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Other - Issue Briefs - Publication Number: IB00-1 (January 15, 2000)

Annual Income of Recent Graduates Working in Missouri

Among the many important outcomes of a college education is getting a good paying job and yet very little information is available to students, parents, and faculty about this objective. Instead, internal and external constituencies are typically reduced to a combination of specific anecdotes and general earnings data. On one hand, some knowledge can be gained about the experiences of a few former students, good and bad. On the other hand, there is clear evidence that workers with college degrees earn substantially more than those without. The former is typically of too limited a sample to be generalizable and the latter is too broadly reported to be of much use to individuals. Clearly, the best information would be derived from accurate reporting of the earnings and employment circumstances of all alumni. This study does not reach that goal but it does provide both more information and more accurate information than has been available before. It is, however, a first effort and the resulting statistics should be used cautiously.
The information contained here is the result of an exploratory effort to merge Missouri wage and salary records with University of Missouri student records. Students graduating with the bachelors degree from fiscal years 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, and 1997-98 were matched to Missouri wage and salary records for the first quarter of 1999. In sum, matches were found for very nearly half (48%) of the University of Missouri students. Matching records was most successful for St Louis alumni (66%), moderately successful for Columbia (44%) and Kansas City (42%) alumni, and least successful for Rolla alumni (37%). Regardless of this variation, the fact remains that the University has never had objective salary data for such a high proportion of bachelors graduates.

Before discussing salary patterns, it is critical that some of the major limitations be offered.

  • The wage and salary file was Missouri data and alumni employed in other states were not included. The extent to which alumni salaries might vary by geographic location is unknown.
  • The age or prior work experience of alumni was not considered. Not all bachelor degree recipients were 22 year-old young adults with no prior full-time employment experience.
  • Self-employed alumni were not included as they were not a part of this State database used to support unemployment benefits claims.
  • Alumni attending graduate or professional schools were not included. Obviously, the future earnings of these students are likely to be higher than those whose terminal degree is the bachelors.
  • These are initial earnings and may poorly represent future earnings.
  • Alumni not working in the winter quarter of 1999 were not included.
  • Annual salaries were estimated at four-times the winter quarter salary.
  • Those earning less than a full-time minimum wage salary ($10,712) were excluded to eliminate part-time workers. However, part-time workers might have earned more than this amount and might have been included in this report.
  • No information is provided regarding whether employment was in the field of the graduate's degree.
  • No unemployment or under-employment information was available. No assumption can be made about the employment status of those alumni for whom no Missouri employment record was found.
  • The descriptive measure used was median salary. Median salary is the middlemost salary with half the observations being higher and half being lower in value. The dispersion of salaries below or above this median was not reported.

Median salaries by campus and college, by year of graduation, sex, and race are presented as Table 1 (PDF 7 KB). Overall, the median salary for recent alumni (FY1995-FY1998) was $29.1K. This value was very close to the median by campus for the Columbia ($28.0K), Kansas City ($29.1K), and St Louis ($28.5K) campuses, but was substantially less than the median alumni salary for the Rolla campus ($38.4K). If we compare salaries by alumni graduating class, those graduating in 1995 were earning more than $5K more than graduates in 1998. Of course, the 1995 graduates had been in the workplace 3 more years. Treating 1998 as a base year and each preceding year as a year's experience would suggest annual raises of 8%, 5%, and 7% respectively. Earnings clearly increased rapidly for new alumni.

It will come as no surprise that earnings varied dramatically by college but the degree of variance might be surprising. Pharmacy students at Kansas City (four-year pharmacy degree) earned the most, $58.4K, and Natural Resources graduates at Columbia earned the least, $23.8K. In addition to Natural Resources, four other academic units whose graduates earned $25K or less were the Kansas City Conservatory of Music and three at the Columbia campus: Arts and Science, Education, and Social Work.

It may come as more of a surprise that male graduates typically had higher paid positions than female graduates and, while some of the difference was obviously due to career field patterns within academic unit, it is disconcerting that there were no instances of female salary advantage. The most dramatic difference was in Arts and Sciences at the Rolla campus where males earned 60% more than females largely due to Computer Science's inclusion in Arts and Sciences.

The earnings differences for male and female college alumni differed by 10% or more in 12 instances. At Columbia, these colleges were Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Arts and Science; Education; Human Environmental Science; Health Related Professions; and Journalism. The only case at Kansas City was Arts and Sciences. The Rolla instance, Arts and Sciences, was already reported. Last, at St Louis, gender differences were 10% or more for Barnes College of Nursing, Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, and Nursing.

The earnings differences for male and female graduates of many colleges were 5% or less: Engineering and Nursing at Columbia; Biological Sciences, Business and Public Administration, and Pharmacy at Kansas City; Engineering and Mines and Metallurgy at Rolla; and Education at St Louis.

Race differences in early career salaries presented a confusing picture. There were instances of substantial difference favoring white alumni: Education and Engineering at Columbia and Engineering at Rolla; but there were also instances where minority alumni (American Indian, Hispanic, and African-American) earned substantially higher salaries: Nursing at Columbia and Education at St Louis. The conflicting facts that white Education students at Columbia earned more and white Education alumni earned less at St Louis illustrates the complexity of this issue. In any event, and unlike gender differences, there were instances of minority alumni earning more than white alumni for graduates of the same school or college.

The second table Table 2 (PDF 13 KB) presents median salaries by degree-program department within school or college. These figures are offered for consideration bearing in mind the many limitations cited earlier in this Issue Brief and recognizing that matches for some departments were few in number.

Comment on Methodology and Privacy Issues


Reviewed July 17, 2013.