both MIT and Stanford are private universities, and very expensive. The graduate program tuition at MIT is $32300, and the graduate program tuition at Stanford is $35184=$11728*3 quaters. Both figures don’t include any living expenses in the high-cost cities of Boston and Silicon Valley area. You are looking at an investment of close to $50,000 per year. Is it worth it? If you just invest in the shorter Master’s graduate degree (1 to 2 years max), probably it is worth the money. Comparing to UC Berkeley which is a public school in California, the tuition is only $4500 for CA residents, and $12,000 for non-residents. It’s so much more economical.

    Probably a more invisible benefit of attending these three schools is the school reputation. The reputation of these three engineering schools are very high. I have never seen them dropping out of top 3 spots, any of the years that I have checked. The reputation by itself can land you multiple offers a lot easier, and in a down cycle of employment, that could be the only factor that matters.

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    16 Responses to “Engineering Salaries from MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley”

    1. garrett Says:

      What about GA TECH? $4,500 a year… And it is Third rated..

    2. frugal Says:

      Not sure which GA TECH? I know about GIT, or Georgia Institue of Tech, which ranked 4th in the list. But GIT in the past is ranked probably below 10th. At least for the years that I checked, I’ve not seen GIT got into #1 to #3 even once. Of course, I could be wrong because I don’t check the ranking every year.

      I’m putting the top 3 there in this post, only to serve to stimulate everyone to work harder towards the highest goal.

      By the way, salary doesn’t include any bonus/stock options. So the lower numbers can be deceiving.

    3. garrett Says:

      It is GIT… sorry I messed up… OH well I am not going for software engineering.. I am going for mechanical and /or electrical.. I am definitly going for mechanical though..

    4. ML Says:


      You’re right that many Master students pay for their own way and usually get the degree in a year or slightly more. At the PhD level however, most students get some financial support, i.e. tuition + a small stipend. I believe this is the case even at the most “cut-throat” school — Standord. Of course you have to take the opportunity cost (ca. 5 yrs) and perhaps your sanity and dignity into account.

      I actually cautioned my best friend against going to grad school. He had a very lucrative software job at the time, but had some issues with his ex who had a jaw-dropping resume (and 5 yrs his junior to boot). He’s now a software architect and is enjoying his life quite a lot.

      Cheers, ML

    5. frugal Says:

      Yes, that’s the case at Stanford and most other schools too. Depending on the job, you could also get yourself over-qualified by getting a Ph.D. The best scenario is always the right Ph.D. for the right job. Otherwise, 5 years of school for Ph.D. will not necessarily give you a good ROI.

    6. Byrd Says:

      1. The Georgia Institute of Technology is Georgia Tech. As a graduate I can assure you that it is most often abbreviated GT. I have never heard of the school abbreviated as GIT.

      2. Georgia Tech has been listed as one of the top 10 engineering schools for the 5+ years. It is often ranked in the same group as UC Berkeley, Michigan, and Illinois.

      3. Not only do you get a great overall school, but for over 10 years the Industrial Engineering program has been rated #1 in the country.

      4. You also get Division 1 Football (GT has been to 9 straight bowls), ACC basketball (GT was in the final Four three years ago), and one of the top baseball progams in the county (College World series this year, Garciappara, Varitek, and Payton were on the team while I was in school.)

      5. In general, Chemical Engineers are the highest paid starting salary of any 4 year degrees. I believe, however, the rankings you are looking at are for Graduate Engineering Departments.

    7. Byrd Says:

      6. One thing I forgot to mention – if you graduate from a Geogia High School with a B average and maintain a B average at GT, your tuition and books are paid by the state. So you can go to a top 5 engineering school for FREE.

    8. frugal Says:

      Thanks for your correction, Byrd. Not too familiar with GT myself. I do know that it’s a very good engineering school.

      In respect to ROI for your money, GT is no doubt VERY GOOD.

      Yes, the ranking is for Graduate Engineering Program.

      I’ve worked with a GT graduate before. He is no doubt quite good.

      It’s a little unfortunate that GT doesn’t seem to enjoy the fame as these 3 schools that I reviewed.

    9. Byrd Says:

      I completely agree on the fame thing. I think being a southern school has hurt us in the past – and that is one of the reasons we are soo happy to talk up Tech. I now live in the Northeast and have to fight to make GT better known.

    10. frugal Says:

      Yes, I always thought that chemical engineering pays highest. But somehow it was not that obvious from those school links.

    11. sakky Says:

      Several points I’d like to make:

      1) The Berkeley cost data that you cited are per semester . Hence, you effectively have to double those numbers to make them comparable to the figures quoted from MIT and Stanford, which are costs for a whole year.

      2) Your figures presume that students are actually paying the entire cost. In fact, many students do not foot the entire bill, and those that do tend to be so rich that they don’t care anyway. Often times you can get fellowships, TA-ships, and/or RA-ships which will cover a substantial, and in many cases, all of your costs. I know that at MIT, many enjgineering master’s degree students are funded by one or more of those sources and hence have to pay relatively little out of pocket. The better students are on fellowship. TA and RA-ships are so abundant that if you want one badly enough, you can get one. It may not be that you really like, but you can almost always get one.

      3) Obviously the most cost-effective way to get a master’s degree in engineering is not really to enter such a program at all. Rather, get admitted into the PhD program in order to get the PhD funding, pick up a master’s degree (which you can usually pick up along the way), and then just leave. The upshot is that you basically get a master’s degree for free.

      Granted, it’s almost always harder to get into a PhD program than into a master’s degree program. But if money is the issue, then this is a way for you to significantly cut down on costs.

      4) But then again, if money is the issue, then don’t get a graduate engineering degree. Seriously, don’t. Instead, just get an MBA and get a job in high finance, like investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, etc. The average compensation of an engineer will never approach the average compensation enjoyed by financiers.

    12. Frugal Says:

      Thanks for your correction.

      Your points are well taken. But TA/RA usually resulted in a longer master’s program, and most are available to Ph.D., less available to master’s students. There is a trade off for getting TA/RA because of the delay in graduation. But overall it is still better for both career & money.

      And I agree with your point #4.

    13. sakky Says:

      Some more points I would make

      *Regarding the pay of chemical engineering, it pays highly to start (in fact, 2nd only to petroleum engineering). But the pay levels off quickly.

      Consider the 2 tables here:

      * Regarding the availability of TA/RA positions, it depends strongly on the school you’re talking about. At MIT, for example, they are basically there for the taking – anybody who really wants one can get one. Like I said, you may not get one that you like, but you can almost always get something .

      Hence, that throws a complicating factor into comparative cost analysis. MIT may then actually be cheaper than a public school like Berkeley, once TA/RA money is factored in. It would depend on how many TA/RA-ship are available at that public school relative to at MIT, and whether you are willing to take anything that comes along.

      Furthermore, I have often times noticed that private schools that have plenty of money (like MIT and Stanford) are often times much more generous with fellowship money than are public schools. This yet again might actually make the private schools actually cheaper than public schools.

      But the point is, looking at sticker prices alone is a highly misleading way to compare costs, because the fact is, plenty of students do not pay sticker price.

    14. Frugal Says:


      There are many ways to look at this. I actually found significant number of people choosing not to get any RA/TA, and graduate one year earlier so that they can start earning $100K+ salary.

      The the best way is not to get RA/TA, but rather get a job which offers you to attend the same school for free. As an RA/TA, your pay is low while attending school. But if you have a real job, it pays much better, and attending school is also free (but of course, you can continue to argue that because of lack of the degree you will be underpaid for a longer period).

      I won’t speak for MIT, but I know that at Stanford, probably only 50% of students have RA/TA. By the sheer number, there are always more students than the available RA/TAship. There are only limited number of classes, and limited number of professors. The enrolled students are always more than the available aids. Of course, this also depends on the program and school, etc.

      I only meant to give readers some references, but by no means, it can be exhaustively factoring all cost/benefits. Besides, the answer is highly dependent on the individual and the circumstances.

    15. sakky Says:

      Actually, if you want to keep exploring the issue, I would say that an even more cost effective way to get a degree is to go to a school that will not only give you fellowship + stipend (i.e. if you get admitted to a PhD program, you may get a stipend), but that also lets you keep all your outside scholarship money. One school, that shall remain unnamed, immediately comes to mind. I know a guy who is not only on a doctoral stipend, but have also won awards like the Soros Fellowship, NSF Fellowship, NIH fellowship, and several other outside awards. This guy is therefore probably making over $100k a year just as a student, when you add up all that fellowship money.

      But of course this is a rare guy. The point is not to examine rare examples, but just to say that costs are highly variable and a school that may be ‘cheap’ for you one person may not be ‘cheap’ for another. It all depends on the funding structure available. Just because a school has a cheap sticker price doesn’t mean that it’s truly the cheapest choice.

    16. User Says:

      I have a Ph.D. from Stanford in Computer Science. It’s not worth it unless you do your own startup.