Best Small Colleges for Jobs

by David Luther
Best Places For Jobs, Jobs, Rankings - 3 years ago

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A 2015 UCLA study shows that 60 percent of incoming freshmen indicated it as “very important” that their college’s alumni get good jobs after graduation, up from 2013’s 53 percent.

Not all schools are equal in job placement success — or size — and some colleges are vastly more supportive of their students’ post-graduation concerns than others. For this reason, many students are willing to give up dominant athletics and research departments in exchange for smaller class sizes and greater access to resources that comes with a small college.

And our research shows that this pays out for employment — six of the ten best colleges for jobs are small schools, which for the purposes of this study are 1,000 to 2,000 students.

To help showcase some of these stand-out small guys, we at Zippia put together a list of the top small schools by state in terms of college placement ratings.

Below is a list of the top fifty, but first, here are the best of the best:

  1. Virginia Military Institute — Virginia
  2. Saint John’s University — Minnesota
  3. Hastings College — Nebraska
  4. Wartburg College — Iowa
  5. Rhodes College — Tennessee
  6. Susquehanna University — Pennsylvania
  7. Viterbo University — Wisconsin
  8. Southwestern University — Texas
  9. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology — Indiana
  10. Transylvania University — Kentucky

How did we figure this out?

Using information found on the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) , we searched for the college in each state with an enrollment level between 1000 and 2000 that had the highest listed job placement ratings, looking specifically at employment levels 10 years after students have graduated.

Then, we looked at the ratings themselves and ranked each state’s top school according to their rating. For the purposes of readability, each school’s rating was then rounded to one decimal place, and we included the city each state’s top college was located in.

That’s it! Now, onto the list.

1. Virginia


College: Virginia Military Institute
City: Lexington
Placement Rate: 96.6 percent
VMI’s rigorous academics and high standards certainly have something to do with employers’ likelihood of hiring graduates from here, but I’m sure all the cannons and military training don’t hurt either.

2. Minnesota


College: Saint John’s University
City: Collegeville
Placement Rate: 96.4 percent
”Hey Steve, what name were we thinking for this town over here? Yeah, the one with the college in it. Does ‘Schooltown’ work? No? How about ‘The Education Location’? Too long, huh. Wait, hang on, I just thought of a pretty good one.” — Frank Minnesota, state founder, moments prior to naming the town of Collegeville, MN.

3. Nebraska


College: Hastings College
City: Hastings
Placement Rate: 96.1 percent
Hastings is a self-proclaimed “best buy” school, based on the fact that they’ve been named by Barron’s and Washington Post as being among the most affordable colleges in America. Not to be confused with the retail store “Best Buy,” which unlike Hastings is in no way an affordable place to spend your time.

4. Iowa


College: Wartburg College
City: Waverly
Placement Rate: 96 percent
The only private college in Iowa to offer a music therapy major, Wartburg is very proud of its strong German heritage. Their school motto is “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,” which in English of course translates closest to “A festive Burger is all we Got.” (Source: The one semester of German I took in college.)

5. Tennessee

City: Memphis
Placement Rate: 95.8 percent
Rhodes College is especially well-known for its mock trial program, which is one of the most prestigious in the country. The fact that there’s no joke in this caption versus the others on this list is in no way related to how many Rhodes College grads go on to become lawyers.

6. Pennsylvania


College: Susquehanna University
City: Selinsgrove
Placement Rate: 95.5 percent
Susquehanna was rated 54th best liberal arts college by Washington Monthly, and 1st most likely college to be slightly mispronounced by me the first time I have to say it out loud.

7. Wisconsin


College: Viterbo University
City: La Crosse
Placement Rate: 94.7 percent
This small Catholic school known for its nursing program was founded more than a century ago by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration — who figured a city named after a crucifix was as good as any.

8. Texas


College: Southwestern University
City: Georgetown
Placement Rate: 94.6 percent
Southwestern has about 1,300 students — with a 56–44 female to male ratio — which leads to a lot of online forum complaints about the dating culture for women. This is compounded by the other chief complaint, that the cafeteria food makes everyone gassy.

9. Indiana


College: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
City: Terre Haute
Placement Rate: 94.5 percent
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the pure-STEM RHIT — which boasts a 21–79 female to male ratio — and some say stands for “Rich Husbands in Training”. Students are known for posting job and internship offer letters on the outside of their doors, which is a kind of outmoded form of pretentiousness for an engineering school.

That said, the median starting salary for graduates is $60,700, so there’s that.

10. Kentucky


College: Transylvania University
City: Lexington
Placement Rate: 94.2 percent
This college that has resisted the urge to make their mascot a vampire was actually founded a century before Dracula and was the first college founded west of the Alleghenies, but it’s kind of hard to resist low-hanging fruit… unless you’re a vampire.

Job Placement Ratings: A Quick Rundown

No college can guarantee you a job, but regardless, many still stake entire reputations on their alumni’s employment rates.

Because of the importance of placement rates to incoming freshmen, it can often be tough to tell who to trust with these numbers. While some institutions go to great length to ensure their numbers are as accurate as possible, not all are as diligent — or (let’s just say it) as honest.

As this Hechinger Report article by Jon Marcus details, many universities are either misleading or outright lying about their placement rates, and there’s not always a ton of oversight when it comes to ensuring the rates they report to prospective students reflect the reality.

Simply put, some schools are fudging their numbers. And certain organizations who used to audit this information, like the Graduate Management Admissions Council, are now taking job placement information directly from the schools themselves, breaking down some of the transparency that once existed in the system.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of groups around who remain the impartial watchdogs they were intended to be.

One of these is the IES, or the Institute of Education Sciences, a bipartisan government organization dedicated to finding scientific data related to education. They try to keep this information as impartial as possible so that it can be used across the aisle as a solid base on which to build effective educational policies, and they keep this information in the IPEDS database mentioned at the beginning of the article.

College State Employed At 10 Years Rank Enrollment Grads Working At 10 Years
Virginia Military Institute VA 96.59% 1 1300 312
Saint Johns University MN 96.40% 2 1880 509
Hastings College NE 96.06% 3 1090 415
Wartburg College IA 95.99% 4 1600 743
Rhodes College TN 95.77% 5 1536 294
Susquehanna University PA 95.45% 6 1824 609
Viterbo University WI 94.66% 7 1686 798
Southwestern University TX 94.57% 8 1309 296
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology IN 94.50% 9 1581 550
Transylvania University KY 94.17% 10 1083 307
Dakota State University SD 94.14% 11 1631 755
Saint Anselm College NH 94.13% 12 1985 690
Citadel Military College of South Carolina SC 94.06% 13 1995 602
MCPHS University MA 93.96% 14 1427 731
Muskingum University OH 93.95% 15 1614 559
Hamilton College NY 93.86% 16 1765 367
Goucher College MD 93.80% 17 1193 378
Bates College ME 93.75% 18 1694 300
Spelman College GA 93.67% 19 1888 592
University of Jamestown ND 93.21% 20 1161 590
Alma College MI 93.20% 21 1409 425
Lake Forest College IL 92.82% 22 1251 388
University of Connecticut-Tri-Campus CT 92.53% 23 1826 4681
Stevens Institute of Technology NJ 92.44% 24 1599 489
Linfield College-McMinnville Campus OR 92.33% 25 1534 831
Birmingham Southern College AL 92.17% 26 1395 259
Wheeling Jesuit University WV 91.93% 27 1264 524
Carroll College MT 91.70% 28 1251 453
Wesley College DE 91.63% 29 1513 744
Salve Regina University RI 91.59% 30 1835 730
Wingate University NC 91.55% 31 1179 531
California Lutheran University CA 91.30% 32 1816 682
Fontbonne University MO 91.21% 33 1377 747
Hendrix College AR 90.88% 34 1129 269
Castleton State College VT 90.82% 35 1480 683
Oklahoma City University OK 90.53% 36 1949 516
Newman University KS 90.48% 37 1557 561
Dillard University LA 90.46% 38 1953 768
Colorado College CO 89.95% 39 1919 367
Millsaps College MS 89.74% 40 1193 341
Warner University FL 89.00% 41 1001 534
University of Washington-Bothell Campus WA 88.92% 42 1298 7208
Northwest Nazarene University ID 88.29% 43 1110 475
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology NM 85.92% 44 1238 244
Westminster College UT 85.54% 45 1878 757
AK 46
AZ 47
HI 48
NV 49
WY 50
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