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Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes Tool Shows What You Might Earn Depending on the College You Attend

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Will your post-college job prospects improve if you graduate from one school over another? Will you have to move to another state to find work? Should you change your major to earn more money?

Take Louisiana Tech University engineering graduates. They have relatively high earnings overall but those who studied chemical engineering make a lot more money — nearly $30,000 more than biomedical engineering majors the first year after they graduate.

How do we know this? The U.S. Census Bureau devised a way to track college graduates’ career paths as they enter the workforce, including earnings: the Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) tool.

Now, the data product provides earnings and employment information on the career trajectories of graduates from 660 schools in 23 states, one year, five years and 10 years after graduating.

PSEO was launched in 2018 with findings on just 15 colleges and universities in the University of Texas System.

Now, the data product provides earnings and employment information on the career trajectories of graduates from 660 schools in 23 states, one year, five years and 10 years after graduating.

What Is PSEO?

PSEO is an experimental data product from the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program. Since expanding, it follows approximately 25% of degrees awarded. Below is a map that shows PSEO’s coverage across the country.

To illustrate how PSEO can help prospective college students, parents and local policymakers understand graduate outcomes more completely, we have provided three case studies of programs below.

Louisiana Tech University

While on average graduates with a bachelor’s degree in engineering typically have relatively high earnings, the differences across subfields of engineering are significant.

Median earnings for Louisiana Tech University (LA Tech) engineering graduates from 2001-2018 was $64,360 one year after graduation (Figure 2). But this figure masks important earnings differences among subfields: For example, first-year earnings for biomedical engineers was $44,189 (the lowest) compared to $73,332 for chemical engineers (the highest).

Figure 2 shows median earnings and earnings growth over time for each subfield as well as distribution of earnings. It illustrates that while those in biomedical engineering had lower median earnings than civil engineering graduates in the first year, their 75th percentile earnings were almost equal.

PSEO also tracks how graduates are moving to labor markets and industries, which reveals interesting patterns.

Four maps show where engineering graduates are employed (Figure 3). Panel A shows the distribution for all industries, which shows that 52% of engineering graduates stay in Louisiana after graduation, and the majority of the rest stay in the same West South Central Census geographic division that includes Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. 

However, there are interesting differences by industry sector. For manufacturing (panel B), a smaller share of engineering graduates stay in Louisiana, while for professional, scientific and technical services (panel C), a larger share stay in Louisiana.

Finally, 99% of graduates in the mining industry sector (which includes oil and gas) stay in the same West South Central Census division, which makes sense given the importance of the oil and gas industry in that part of the country.

Southeast Technical College, South Dakota

PSEO includes many institutions that offer two-year programs, such as Southeast Technical College in South Dakota.

Knowing what graduates earn is especially helpful, as many students choose their field of study as they enter community college. Earnings differ even in related fields.

At Southeast Technical College, individuals can earn engineering technology associates degrees in architectural engineering; civil engineering; electrical engineering; or electromechanical engineering technologies.

While the degrees are similar in content, earnings outcomes differ, as Figure 4 shows. Graduates with an electrical engineering technologies degree have median annual earnings of $36,669 one year after graduation — the lowest of the four engineering degrees.

Electromechanical degrees earn a median of $51,710, which is the highest of the four programs.

However, five years after graduation, the earnings gap between these two degrees narrows by half. In contrast, civil and architectural engineering technology degree recipients start with higher earnings but experience slower increases in pay ($41,150 and $36,466 after one year compared with $49,261 and $45,809 five years after graduation, respectively).

Ten years after graduation, electromechanical technologies significantly outperform the other programs (and, in fact, all programs at the school), while civil engineering technologies experiences the lowest earnings growth.

Oregon State University

Oregon State University is a land-grant school and has many programs focused on agricultural fields. Two notable programs are Agricultural Business and Management and Agricultural Engineering. Graduates of these programs typically earn significantly more than the median earnings for all graduates at the school.

As a land-grant institution, the hope is Oregon State University will meet the agricultural needs of the state workforce, which the employment flows bear out. Over 75% of agriculture graduates remained in Oregon one year after graduation, and most who left the state are employed in neighboring states.

About the Data

All tabulations in this story are available on the PSEO landing page or PSEO Explorer, as well as in additional documentation regarding PSEO.

PSEO continues to expand coverage and expects to release data on institutions from at least three more states later this year.

Additionally, in the coming years, the Census Bureau is evaluating an expansion of the set of statistics released by PSEO, which would include earnings outcomes by demographic characteristics of graduates.

To learn more about PSEO or get answers to specific questions, email CES.PSEO.Feedback@census.gov.

Andrew Foote is principal economist in the Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies.

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