GavelThe median private sector starting salary for lawyers has been falling even as average debt loads for law school graduates have been rising. If you’re thinking about going to law school, you’ll want to consider the debt you will be graduating with  as it compares to the salary you are likely to earn as a lawyer.

The following list contains the schools with the highest salary-to-debt ratio, a necessary consideration when determining which schools provided the biggest return on a student’s investments. (These are median and average numbers, and variables such as scholarships can, of course, make a difference in the final costs).

1. University of Texas, Austin

The median private sector starting salary of 2011 grads was $155,000, and average student debt of 2012 grads was $86,312. The UT law school is considered one of the most selective in the nation. It offers both J.D. and Master of Laws degrees, as well as dual degree programs.

2. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

The median private sector starting salary for grads of this school is $117,500, and the average student debt is $74,485. This school is one of the oldest law schools in the U.S. and is considered highly competitive, accepting only 15 percent of applicants. UNC-CH is often ranked among the top public law schools in the nation.

3. Brigham Young University

The median private sector starting salary coming out of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young is much lower than the competition at $84,500, but the average student debt is lower as well at $56,112. This law school is well known for its lower tuition and offers traditional law degrees as well as joint-degree programs.

4. Stanford University

The median starting salary for private sector grads is $160,000, and the average student debt is $110,275. The school often ranks comparably with Harvard’s and Yale’s law schools. Known for its small class sizes, the school is home to the nation’s first Supreme Court litigation clinic. It is considered extremely competitive: Stanford Law’s acceptance rate is one of the lowest in the nation.

5. Yale University

Median starting salary for private sector grads is $160,000, and the average student debt is $110,741. Yale has been ranked the top law school in the nation for many years. Graduates often go on to careers in academia or politics, rather than practicing law.

Of course, picking a law school depends on more than post-graduation prospects or potential debt load. You also want to consider location, specialties, scholarships, internship opportunities, and other variables, just as you did when you were picking an undergraduate program. However, salary and debt load are highly important considerations, and knowing what your options are will help you pick the program that best fits your needs.

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