Who's Hiring Graduates of the Top Colleges in California?
A look at the largest employers, industries, and occupations behind the best schools for salary in California
Last Updated: October 13, 2021
Written by: Jennifer King Logan
Research and Analysis by: Taylor Nichols
- Close to one-third of graduates from top California schools now work for a Big Five tech company
- Software engineering is the most popular job for alumni of these schools, followed by business and management analyst
- Nearly 20% of graduates work in professional, technical, and scientific services, with Ernst & Young as the largest single employer for alumni in the industry
- Four of the top 10 schools are heavily focused on preparing graduates for careers in healthcare
Across California, prospective and current students alike want to know which organizations are hiring college graduates and for what roles. We examined employment data for the top 10 colleges in California by Salary Score to find out where California's highest earners for their field of study end up after graduation.
Our analysis reflects the current employment landscape for Calfornians — 75% of the 91,332 alumni included in our study still live in-state, and our research partner, Burning Glass Technologies, collects data monthly to keep pace with an ever-changing labor market.
This research study includes broader takeaways from the top 10 colleges overall, as well as employment data for each individual school.
Our list is composed of the top 10 colleges and universities in California by Salary Score. To calculate our Salary Scores, we used federal earnings data provided by the U.S. Department of Education through College Scorecard. Our guide to Salary Scores provides more information on our calculations, methodology, and data sources.
Our employment data was sourced from Burning Glass Technologies, which parses thousands of resumes, social media profiles, and job listings to offer insights on the current labor market. Data pertains to the graduating classes of 2015 through 2020, and excludes alumni who found work at their universities upon graduating. Additional data was obtained on LinkedIn. Data collection occurred in August and September 2021.
Employment outcomes for alumni of the top 10 colleges in california by salary score
California is home to thousands of tech companies, including some of the biggest names in the industry. Thus, it's not surprising that nearly one-third (32%) of graduates from the top 10 schools in the state are employed by one of the Big Five: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.
Approximately 8% of graduates work as software engineers, making it the predominant occupation in this group by far. The information industry is the second largest sector for these graduates, hiring 17% of alumni.
Professional, scientific, and technical services is the most popular industry for alumni of these schools, with nearly 20% finding jobs in the sector. Roughly 3% of alumni hold jobs as business or management analysts, while 2% hold research positions. Ernst and Young is the fifth most common employer, hiring 5% of graduates overall.
The finance and insurance industry employs 10% of graduates. Alumni found jobs with prominent employers in the industry, including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America.
Just over 10% of graduates work in education, including colleges and universities, professional schools, and the K-12 system. Nine percent of alumni work for manufacturing companies.
Alumni Employment Outcomes by College
We analyzed the top employers, industries, and occupations for graduates of each college to gain a deeper understanding of the educational and career pathways these students took. Each school's GradReports profile offers more detailed information about programs, median debt, median salaries, and Salary Score breakdowns.
Santa Clara University
Salary Score: 98.23
Located in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University boasts a higher Salary Score than some of the most respected names in higher education, such as Stanford, Berkeley, and USC.
Santa Clara's accounting program scored a perfect 100, making it one of the best colleges overall for accounting salaries. Their other business focused majors, as well as computer engineering, had strong Salary Scores in the 90s.
For Santa Clara alumni, the top occupation is software engineering, with Apple employing 7% of graduates. Salary data shows that Santa Clara graduates who earned bachelor's degrees in computer engineering are top earners for their field of study.
The other four top employers — Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Accenture, and PricewaterhouseCoopers — are among the leading national providers of accounting, financial, and other business services. Together they employ more than one in four alumni.
Salary Score: 97.52
Of the 15 Stanford bachelor's programs with available salary data, all but one have Salary Scores above 80. The computer science program and the electronics, electrical, and communications engineering program both have a perfect Salary Score of 100. Mechanical engineering scored a 98 and engineering-related fields as a whole scored a 99.
Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon employ just over 45% of Stanford alumni. Many of these professionals take on technical roles in software development and engineering, with 14% of graduates in software developer roles. Nearly 4% became product managers.
After information, the top industry for graduates is professional, scientific, and technical services, drawing 17% of alumni. Education also drew a significant share of alumni at 14%.
Aside from software development and product management, Stanford's top occupations for alumni are focused in business, with 5% working in business and management analysis and 4% becoming business owners or partners. Just under 3% of these graduates went into research positions.
Dominican University of California
Salary Score: 97.21
Dominican University of California's programs have a wide range of Salary Scores. At the high end, their nursing program has a Salary Score of 100. While their nursing graduates are top earners for their field of study, the university's public health program had a low Salary Score of 26.
Nearly 40% of Dominican University graduates pursue careers in healthcare and social assistance. Of these, more than one in four alumni go to work for Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, the UC San Francisco Medical Center, or the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
Just over 15% of graduates work as registered nurses with a median annual salary of $97,740, while others find employment as occupational therapists at 4% and intensive care nurses at 2%.
After healthcare, the largest industry for Dominican University graduates is education services with 17% of alumni working in the sector. Finance and insurance, professional and technical services, and retail trade also employ Dominican University alumni.
University of California - Berkeley
Salary Score: 93.8
UC Berkeley is a top university for computer science and engineering salaries. Both computer science programs and electronics, electrical, and communications engineering programs have Salary Scores of 100.
UC Berkeley graduates tend to be heavily concentrated in tech. Over 14% of UC Berkeley graduates find employment in software development and engineering, making this the school's top occupation. More than three in 10 Berkeley undergraduates went on to work for Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft.
Aside from software development, top occupations for UC Berkeley alumni include business analyst, researcher or research associate, and financial analyst. Many graduates found jobs in professional and technical services (18%), education services (14%) or finance and insurance (11%).
University of Southern California
Salary Score: 92.85
Business and technology are among the top fields of study at the University of Southern California. Their bachelor's-level business programs have a Salary Score of 99. Graduates who studied computer science and related majors are also top earners for their field of study with Salary Scores of 75-100.
Three financial and business service providers — Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers — are among the top employers for USC graduates. Nearly 20% of alumni work for these firms, often as business and management analysts, financial analysts, or consultants, according to LinkedIn data.
Software development and engineering is another popular career choice for 6% of graduates, many of whom are employed by Amazon and Google.
University of San Francisco
Salary Score: 92.74
Of the 28 bachelor's programs with salary data at the University of San Francisco, approximately two-thirds have Salary Scores over 70. Programs in registered nursing and related fields topped their list with a Salary Score of 100. Business and technology programs also ranked well with Salary Scores in the 87-99 range.
One in five University of San Francisco graduates pursue careers in healthcare and social assistance, and 9% of alumni work for the UCSF Medical Center or Kaiser Permanente. Nursing is a particularly popular occupation among graduates, who tend to earn higher salaries than their counterparts from other schools, with a median of $101,820.
Apple is the top employer for USF alumni, hiring nearly 5% of graduates for an array of roles in business and technology. Top occupations for graduates include software developer, marketing specialist, sales representative, and intern.
California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo
Salary Score: 90.16
California Polytechnic State University's San Luis Obispo campus offers strong computer science and computer engineering programs with Salary Scores of 100 and 97, respectively. The university's engineering programs, including construction engineering technologies, civil, and mechanical engineering, all had scores in the high 90s.
Nearly 20% of the school's graduates have gone to work for Apple, Amazon, or financial management software company Workday. Close to 8% are employed as software developers and computer engineers.
Popular business-related occupations include project managers and management analysts. Just under 5% of alumni went into electrical or mechanical engineering.
California State University - East Bay
Salary Score: 88.36
California State University - East Bay is a top university for nursing programs with a Salary Score of 100. While many of the schools on this list have strong tech programs for alumni earnings, computer science majors at Cal State East Bay tend to earn slightly less than those at other colleges with a Salary Score of 42.
One in five Cal State East Bay graduates pursue careers in the healthcare field. The top three employers for alumni are healthcare service providers — Kaiser Permanente, the UCSF Medical Center, and Stanford Health Care. Many of these graduates are registered nurses, who are likely top earners for their major. Alumni of the registered nursing program and related majors report a median starting salary of $109,490.
Outside of healthcare, alumni went onto work for Amazon and Wells Fargo, with each company hiring 4% of graduates.
Salary Score: 88
Many of Pepperdine's business programs rank well for Salary Score. Accounting, finance, and business management all have Salary Scores in the 90s, while public relations and advertising majors are top earners for their field with a score of 97.
A total of 16.3% of graduates pursue careers in the finance and insurance industry. Education services is the second-largest industry for these graduates at 16.2%. Other popular industries include information and retail trade.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte are three of the top five employers of Pepperdine alumni. Together, the companies hired just over 14% of graduates. All three employers fall into the professional and technical services category, which drew 15.7% of alumni.
Manufacturing company Northrop Grumman is also a top employer, hiring 5% of Pepperdine alumni. Just under 5% go on to work for Amazon.
Salary Score: 87.96
National University offers a number of healthcare programs with high Salary Scores. These include registered nursing with a score of 96; allied health diagnostic, intervention, and treatment professions with a score of 98; and health and medical administrative services with a score of 75.
Close to one-fourth of National's alumni enter the healthcare profession, with more than 6% going into nursing. Graduates of registered nursing and related programs report a median annual salary of $84,650. Sharp Healthcare and Scripps Health, two of the school's top five employers, hired 16% of graduates.
Another 20% of alumni pursue careers in public administration, which include positions with National alumni's largest employer, the U.S. Navy, hiring 15% of graduates. Given that National University is an online college heavily focused on military students, it's unsurprising that so many of their graduates work for the Navy or Marine Corps.
Other top occupations for National alumni include business owners and partners, office assistants, project managers, and software developers.