Long-run outcomes for UC Berkeley alumni

How do the graduates of California’s public research universities contribute to California’s economy over the course of their careers, and how have their economic outcomes differed for alumni from different demographic groups and with different college majors? This topic brief visualizes a novel database linking the student transcript of every student to graduate from one such university – the University of California, Berkeley – since the 1960s to wage and employment records over the four decades following their graduation. The resulting dashboards generate many new insights into the Berkeley educational experience and the economic successes achieved by its undergraduate alumni over the decades following graduation.

Longitudinal enrollment at UC Berkeley

While much is known about the institutional history of UC Berkeley — founded in 1868 as California’s land grant university, Berkeley has expanded into the ten-campus University of California system and consistently ranked as one of the world’s premier research universities — until now, less was known about the hundreds of thousands of undergraduate students who have graduated from Berkeley over the past 60 years, particularly after they leave Berkeley’s campus. The previous dashboard shows the number and demographics of UC Berkeley undergraduates since the 1960s, showing how the campus has grown and diversified over time, with a clear decline in Black and Hispanic enrollment after Prop 209 prohibited affirmative action in 1998. You can see these alternative demographic views by toggling the parameter in the upper-right-hand corner.

The purpose of these dashboards – part of a series that will eventually cover all ten UC campuses – is to provide a clearer picture of what happens to UC Berkeley’s students after they leave campus. You’ll see that, by the middle of their careers, almost one in three of Berkeley’s natural science majors are working in the Health Care industry, though those who took a number of Humanities courses as well are overrepresented in the higher education industry. You’ll also see the striking persistence of course-taking in Berkeley’s Humanities departments; 18 percent of Berkeley course enrollments were in those departments in 1975, compared to 16 percent in 2014, with little variation in between (though the proportion of Humanities majors has declined somewhat).

But the most obvious takeaway of these data is the broad economic success of Berkeley graduates, and their contributions to the state as a whole. By their late 30s, more than 75 percent of Berkeley graduates working in California have higher median earnings than the state median household income. Over 5 percent work in California’s Tech industry and 10 percent work in finance, insurance, and real estate, but more than 10 percent work at one point or another in California’s K-12 education system.

This series of dashboards uses newly-digitized and compiled data from the UC ClioMetric History Project to visualize Berkeley alumni’s UC experiences and alumni outcomes in the state of California. Take a look at our methodology, and its associated disclaimers and caveats, on our Data and Methodology page. All of the presented visualizations are restricted to UC Berkeley undergraduates who completed at least 10 courses at the campus.

The second dashboard below shows the distribution of students’ majors and courses while at Berkeley since the 1960s. The natural sciences have always played an important role in the Berkeley education, and that role has been swiftly expanding since the mid-2010s with the rise of computer and data science. Engineers have persistently made up more than 10 percent of graduates, but over 40 percent of course enrollments have always been taught in the humanities and social sciences. The ‘Advanced Toggle’ allows you to restrict the data to students who took courses in the specified number of academic departments.

Longitudinal course and major choices at UC Berkeley

The third dashboard visualizes the distribution of Berkeley graduates’ inflation-adjusted California wages from graduation through retirement. Berkeley alumni exhibit gender and ethnicity gaps that mirrors that of the state and the nation – you can see this by toggling the `baseline’ and `comparison’ distributions to different genders or ethnicities – but wages are generally high and exhibit strong growth in the early years of students’ careers. The median Berkeley graduate working in California was earning wages above the California household median by age 27, and more than 10 percent of graduates earn over $300,000 by age 40, providing spillover benefits across the state economy. In addition to the ‘Advanced Toggle’ described above, here you can also restrict the comparison student sample to those who took specified numbers of courses in specific disciplines (like the Humanities).

The data also show the exceptional wages earned by UC Berkeley graduates in particularly-lucrative fields of study. If you toggle the “Popular majors” Comparison parameter on the right, you’ll see that Berkeley computer science majors have median wages of $200,000 in their early 40s, and substantially more than ten percent of Berkeley economics majors have earnings above $500,000 by their late 40s. While the school’s English majors have lower-than-average earnings for Berkeley alumni, more than half nevertheless earn over $100,000 throughout their career, and more than 10 percent earn over $250,000 annually.

Longitudinal UC Berkeley alumni wage outcomes

Next: in what industries were Berkeley alumni earning their wages? The fourth dashboard shows the distribution of Berkeley alumni’s careers in California, again following alumni all the way through retirement. Graduates’ first jobs might be in Food, Accommodation, or Retail, but after a couple of years they’re much more likely to be working in Business Services, Health Care, and Finance, with around 1 percent who work for Berkeley itself. While students with majors in professionally-oriented fields are more likely to work in related industries, the relationship is far from perfect; students from every major end up employed in every segment of California’s economy.

Longitudinal industry of employment for UC Berkeley alumni

Finally, how stable were the careers taken by Berkeley graduates? The last dashboard below visualizes the frequency with which Berkeley alumni switched between employers, industries, and geographic regions. At age 30, only 40 percent of Berkeley’s alumni had been working for their employer for five years, though that number rises to 75 percent at age 55. Indeed, 30 percent of Berkeley alumni switch industries between ages 35 and 40, with engineering majors (and especially computer science majors) more likely to switch at every stage of their careers.

Longitudinal employment stability for UC Berkeley alumni

In sum, these new visualizations present a new perspective into the educational experiences and lives of alumni of the University of California, Berkeley. You can see similar dashboard series for other UC campuses from the UC longitudinal alumni dashboards landing page. In all, these data provide a more complete picture of the studies and California employment trajectories of the hundreds of thousands of alumni who have flowed through the state’s research university system.

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