What Do Arizona College Graduates Earn in the State?

George Hammond, Ph.D., Director of the Economic and Business Research Center

Each year, the Arizona Board of Regents publishes a report detailing the in-state wages earned by Arizona graduates from public universities. The latest report was issued in September 2021 and utilized wage data for graduates since 1990. Wages are reported only for graduates that earned wages in the state four all four quarters of 2020. The report summarized results for Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona. It also included information on student debt. In this post, I focus on employment and median wage results for the University of Arizona.

First, a large share of University of Arizona graduates remained in the state for work. Resident undergraduate alumni were the most likely to remain in the state for work. In the first year after graduation, 70% of resident undergraduate alumni worked in Arizona, compared to 17% of non-resident graduates.

As time passed, fewer graduates remained in the state to work. This is a normal pattern found in these data for states. Thirty years after graduation 35% of resident undergraduate alumni were working in the state, compared to 11% of non-resident undergraduates.

Second, median wages earned by University of Arizona graduates tended to rise as time passed. For resident undergraduate alumni, the median wage increased from $40,000 in the first year after graduation to $80,000 by the 30th year after graduation (Figure 1). The median wage for non-resident undergraduate alumni working in the state rose from $47,600 to $82,900.

Figure 1: 2020 Median Arizona Wages Earned by Resident and Non-Resident Undergraduate Alumni from the University of Arizona

AZ College Grads Figure 1

Median wages of Arizona alumni varied significantly across instructional programs (Figure 2). Wages for graduates during 2015-2019 were highest in engineering; engineering technologies and related programs; computer and information sciences; physical sciences; and business, management, marketing and related programs. Wages were lowest in visual and performing arts; biological and biomedical sciences; area, ethnic, cultural, gender and group studies; psychology; and English language, literatures, and linguistics.

Figure 2: Median 2020 Arizona Wages of 2015-2019 Undergraduate Alumni by Instructional Program

Overall, as the report notes, higher education graduates earn much higher wages than do those who do not attain a college degree. The median wage for an individual with a graduate degree was $69,902, compared to $52,077 for an individual with an undergraduate degree, and $31,371 for an individual with a high school diploma alone.