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Best Colleges for Good Times Now, Good Pay Later

Best Colleges for Good Times Now, Good Pay Later

By Bridget Quigg, PayScale.com

“Toga, toga, toga” and a top paycheck, too? Absolutely. It’s possible to combine a party-packed undergrad experience with a great-paying job after graduation if you attend a school offering a great social scene that also stands out for the high earnings potential of its graduates.

Online salary database PayScale.com decided to help out all the students who want to maximize both their college social lives and their postcollege earnings by calculating the typical starting and mid-career salaries for schools on The Princeton Review’s list of 20 Top Party Colleges for 2012. PayScale then picked the winning schools -- the ones that offer a hot social scene plus above-average earnings potential -- from each region of the country.

What’s the common thread among these cool schools? Their students tend to prepare for careers in lucrative fields, such as science and engineering.

"Illinois is the obvious winner because of [its] strong engineering program,” says Katie Bardaro, lead analyst at PayScale. “It's hard to outearn the engineers.”

Here are five schools whose graduates earn above the typical starting pay ($42,000) and mid-career pay ($74,300) for those with bachelor’s degrees. We also look at some common jobs their graduates hold.

1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Starting Salary: $51,500
Mid-Career Salary: $94,300

It seems the Midwest winters don’t bother the students here. They make time to celebrate every win by their Fighting Illini and prepare for high-paying gigs as well. Common career choices for these grads include senior finance analyst, senior software engineer and structural engineer.

2. University of California, Santa Barbara
Starting Salary: $47,300
Mid-Career Salary: $91,000

Life at the beach is well-worth the effort, apparently. Right by the Pacific Ocean and boasting its own lagoon, this college prepares its students for secure, well-paid gigs like mechanical engineer, staff accountant and paralegal.

3. University of Maryland
Starting Salary: $49,500
Mid-Career Salary: $89,800

Considered a “public Ivy,” the University of Maryland is located near Washington, DC, which likely strengthens its many research programs and helps graduates get into careers like financial analyst, systems engineer and financial controller. It also means plenty of nights out in Dupont Circle.

4. University of Texas at Austin
Starting Salary: $48,200
Mid-Career Salary: $89,500

Winning sports teams and plenty of sunshine make it easy for students at the University of Texas at Austin to find reason to unwind. But since they’re studying at a strong science and engineering hub, once their school days are over, graduates are often working in such lucrative careers as electrical engineer, senior software engineer and IT business analyst.

5. DePauw University
Starting Salary: $41,300
Mid-Career Salary: $85,500

“Uncommon success” is the motto of this Indiana school, which may make more sense than its founders intended. That’s because this hotbed of liberal arts, sciences, media and technology studies also ranks high for fraternity and sorority activity. Graduating Tigers choose jobs like architect, software product manager and registered nurse.

Source: All salary data provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Salaries are median, annual salaries for full-time starting employees (zero to five years of experience) and mid-career employees (10 or more years of experience) who graduated from a party school and earned no more than a bachelor’s degree. The common jobs are among the five most commonly reported jobs held by graduates of these schools.

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