liberal arts collegesWhether your dream is to study philosophy or medicine, there are several liberal arts colleges where students have gone from Aristotle or lab research to some of the highest salaries in the U.S.

The top 10 liberal arts colleges with the best-paid graduates are Harvey Mudd College, Colgate University, Bucknell University, Lafayette College, Washington and Lee University, Swarthmore College, Williams College, College of the Holy Cross, Carleton College and Claremont McKenna College.

The information is based on survey data for graduates with bachelor's degrees and collected by Payscale, a salary database website.

Bucknell graduates start their careers with an average wage of $55,800 a year. By the time alumni reach mid-career, they might earn a median annual salary of $115,000.Although 2010 Bucknell grad Amanda Kronquist hasn't seen these earnings yet, she hopes to after completing her master's of science degree in biomedical policy and advocacy at Georgetown University.

The Orange County, Calif.-native works part-time as a research assistant intern with the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that helps to shape conservative public policy in America.

"Immediately before and after graduation I was not looking for a job, but I was looking at graduate programs around the United States," Kronquist said. "During the first few months of my graduate program I then began searching for jobs and internships around the Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland area."

Bucknell University didn't focus solely on students' scores but also on social, professional and communication skills, she said.

The opportunities began in a small research lab with her professor and in working with the career development center. In addition, Bucknell has a database system where students can search for alumni who are working in their area of interest.

"Because of the close relationships students make with faculty and staff during their first year at Bucknell, there are a plethora of opportunities for students to get involved with research and work under the supervision of their professors," Kronquist said.

Swarthmore College is another one of the top schools for those looking to get into a high-paying job. The starting median pay among graduates is $52,400 and the median mid-career pay is $106,000.

Swarthmore graduate Jesse Goodall is a quantitative programmer at Bank of America. Four years out of college, he earns around the median mid-career level pay. Alumni continue to support Swarthmore students, a bonus for graduates looking for work, Goodall said.

"Swarthmore attracts motivated and smart students and the connections with alumni are very tight," Goodall said. "The school also sees a lot of alumni in volunteer, non-profit and academic activities after college."

Claremont McKenna ranks at No. 10 on the list of colleges, with graduates' starting median pay at $58,700 and mid-career median pay at $104,000.

Giselle Galanto attended Claremont McKenna in Claremont, Calif., and graduated with a bachelor of arts in science and management in 2010. The graduate works with middle school students as a teacher's aid assistant at Little Harvard Academy, an afterschool education center in Arcadia, Calif. She doesn't earn the median starting pay yet; however, she hopes for the high salary after attending the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Fall 2011.

Working as an assistant and forming close relationships with her instructors was something valuable in her education at Claremont McKenna, Galanto said.

"The academics were top notch and I got the intimate student-teacher relationship with small class sizes," Galanto said. "It was just a good experience on the whole."

The science department at Claremont McKenna helped her reach her higher education goals by offering professor advising, standardized testing information for students interested in graduate school and overall encouragement, she said.

"Their door was always open for me to come by and tell them what I was up to," Galanto said. "I had a science advisor who was truly helpful. I was close to her, she wrote a letter recommendation on my behalf."

"Teaching the kids is what I've always wanted to do," Galanto said. "I've always liked the experience. I tad in college for one of my professor's lab sections and I enjoyed.

Now, Galanto has the opportunity to live on the east coast after living in southern California for her entire life. She accredits the college career services center for showing herself and other students how to find jobs and land internships.

"The high caliber of students at Claremont McKenna College makes students pretty eager," Galanto said. "They achieve highly. Also the types of careers that Claremont McKenna graduates usually enter are investment banking, any sort of consulting and science jobs."

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