The Top 10 “Hidden Gem” Colleges With the Highest-Paid Alumni

To make a great living after college, contrary to popular opinion, you actually do not need to attend a top-50 school in the US.

In fact, many of the highest-salaried alumni in the country come from schools that aren’t even ranked in the top 100 colleges.

Some colleges offer more specialized training in specific high-paying careers than others. Careers in STEM, for example, frequently pay in the 6-figures after just 5-10 years of real-world experience.

Today, we have assembled a list of the top 10 “hidden gem” schools producing the highest salaried alumni.

All of this information is derived from, the best online source for information about higher education and career salaries.

So how did we determine what makes a “hidden gem” school worthy of inclusion on this list?

This is how we approached this particular set of data:

  • All listed schools are not currently ranked in the top 75 national universities or liberal arts colleges according to US News.
  • The schools listed here are not military or maritime programs.
  • All schools must offer at least a Bachelor’s degree-granting undergraduate education and be non-profit institutions.
  • Schools are ranked by mid-career pay (meaning 10 or more years of experience).

So what are the top 10 highest-salary producing “hidden gem” colleges in the US?

Here is the list:

10. Manhattan College (New York, NY)

Manhattan College is one of the best ROI schools in the country; graduates enjoy some of the highest mid-career pays of any US institution.

Manhattan is best described as a liberal arts college, which less than 4,000 total students attending the school at any given time.

According to, Manhattan College is currently ranked in the top 50 Catholic Colleges in America.

The acceptance rate at Manhattan is 75%, proving that you don’t need to be a straight-A student to have a very high-paying career.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $125,700.00

9. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (New York, NY)

Cooper Union
Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, The Cooper Union’s Foundation Building – North Side, CC BY 2.0

What makes Cooper so appealing is a simple promise; all students receive at least a half-tuition scholarship. Many receive more.

Cooper is a small, specialized institution of less than 1,000 total students, according to its Wikipedia page. This makes the school a great fit for a student desiring a liberal arts sized school inside of a major metropolitan city.

Comprised of three schools, Cooper’s specializations include architecture, fine arts, and engineering.

One of New York City’s most selective institutions, the acceptance rate for the school is just 13%. In all of New York City, only Columbia University and Juilliard claim a lower acceptance rate.

Students of Cooper are among the brightest in America. Alumni of Cooper Union have won 3 MacArthur fellowships (a prize currently awarding $625,000), 23 Guggenheim awards, and even a Nobel Prize winner in Physics.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $126,200.00

8. Clarkson University (Potsdam, NY)

Public domain photo by Apl175 via Wikimedia Commons

Clarkson is one of the best options for the student seeking a diverse education at a medium-sized university.

Like many of the schools on this list, Clarkson is less than 5,000 in its student population.

Unlike other schools on this list, it’s curriculum represents a broad array of interests satisfactory to nearly any undergraduate student.

The most prominent specialties at Clarkson are sustainable environmental sciences, business, engineering, and general liberal arts. In total, over 95 programs of study are offered at Clarkson.

One of Clarkson’s flagship offerings is The Clarkson School. At The Clarkson School, students can forego their senior year of high school and attend this unique program instead. Students of the program are granted early entrance.

 43,000 living alumni enjoy some of the highest salaries of all schools in the US.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $130,100.00

7. Babson College (Wellesley, MA)

Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Babson is perhaps the most interesting school on this list.

Where most other universities on this list have world-class focus in STEM or the Health Sciences, Babson is known as the school for entrepreneurship.

What is entrepreneurship? Perhaps you have seen Shark Tank or any other reality business shows. Entrepreneurship, quite simply, is the practice of starting and growing for-profit businesses.

Babson’s alumni have produced some of the most recognizable brands and corporations worldwide.

They include Arthur Blank, the founder of Home Depot, Alberto Perlman, the founder of Zumba Fitness, and Daniel Frank Gerber, who founded the Gerber Products Company most widely known for their baby care items.

Babson is unique for a few reasons.

One, it offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. While this may not seem unique, most business schools only offer graduate degrees.

Secondly, although it is a business-focused school, it is actually has an active sports culture with 22 varsity sports available on campus. It is currently a Division III NCAA school.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $133,800.00

6. Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA)

Santa Clara University
SCUMATT, SCU Mission and Palm Trees, CC BY-SA 3.0

The largest school on this list, Santa Clara University is a private Jesuit school in Santa Clara, California. It is the oldest institute of higher education in the entire state of California.

Santa Clara has produced a remarkably large and accomplished alumni body. Alumni include congressmen, senators, and entrepreneurs who founded large companies including NVIDIA and Farmer’s Insurance. Alumni have also won a Pulitzer, NBA MVP award (Steve Nash), and even created Javascript, one of the fundamental computer coding languages.

Its endowment is nearly $1 billion dollar, placing it in the top 10 most well-endowed university programs in the country.

One reason Santa Clara’s graduates are so well-paid is based on its location. Located in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara’s graduates frequently find work in the startup culture of San Francisco, the city with the highest salaries nationwide.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $134,700.00

5. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, IN)

Rose Hulman
yipdw, RHIT Academic Buildings, CC BY-SA 2.0

A private college based in rural Indiana, Rose-Hulman specializes in engineering, science, and math.

One of the most significant STEM institutions in the country, 99% of the faculty members at STEM hold a PhD degree. The education here is taught by many of the brightest, most innovative faculty in the nation.

Although not ranked in the top universities or liberal arts colleges in the country, Rose-Hulman is routinely ranked at the top of engineering-specialty schools that award only a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Few schools assist their students in gaining internships as excellently as Rose-Hulman. Established in 1999, Rose-Hulman Ventures, a program with over $50m in funding, helps students gain internships and jobs with startups and major companies, providing both students and alumni with valuable job experience.

Very selective, Rose-Hulman admits about 12% of applicants.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $135,800.00

4. Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO)

Colorado School of Mines
Bebotron, CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering, CC BY-SA 4.0

Among the most prestigious undergraduate engineering programs nationwide, the median career pay of this school’s alumni rivals that of MIT, CalTech, and Georgia Tech.

The school’s most famously known for its mineral/mining engineering. QS World Rankings has placed their mineral engineering program #1 worldwide between 2016 – 2019.

However, the school has many other programs of study. In fact, in 2018 Mines started the world’s very first graduate program in space resources. This program awards both Master’s and PhD degrees.

As the school is a public program, students based in Colorado get a significant tuition discount for attending. An impressive 88% find meaningful work within two years of graduation.


3. Webb Institute (Glen Cove, NY)

photo courtesy of Webb Institute

One of the most unique schools in the entire country, Webb’s entire student body is less than 110 total students. Yes, you read that number right – less than 110! Students of the school are known as Webbies.

Even crazier is that the school has a total of 10 teachers. Have you ever heard of a school with only 10 teachers?

The biggest draw to the Webb Institute is that it is entirely tuition-free. Due to zero tuition, Webb is very selective, accepting less than 23% for the class of 2023.

Students study only two subjects at Webb Institute – naval architecture and marine engineering. Because of this, the majority of high schoolers accepted displayed passion for water in their applications and resumes for Webb.

According to the Princeton Review, 100% of students find work upon graduation.

Located on Long Island, Webb is just 25 miles from New York City.


2. Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (Albany, NY & Colchester, VT)

Matt H Wade, Albany College of Pharmacy, CC BY-SA 3.0

Albany’s specialty is the health sciences, one of the most lucrative fields a student can study at the college level. 

Few schools can boast the tremendous mid-career salaries that Albany alumni enjoy, which currently stands at an impressive $144,800.

However, another statistic stands out about Albany.

Over 80% of the alumni at the school, according to PayScale, feel that their work contribution makes the world a better place.

Career satisfaction is a common trend inside the Health Sciences field.

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is associated with the Albany Medical Center. Just 1,400 students comprise this school, taught by 115 faculty teachers.


1. Samuel Merritt University (Oakland, CA)

Basil D Soufi, OAKLAND, CA, USA – Night Skyline with Bay Bridge, CC BY-SA 3.0

The #1 highest-paying “hidden gem” institution in the country is a small Bay Area school focused entirely on the Health Sciences field.

Located within the campus of the Alta Bates Medical Center in Oakland, California, this robust university houses only 2700 total students at any given time, making it equivalent in size to most liberal arts schools.

Amazingly, 97% of all graduates find work within one year of graduation. Very few schools can boast such high employment rates.

Even more amazingly, 90% of alumni gain fulfillment from their work, noting that their employment makes the world a better place.

Samuel Merritt has five specific degree tracks; nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, Podiatric medicine, and physician assistantship.

Perhaps the reason their alumni are so highly-paid is due to the school’s tremendous specialty. As students are focused entirely on the health sciences, Samuel Merritt represents an opportunity for a student serious about finding a career in a very specific field.

Perhaps another reason the median pay is so high is that many graduates go on to work in Oakland as well as in greater Silicon Valley, where salaries are the highest in the country. In fact, the largest source of nurses in the East Bay come from Samuel Merritt University.

MEDIAN CAREER PAY: $154,100.00


Information taken from in October 2019 – PayScale is not affiliated with this article and can change the contents of their link anytime.