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Median Salary: A Red Herring

One of the more frightening aspects of going to law school is the financial side. After all, Money Makes the World Go 'Round. Many students accrue mountains of debt to pay for their education. One shining glimmer of hope to these people is the data published by schools and USNews of their graduate's average salaries. The thought of earning these salaries makes the debt seem manageable.

However, I noticed that the percentage of people reporting their salaries can vary enormously.  There's no way to know which graduates are actually making more money, except at top schools.

One law school whose percentage was particularly low said that they get a good number of graduation surveys back, but people don't include their salary information. Schools certainly can't report information that they don't have. So when you graduate expecting to get an average salary of 65K and find you're only making 45K, blame the alumni, and don't be too embarrassed to report your salary. The only way to stop the cycle of misinformation is by getting real information out there.

In the meantime, I started with crunching the available numbers. I know you hate when I bother you with silliness like math, so I'm hiding the work I did over here, and just giving you the results on this page.  Here's what I saw:  

Caveat: Don't go be one of those silly people on those silly chat boards, saying "Yale grads make less money than Harvard grads."  And even worse, don't you dare say that I said any such thing!  What I said was that the published median represents a larger proportion of Harvard's grads, which is a whole different thing.  If more Yale grads clerk, or go into public interest, that doesn't mean "they couldn't get a real job."  I only point out what is indicated by the data, not what else it might mean.  

School #  of
Grads
% included
in Median
Median
Salary
# Earning Above Below
Columbia 400 78% 125 311 155 245
Penn 314 77% 125 242 121 193
Virginia 358 73% 125 261 131 227
NYU 451 68% 125 308 154 297
Northwestern 265 67% 125 177 89 176
Chicago 204 66% 125 135 68 136
Harvard 551 63% 125 347 173 378
Vanderbilt 200 63% 100 126 63 137
Cal-Berkeley 292 62% 125 181 90 202
Emory 247 60% 90 149 74 173
Duke 216 59% 125 128 64 152
Georgetown 656 59% 125 387 194 462
Stanford 162 58% 125 95 47 115
Campbell 115 58% 50 67 33 82
Michigan 361 54% 125 196 98 263
Wash. U. 227 53% 100 119 60 167
Cal-UCLA 303 52% 125 156 78 225
Texas Tech 234 51% 70 119 59 175
Cornell 210 50% 125 105 53 157
Fordham 481 49% 125 238 119 362
Loyola-L.A. 391 49% 70 191 96 295
Georgia State 190 49% 72 93 46 144
Saint Thomas (FL) 100 48% 60 48 24 76
Louisiana State 192 47% 51 91 46 146
Chicago Kent 328 47% 75 156 78 250
Saint Louis 244 47% 60 115 58 186
Southern Cal (USC) 200 47% 125 94 47 153
MO-Kansas City 154 47% 52 72 36 118
Buffalo (SUNY) 237 47% 52 111 55 182
Illinois 230 47% 125 107 54 176
Southern Methodist 266 46% 85 123 62 204
Baylor 152 46% 70 71 35 117
Cal-Hastings 415 46% 115 192 96 319
Oklahoma 173 45% 58 78 39 134
Texas 547 44% 110 242 121 426
Boston College 258 44% 125 113 57 201
Wake Forest 152 43% 85 65 33 119
Wayne State 238 43% 80 102 51 187
Pittsburgh 259 42% 76 110 55 204
Dayton 163 42% 55 69 35 128
Villanova 251 42% 75 106 53 198
Notre Dame 200 42% 97.5 84 42 158
Houston 388 42% 87.5 163 82 306
New Mexico 99 42% 50 41 21 78
Minnesota 261 42% 93.3 109 54 207
Cal-Davis 176 42% 112.5 73 37 139
Brigham Young 155 42% 90 65 32 123
Marquette 197 41% 58 81 40 157
Iowa 262 41% 75 107 53 209
Nebraska 139 41% 45 57 28 111
Richmond 165 41% 72 67 33 132
Arizona State 167 40% 71 67 34 133
Georgia 194 40% 100 78 39 155
Drake 132 40% 46 53 26 106
Nova 279 40% 50 111 55 224
Texas Southern 158 40% 75 63 31 127
Hofstra 333 39% 85 131 66 267
San Diego 309 39% 70 121 60 249
Indiana-Bloomington 209 39% 85 81 40 169
Washington & Lee 142 38% 85 54 27 115
Creighton 153 38% 65 59 29 124
Stetson 237 38% 65 90 45 192
DePaul 310 38% 65 118 59 251
Connecticut 216 38% 70 82 41 175
Florida Int'l 51 38% 50 19 10 41
Barry 97 38% 58 37 18 79
Ark-Fayetteville 162 38% 50 61 31 131
Southern Illinois 121 37% 49.5 45 23 98
Utah 140 37% 70 52 26 114
Kentucky 136 37% 61.5 50 25 111
Case Western 218 37% 85 80 40 178
Washington 163 37% 85 60 30 133
Mercer 148 37% 55 54 27 121
Mississippi 199 37% 54.5 73 36 163
Tennessee 136 36% 70 49 24 112
Louisville 113 36% 60 41 20 93
Memphis 162 36% 55 58 29 133
Cardozo 368 35% 90 130 65 303
Montana 79 35% 41 28 14 65
Indiana-Indianapolis 251 35% 73 88 44 207
Valparaiso 189 35% 50 67 33 156
North Carolina 228 35% 100 79 39 189
Oregon 169 34% 49 58 29 140
William & Mary 183 34% 100 62 31 152
Pace 233 34% 55 78 39 194
Alabama 187 33% 72.5 62 31 156
Franklin Pierce 106 33% 85 35 18 88
American 555 33% 80 181 91 464
Willamette 131 33% 49 43 21 110
Samford 173 33% 56 56 28 145
Seattle 348 32% 80 113 57 291
Yale 201 32% 125 65 33 168
Northern Kentucky 134 32% 45 43 22 112
Oklahoma City 176 32% 52.5 56 28 148
George Washington 488 32% 125 156 78 410
South Carolina 244 31% 63 77 38 206
Florida 377 31% 72 118 59 318
Temple 321 31% 80 100 50 271
Albany 244 31% 50 76 38 206
Saint John's 295 31% 75 91 46 249
Arkansas-Little Rock 110 31% 48 34 17 93
Colorado 165 31% 70 51 25 140
Ave Maria 69 31% 50 21 11 58
Northern Illinois 109 31% 50 33 17 92
San Francisco 197 30% 100 60 30 167
Cal Western 346 30% 62 105 52 294
Syracuse 254 30% 50 77 38 216
William Mitchell 312 30% 60 93 46 266
Mississippi College 139 30% 70 41 21 118
Hamline 197 29% 47 57 28 169
George Mason 234 29% 101 67 34 200
Florida State 274 29% 60 78 39 235
Suffolk 486 28% 62 138 69 417
Lewis & Clark 223 28% 72 63 32 191
Gonzaga 201 28% 52 57 28 173
Loyola-Chicago 283 28% 73 79 39 244
Kansas 183 28% 60 50 25 158
Ohio St 227 27% 60 62 31 196
Wisconsin 243 27% 102.5 66 33 210
Saint Mary's 237 27% 53 65 32 205
John Marshall (IL) 377 27% 70 101 51 326
MSU-Detroit 315 27% 65 84 42 273
Arizona 153 26% 95 82 41 112
Nevada 129 26% 68 34 17 112
Boston U. 287 26% 125 75 38 249
Catholic 295 26% 75 77 39 256
Toledo 149 26% 60 39 19 130
Brooklyn 494 26% 112 127 63 431
Akron 188 26% 61 48 24 164
Northeastern 193 25% 70 48 24 169
West Virginia 139 24% 60 34 17 122
Florida Coastal 161 24% 50 39 19 142
MO-Columbia 138 24% 55 33 16 122
Washburn 165 24% 48 39 20 145
Texas Wesleyan 181 24% 60 43 21 160
Howard 203 23% 120 47 24 179
Cleveland 195 23% 64 45 23 172
Penn State 238 23% 61 54 27 211
Cincinnati 123 22% 90 28 14 109
Maine 96 22% 50 21 11 85
Thomas Cooley 503 22% 48 108 54 449
Santa Clara 301 21% 100 64 32 269
Vermont 166 21% 50 35 18 148
Thomas Jefferson 279 21% 64 58 29 250
Pepperdine 226 21% 82.5 47 24 202
W. New England 160 20% 50 33 16 144
Hawaii 101 20% 65 21 10 91
Chapman 130 20% 70 26 13 117
Denver 365 20% 62.5 74 37 328
Appalachian 108 20% 44.5 21 11 97
North Dakota 64 19% 43 12 6 58
Whittier 230 19% 69 44 22 208
Rutgers-Newark 233 19% 100 45 22 211
Ohio Northern 83 19% 51.5 15 8 75
Seton Hall 414 19% 60 77 38 376
Miami 402 18% 82 72 36 366
Maryland 224 18% 70 40 20 204
Regent 155 18% 46.5 27 14 141
St. Thomas (MN) 89 17% 48 16 8 81
South Dakota 84 17% 38 14 7 77
Southwestern 302 17% 65 50 25 277
Pacific 330 17% 62.5 55 27 303
New England 315 16% 47 52 26 289
Idaho 97 16% 48 15 8 89
Roger williams 164 16% 50 26 13 151
Golden Gate 184 15% 75 28 14 170
Rutgers-Camden 260 15% 75 40 20 240
Detroit Mercy 121 15% 54 18 9 112
NY Law School 546 15% 110 80 40 506
Tulane 339 14% 135 46 23 316
Quinnipiac 205 13% 52 28 14 191
Widener 486 12% 60 59 29 457
Capital 235 11% 55 25 13 222
Wyoming 78 9% 58 7 3 75
CUNY 140 9% 55 12 6 134
Baltimore 289 8% 60.5 24 12 277
Tulsa 166 7% 47.5 12 6 160
South Texas 366 7% 85 25 13 353

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