UW System graduates generate remarkable earnings growth

Published: June 2, 2020
By: UW System

MADISON, Wis.—University of Wisconsin System graduates earn a median salary of nearly $50,000 annually just a year after securing their bachelor’s degrees, according to a first-of-its kind data analysis. After five years the median earnings of graduates surpass $66,000.

Though the specific wages vary, such earnings growth occurs for graduates in any UW degree program. 

Moreover, the analysis found that nearly nine in 10 resident Wisconsin bachelor’s degree graduates remain in the state for employment five years after graduation. Of nonresident graduates, 15 percent are living in Wisconsin five years later.

“I have long believed there is no better investment for the state of Wisconsin than the University of Wisconsin System and that the UW System is a terrific investment for our students as well,” said UW System Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “This data validates those beliefs. When Wisconsin taxpayers invest in the UW System, our universities produce educated, successful graduates who contribute to their communities and to the economy. When individuals invest in a UW System education, their earning potential skyrockets.”

The analysis by the UW System’s Office of Policy Analysis and Research merges graduation, residence, and earnings data for the first time to calculate the economic impact of a UW System education. The results are more precise than typical post-graduation surveys, which rely on self-reported data. Information from more than 12,000 graduates over the past six years was used in the confidential analysis.

“When people are trying to decide whether a public university education is right for them, they should look at this data,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “A UW System education is one of the greatest values in higher education. The lifelong benefits that a college degree provides are priceless and cannot be measured alone by the extraordinary financial payoff.”

Cross noted the numerous other benefits of a college education, including increased civic and social engagement along with improved health.

The analysis released Sunday (May 31) includes systemwide earnings information for graduates one, three, and five years after graduation; earnings for each period by area of study; and residence information for each period.

It is the first in a series of data releases from the ongoing analysis that will be made available over the coming months. The findings:


  • 1 year: $49,204
  • 3 years: $58,770
  • 5 years: $66,481


Biological and Biomedical Sciences

  • 1 year: $35,790
  • 3 years: $42,355
  • 5 years: $57,639

Business, Management, Marketing, and
Related Support Services

  • 1 year: $53,086
  • 3 years: $63,068
  • 5 years: $74,597

Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs

  • 1 year: $39,989
  • 3 years: $51,359
  • 5 years: $58,786

Computer and Information Sciences and
Support Services

  • 1 year: $66,127
  • 3 years: $80,302
  • 5 years: $88,982


  • 1 year: $38,831
  • 3 years: $47,118
  • 5 years: $47,913


  • 1 year: $72,279
  • 3 years: $86,998
  • 5 years: $93,696

English Language and Literature/Letters

  • 1 year: $30,584
  • 3 years: $45,884
  • 5 years: $50,737

Health Professions and Related Programs

  • 1 year: $61,523
  • 3 years: $67,178
  • 5 years: $71,124

Physical Sciences

  • 1 year: $38,285
  • 3 years: $51,366
  • 5 years: $59,913


  • 1 year: $34,374
  • 3 years: $41,615
  • 5 years: $50,516

Social Sciences

  • 1 year: $41,962
  • 3 years: $56,531
  • 5 years: $62,481


Resident graduates

  • 1 year: 90 percent
  • 3 years: 88 percent
  • 5 years: 87 percent

Nonresident graduates

  • 1 year: 12 percent
  • 3 years: 12 percent
  • 5 years: 15 percent


The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 170,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. More than 80 percent of UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System universities also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.


Mark Pitsch
UW System

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