The robust economy drove up salaries for the Class of 2010, according to a recent survey of 104 colleges released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The most recent graduating class saw, on average, larger increases than did the Class of 2009.
Some employers are even reporting that students, who recognize the increased demand for their services, have become downright arrogant. They don’t return phone calls from recruiters and back out of jobs in late May–after previously accepting them. But such behavior is mainly restricted to the fastest-growing fields, where the salaries are growing almost as fast.
Inside the Numbers
While graduates in almost all majors did better than their counterparts a year earlier, the disparity between liberal arts majors and technical and business majors remains stark. Computer science grads were offered an average starting salary of $49,055, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year and 17 percent over the Class of 2008. Management Information Systems majors, who offer companies both business and technical skills, started at an average of $43,953–an increase of more than 5 percent over the previous year. History majors enjoyed a large increase in starting salary–18.4 percent over the last two years–but that still amounted to just $31,599 for today’s graduate. Sociology majors lagged far behind other liberal arts grads, averaging only $27,899, a slight drop from the year before.
Very few starting salaries declined from the previous year in this sturdy market.
This trend demonstrates, not surprisingly, that salaries offered in the financial and computer fields are larger than those in fields like publishing and advertising. Although, as information technology companies suffer through a severe shortage of computer-science majors, many are willing to hire and train bright students from almost any major. The average starting salary for consultants was $45,160; for corporate finance, $41,002; and for programmers, $44,644. Private accountants averaged $34,616 and public accountants averaged $37,255. In contrast, for graduates going into public relations, the starting salary was $31,240; for advertising, $28,962; and for reporters, just $23,452.
Engineering and science majors were quite successful in the job market. Field engineers saw a whopping 13.6 percent increase in starting salary, up to $42,215. Manufacturing and industrial engineers received an average of $46,393, a 9.6 percent increase over the previous year. Of the 17 categories of engineers for whom NACE tabulated data, all but two received average starting salaries of at least $41,000. Math and physics majors averaged more than $40,000. But biology majors, surprisingly, made only $29,191 to start.
Very few starting salaries declined from the previous year in this sturdy market. Perhaps as a result of HMO cutbacks, healthcare administrative employees saw their salaries drop 3.2 percent to $29,262. This number has fallen for the second consecutive year. College graduates entering the field of law enforcement were started at an average of $26,558, a 9.2 percent decrease that wiped out most of the 10.6 percent increase of the previous year.
Where You’re Headed
The most popular fields for college graduates varied widely. The favorite was . Also favored were software design and development (starting salary: $50,099), entry-level management ($33,494), sales ($33,143), and teaching ($26,845).
The NACE statistics include a breakdown by major and career choice, which shows that–at least in terms of average starting salaries for college grads–women have come close or actually reached gender equity in most fields. Male public accountants started at $37,504 and females at $37,058. Male project engineers averaged $44,171; females, $44,155. Male teachers started at $26,938; females, $26,779. However, there were still noticeable disparities in customer service (males: $33,380; females: 29,187), computer programming ($45,267 to $43,330) and consulting ($46,106 to $43,864).
The real disparities between men and women may not show up in starting salary figures, but in the number of men and women responding to offers in different fields. More than 40 percent of the 20,428 college graduates included in the survey were women, but only 26 percent of all computer programmers, 21 percent of project engineers, and 17 percent of field engineers were female. Meanwhile, 55 percent of public and private accountants and 77 percent of teachers were women.
With the Class of 2011 just starting to prepare for their job search, early indicators suggest that employers will further sweeten the post-graduate pot. Only 2.9 percent of NACE survey respondents expect to see fewer employers recruiting on campus this fall, while 42.2 percent expect to see more. Let the feeding frenzy begin.