This year, Cal Poly was ranked #13 among California colleges for future salaries post graduation — with a median salary of $63,100 — according to the U.S. Department of Education. Cal Poly was ranked similarly to some of the top UCs and private schools within the state, including University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Berkeley and Pepperdine.
This ranking can be compared to the university’s Graduation Status Report (GSR) that is created each year recording specific graduation outcomes. The GSR accurately reports overall ranking and analyzes where students are going to work, what their job titles are, what their salaries are, where are they located and who the employer is.
“It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been doing the Graduation Status Report for seven years now, so I am keen to the outcomes that we produce and we have really high career outcomes,” Career Services counselor Seth Igarta said.
When students finish Cal Poly, whether they go to graduate school or find employment, it is referred to as a career outcome. Career Services works diligently to get more than half of graduates to complete the GSR.
The 2015-2016 GSR for this year was released in Spring 2017. Data is collected for six to nine months after students graduate, so the current GSR data is from the previous year.
The data for 2016-2017 GSR is currently being collected and should be reported by Spring 2018.
Cal Poly has been completing the GSR for 30 years. Igarta added that this information is important for incoming students and their parents who want to know Cal Poly’s outcome and graduate career opportunites.
“Today, college is not cheap, it’s pretty expensive. People want to know that it’s going to be a good return on their investment … Cal Poly is one of the best bangs for your buck,” Igarta said.
A student attending a public four-year in-state school pays about $25,290 per year, according to College Board, which includes tuition, housing and textbooks. For state schools like Cal Poly, the average cost is $26,000, but students at Universities of California (UC) can pay an average of $33,000 per year.
Cal Poly is relatively cheaper than most UCs and private schools, so students are saving money overall, leaving with less debt and still making a substantial amount of money after college.
“We are less expensive to attend and we have really great outcomes so our student’s salaries, especially going into the industry, are really high,” Igarta said.
Recent graduate Ryan Holland was an aerospace engineering major at Cal Poly and now works for Northrop Grumman, a defense contractor for military services. Holland said he is making more than the reported amount for Cal Poly graduates and feels financially secure at his first job out of college.
About 25 percent of people who work at Northrop are from Cal Poly, according to Holland. He has co-workers from other prestigious institutions, but the company admires Cal Poly students because of the hands-on learning experiences they have.
“The guys who went to M.I.T. or Caltech or Stanford, they’re in the same spot as we are. They make the same amount of money as us and their next job they got will be based off this job, not the degree they got and from where … If I had to do it over again, I’d do Cal Poly again, without a doubt,” Holland said.
The GSR has a report summary for each college. Igarta said that some colleges are comparable, while others are not. Often times the outcomes are very different depending on what the majors are.
Career Services helps students understand this data, especially because students pick a major before they are at Cal Poly.
“Ideally for us, they see the [GSR] before they even apply so that they can see what these outcomes before making a decision about what’s a good major,” Igarta said.
The data is also used as a developmental tool to help students understand the most common outcomes in order to find majors that resonate with them.
In the 2015-2016 GSR for engineering students, 93 percent of graduate outcomes were reported to be positively engaged, meaning they are in a job, in graduate school or have already made a decision about what they want to do. Only seven percent of students were still looking for a job when they graduated.
For liberal arts students, the report showed that 94 percent of graduate outcomes reported being positively engaged, with only six percent of graduates still looking for a job after graduation.
The salaries vary for all majors as well, with engineering incomes at about $70,000 as the starting mean salary, and liberal arts majors at about $44,000.
Cal Poly journalism graduate Alison Edmonds works as a reporter and producer for KUSI, a news station in San Diego. She said her pay for the job is an hourly rate, rather than a yearly salary, and it is probably under Cal Poly’s median salary. However, Edmonds said having the skills for the job is the biggest pay off in the end.
“So many people that I’ve met so far in the industry spent their first few years at their new job learning how to do what we’ve learned in our journalism department at Cal Poly. It’s amazing how much hands-on experience we get to do, and that I went into the industry, even in a market like San Diego, and I knew what to do exactly on the first day,” Edmonds said.
Although there is a range of incomes, students leaving Cal Poly are prepared for the next steps of their lives. The GSR shows that 99 percent of those employed got a job within nine months of graduating.
Igarta said one of the most impressive statistics is that students are finding jobs in the field they studied. From the GSR, 96 percent of overall graduates reported that they do work that is related to their major.
“That’s one of the hallmarks of Cal Poly, you pick a major and the outcome tends to be related to your major, higher than other institutions,” Igarta said.
Factors of success
Some of the biggest factors of Cal Poly’s success are high performing students, the faculty and staff and the Learn By Doing motto, according to Igarta.
“I tell people daily that the reason I am where I am is because of the Learn by Doing and what I got to do at Cal Poly,” Edmonds said.
Students at other institutions may have resumés with work that may or may be not related to their major, while students coming from Cal Poly will have projects that are directly related to the jobs they are seeking.
“They’re going to be documenting hands-on technology and skill because of Learn by Doing that employers really like to see,” Igarta said.
Being a highly technical university as well as being on the quarter academic system distinguish Cal Poly from other state schools, he added.
Holland said his experience at Cal Poly has not only helped him get his job but continues to help him grow in his career.
“I’ve had to do a lot of on-the-job learning. I’d say 80 to 90 percent of what I’ve learned so far at work I didn’t learn at school, but I wouldn’t have been able to learn it without what I did at Cal Poly,” Holland said.
The GSR indicates that only about 8 percent of students got their jobs through internships. Igarta said the data on the success of internships from Cal Poly is unclear because they often go unreported. Some internships are done academically, but many are done not for credit.
“I think we are working as an institution to know more about internships and who’s doing them and how they are affecting students experience and their outcomes when they finish,” Igarta said.
Building relationships is one of the most important things students can do to prepare themselves for jobs after college, according to Igarta.
Career Services has employer specialists whose job is to help build relationships with employers and opportunities for students in their specific college. Relationship action plans were created to help students focus on their goals and build their networks at Cal Poly.
Additionally, opportunities like career fairs are opportunities for students to introduce themselves, share their resume and asks for tips and advice.
“In the last 10 years, Career Services has become the relationship place. We used to be branded as the resumé place … Careers have shifted and anybody who knows how to create opportunity in the job services, it tends to come through relationships,” Igarta said.