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Data Sources & Methodologies

The world is full of subjective opinions that are passed off as fact and sources of information that are often biased or obtained via suspect methodologies. We believe in being fully transparent with every fact we present and focusing on the presenting facts and letting you form your own opinions based on them.

In This Article:

Overview

We leverage many different data sources but the core of our data comes from the following official United States government sources.

College Data

The core of our college data comes from the The Institute of Education Sciences (IES). This branch of the United States Department of Education (DOE) is the nation’s premier source for research, evaluation and statistics that helps educators, policymakers and stakeholders improve outcomes for all students. The college data comes specifically from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the IES.

Major / Field of Study Data

Our list of majors are based on the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) branch of the United States Department of Education (DOE). The CIP is a taxonomy of instructional programs that provides a classification system for the thousands of different programs offered by postsecondary institutions. Its purpose is to facilitate the organization, collection, and reporting of fields of study and program completions.

Career Data

We use the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) system that is the federal statistical standard used by federal agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. This allows us to report on the wealth of data occupation and employment data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Department of Labor (DOL).

Data Sources

The data sources we use and what we use them for are documented below.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes the following datasets that we use.

Wage Data by Area and Occupation

We use this national wage data for job projections by state, metropolitan area and the nationwide for over 800 different occupations. This data is compiled by the BLS using data from the National Compensation Survey, Occupation Employment Statistics Survey and the Current Population Survey.

Occupation Employment Statistics (OES)

OES data includes U.S. employment data going back as far as 1988. We leverage the data published from their Employment and Wages from Occupational Employment Statistics Survey for some of the following facts:

  • Employment Numbers
  • Annual and Hourly Wages The above data is provided broken down by the following:
  • Occupation
  • Industry
  • Geographic Area (Nationwide, State/Territory & Metro Area)

U.S. Department of Education (DOE)

The United States Department of Education (DOE) publishes the following datasets that we use.

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

As noted in the overview above, this data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) which is a part of the DOE and forms the backbone of our data about colleges and universities. IPEDs publishes over 50 different data sets across the following categories:

  • Institutional Characteristics
  • Admissions & Enrollment
  • Pricing, Tuition and Financial Aid
  • Completions & Graduation Rates
  • Human Resources and Finances

We use data from all of these categories on the site. Our practice is to take advantage of the provisional release data as soon as we are able to and then update with the final release data when available. Our fall rankings publication always uses the latest data available at that time.

College Scorecard

The DOE publishes its College Scorecard data collection. This massive dataset aggregates thousands of facts about education institutions and their specific programs from multiple sources into an easy to use reference. In general, when we have access to the original source of the data (which are always other US government agencies) we use that instead. However, there are some unique facts included in this scorecard that aren’t otherwise available such as graduate earnings data from the U.S. Department of Treasury and loan debt and repayment data from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). The Data by Field of Study is also where we get our pay data for graduates of specific majors at schools.

Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP)

We use DAPIP from the DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) for information about a school’s accreditation.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) publishes the following datasets that we use.

O*NET Database

The Employment & Training Administration (ETA) of the DOL publishes the O*NET Database. The O*NET database contains a rich set of variables that describe work and worker characteristics, including skill requirements. The database includes over 30 datasets with the following types of occupation information:

  • Occupation Data / Titles
  • Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
  • Education, Experience, Training
  • Interests, Work Values, Work Styles
  • Tasks
  • Technology Skills & Tools
  • Work Activities
  • Work Context
  • Related Occupations

We use data from most of these categories to power our careers data.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Student and Exchange Visitor Program

We initially obtained data from detailed H1-B visa data by school and country via our own Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to ICE. We have continued to request and receive this information each year.

Methodologies

This section will explain how we use the available data to derive additional insights.

Cohorts

The list of colleges, degrees, majors and careers included in any of our calculations is limited to those relevant to the website.

Calculations

By connecting various datasets we can often come up with some new insights derived from such combinations of data. Some of these include:

Entity Calculation Methodology
College Racial-Ethnic Minorities Calculated by taking the total number of students (per IPEDS) and subtracting white students, international students, and students whose race/ethnicity was unknown. This number is then divided by the total number of students at the school to obtain the racial-ethnic minorities percentage. While excluding international students is not ideal, IPEDS unfortunately does not provide race/ethnicity data on international students.
Major Salary We calculate an average earnings of the BLS occupations that are related to a given major, weighted by that occupation’s popularity (number of people in that occupation per BLS). The same method is applied for the percentile and geographic breakdowns.
Major Required Education level / Work Experience We calculate an average of the required education level / work experience across each of the occupations related to a major per the O*NET database, weighted by the popularity of that occupation (as determined by the people in that occupation per BLS data).

Rankings

We partner with schools to connect them to students that may be interested in their programs. Any list of “featured” schools that may be sponsored is labeled as such and does not affect our unbiased rankings in any way. Every ranking we present is 100% data-driven and is in no way influenced by, or limited to, schools that partner with us.

The following table breaks down some of the rankings we present and how they are calculated.

Entity Ranking Methodology
College Major Popularity Based on IPEDS completions data for the relevant major / area of study, geographic area and/or degree level(s).
College Online Growth Rate Growth in students taking classes online per IPEDS compared to prior year.
College Tuition for In-State Students IPEDs in-state tuition data from IPEDS ranked against other schools in the relevant cohort.
College Tuition for Out-of-State Students IPEDS non-resident tuition data from IPEDS ranked against other schools in the relevant cohort.
Major Popularity Based on IPEDS completions data for the relevant major / area of study, geographic area and/or degree level(s).
We also try to aggregate other notable rankings given schools from around the web. In those cases the source of the ranking is noted on the page.

We partner with schools to connect them to students that may be interested in their programs. Any list of “featured” schools that may be sponsored is labeled as such and does not affect our unbiased rankings in any way. Every ranking we present is 100% data-driven and is in no way influenced by, or limited to, schools that partner with us.

If you represent a school and are interested in being featured on the site, please contact us by emailing [email protected].

Versions

We try to incorporate new releases of data as quickly as possible. Due to the time needed to compile such comprehensive data it is worth noting that many sources have a natural lag of a year or two.

Source Dataset Version
BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation 2016-2026 projections
DOL O*NET Databse 24.0
DOE College Scorecard 11/20/2019
DOE > IES > NCES Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018
DOE > OPE Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) 07/18/2019
ICE > SEVIS H1-B Visa Data 2019

Questions & Feedback

We strive to ensure we are providing readers with accurate data. If you think there is an opportunity to improve that then we welcome any feedback on how we can be doing this better by emailing [email protected].

Reporting Inaccuracies

We stick to the official data reported by each school to the Department of Education. We do not manually modify this official data as we lack the means to enforce and verify such information in the way the Department of Education does. Furthermore, changing one school would compromise the data so as to make comparisons between schools inaccurate and/or unfair.

If you represent a school and think we are incorrectly reporting the data that you reported to IPEDS, please let us know by contacting [email protected].

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