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Salary Madness: NCAA Brackets by Salary


It's the Monday after Selection Sunday, which means we now know the NCAA division I basketball teams heading to the big dance. As everyone gets ready to fill out their brackets, we here at PayScale wish to offer an alternative method to determining who will take home the top honors.

What if the pay of a university's graduates predicts how well the school will do in the tournament? You might think this is a weird question, but it turns out our method won the tournament last year. Using this method, we chose Duke as the winner and as all you basketball fans know, Duke in fact beat Butler 61-59.

Check out our bracket this year, where we predict Princeton to be the winner based on the salary of its alumni/alumnae.

Is your salary a top seed or just barely making the play-in game? Find out with a free PayScale salary report.

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Salary Madness: How do we pick 'em?

The calculation used is a simple one:

  • Identify the employees in our database who attended one of the 68 schools in the Men's NCAA basketball tournament
  • Select those who have 5 to 15 years of experience in their current job/field (these are workers who are typically 35 years old)
  • Calculate the median annual total cash compensation for the selected employees

Annual total cash compensation combineds base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, of the value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare).

Some Disclaimers:

  • We are reporting the median pay, not the average pay. As we've discussed in-depth in this blog, median is superior to average when pay is involved as it is not prone to be biased by outliers.
  • This isn't the pay earned by all graduates. You will know graduates of the school who earn much more or much less than these "typical" salaries.
  • We are only reporting pay for those who are employed full-time and paid with either an hourly wage or an annual salary. Self-employed, project-based, and contract employees are not included.
  • We do not draw a distinction between those who earn their undergraduate degree from the school and those who earn a graduate or professional degree from the school. This can cause the median to be higher for schools with medical, business and law schools and somewhat lower for schools with graduate teaching, social work, and Ph.D. programs.

To fill in the brackets, we predicted the school with the higher average graduate pay in each game would win. While some games were truly toss-ups (pay differences of 5% or less), we picked the school whose alumni earned slightly more anyway.

See our complete 2011 March Madness Predictions on our website to see how the bracket plays out.

 Princeton Wins it All

Princeton enters the tournament as a 13th Seed, but goes on to become the NCAA Salary Champs with a median pay for its graduates of $102,000. They knock of last year's winner, Duke, in the final four as the median pay of Duke's graduates is only $99,000.

The typical salary of the schools in the tournament is $67,600, but ranges from $37,800 (Alabama State University; play-in game) to $102,000 (Princeton, the eventual salary winner).

Your school may not be winning March Madness, but what about your career? When you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position or job offer, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's full salary survey.


Katie Bardaro
Research Analyst, PayScale, Inc.

Katie Bardaro
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