EdPaysMN - Education Pays for Minnesota

Data Caveats

Caution in Using the Website

The website allows for broad generalizations in analyzing the employment outcomes of Minnesota postsecondary graduates. Individual graduate records from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education were linked to Unemployment Insurance (UI) data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

•   Graduates must be working for an employer that is covered by UI law; which includes 97 percent of employers in Minnesota. Wage data are not available for graduates who are self-employed, working for a federal agency or in military service.

•   UI data is a census of employment and wages. The UI data does not contain the occupation of employees; only the industry of the employer. Therefore, it cannot always be assumed that graduates are employed in their field of study if found in the UI data or when looking at industry of employment. For example, all employees at a hospital (accountants, maintenance, nurses, etc.) regardless of their job duties or occupation are included in the “Health Care and Social Assistance” industry classification.

•   Some graduates work for employers that have more seasonal or part-time work availability than others. For example, school teachers are not categorized as working full-time, year-round if they work only during the school year. Employees working in the entertainment business such as music or theater are employed as needed and may work in higher percentages part time. For the purposes of the website, however, any graduate that was employed every quarter of the year for at least 1,820 hours is included.

•   Data could only be linked on a social security number match between graduate and UI data. Not all graduate data contains a social security number.

•   Graduates may have moved out-of-state between time of graduation and employment 12 months through the second year after graduation. They may also have re-enrolled in college to continue their education, or made other work/life decisions during this time frame decreasing the chances of finding the graduate in the UI data, or finding the graduate working full-time.

•   Wage data are not shown if programs/majors had 10 or fewer graduates to protect confidentiality of graduates and individuals.

•   This tool only shows employment outcome and wage data from 24 months, 36 months, and 48 months after graduation. This is a short-term outcome for many occupations and does not indicate the potential long-term earnings of college graduates.


Nevertheless, the highlighted employment and wage patterns are in line with nationally reported trends: overall, annual median wages increase with each higher level of education attained.[1] Graduates in engineering, science fields and health careers are paid premium starting wages. In other words earnings are a function not only of what level of education you have, but what type of degree you have.[2]

Finally, and equally as important, caution should be used when interpreting graduates wages as an indicator of institutional performance. While it is clear that there is relationship between educational attainment and income, there can be significant variation across both institutions and programs. Some of this variation reflects regional and economic differences associated with the geographic location of the school itself. For example, the cost of living in Minneapolis is about 10 percent higher than the cost of living in Duluth[3] and wages of graduates from these different institutions likely reflect these differences.

Additional variation may be explained by the characteristics of an institution’s graduating population. For example, individuals that have prior professional work experience likely experience higher initial wages following their graduation than postsecondary graduates without prior professional work experience.

In short, while the data in presented on this website can help students and their families identify degrees of value, this is only the first step in a student’s search for the right program at the right school in which to invest their time and money.


[1] U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey.

[2] Carnevale, Anthony P., Strohl, J. and Melton, M. (2011). What It’s Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors. Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth.

[3] Based on data available at http://www.bestplaces.net/city/minnesota/