See the typical earnings of alumni from each of California's 100 largest colleges

By Phillip Reese - preese@sacbee.com

Which California college you attend can make a big difference in how much you earn, new federal data show.

The data, released last week, uses tax returns to evaluate earnings of alumni 10 years after they started college classes. (Students usually enter college between the ages of 18 and 20, so the data largely reflects how much they made when in their late 20s.)

Median earnings -- the middle amount earned in a ranked list -- ranged from about $30,000 to more than $80,000 at California's largest colleges.

The California school where alumni earn the most may be surprising: The California Maritime Academy. Its alumni earned median annual pay of $81,000 after graduation, slightly edging out Stanford University alumni. The Maritime Academy offers only six majors and a large proportion of its alumni work as engineers or business leaders.

Stanford alumni, though, had the biggest possible upside: The bottom salary of the top 10 percent of Stanford alumni was about $233,000, far ahead of anyone else, including rival CalTech's alumni.

The lowest median earnings among California college alumni were at schools training students in arts and theology, federal data show.

This graphic shows the earnings of college students 10 years after they started classes. It includes all of the roughly 100 California colleges with at least 600 degree-seeking undergraduate students.

Source:

US Department of Education

Click here to see graphic if using the Bee's mobile app.

Important notes:

--There is more to a college education than making money! Some colleges produce many alumni - teachers, clergy, social workers, artists - who contribute greatly to society but will never be financially wealthy. 

--The data only includes alumni who took federal financial aid and/or Pell Grants. Nationwide, that's about 70 percent of students.

--The data only includes alumni who are working and not attending school.

--The data only includes schools that serve a large number of undergraduates. So no standalone law schools.

--The data includes alumni regardless of whether they graduated or dropped out. So a school with a high graduation rate will likely also have high median earnings.

--Salary data reflects earnings in 2011 and 2012 for students who entered college in 2001 or 2002. For example, California Maritime University students who started college in 2002 had median earnings of $81,000 in 2012.

--Some small specialty schools with fewer than 600 undergrads and therefore not shown in the graphic also have alumni with high median earnings. For example, alumni at two small nursing schools, Samuel Merritt University and the Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health, have median earnings above $80,000.

--Some colleges with multiple campuses like the University of Phoenix aggregate their earnings data and report the same amounts for each campus.