Shawn VanDerziel, Contributor
Sept. 13, 2023
As students return to college campuses across the country, talk of whether a college degree is still “worth it” has returned, especially as the cost of tuition continues to rise. One metric for measuring success is the first-year salaries of graduates, and the numbers continue to be impressive.
According to the just-released National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Salary Survey for the Class of 2022, bachelor’s degree-level graduates received starting salaries that were, on average, 7.4% more than their peers from the Class of 2021, rising to $60,028 compared to $55,911 for Class of 2021 graduates.
There are many factors that go into a person’s salary and whether or they will find a desired position. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that studying a specific major will result in a particular earnings level. For example, a computer science major with a bachelor’s degree from the class of 2022 on average earned $95,000 in their first-year salary. However, not all graduates will earn that amount.
Salaries for new graduates are highly dependent on (among other reasons):
- Region of the country they are working;
- Responsibilities of the job;
- Demand for their skills;
- Industry they work in, i.e. high-tech, retail, business services, non-profit, etc.;
- Previous experience; and
- Negotiation of salary.
STEM fields tend to dominate the top average starting salaries, due to the ongoing demand for applicants to fill jobs in those fields and the scarcity of qualified applicants.
Students considering degrees in liberal arts should not be discouraged by this information, because while the median starting salary for graduates with degrees such as English, history, and philosophy hover around $50,000 for bachelor’s-level graduates, research has shown that as these employees gain more experience, their salaries tend to increase more rapidly than those in STEM-related fields, which can level-off from the high levels with which they begin.
So, what majors faired out the best from the Class of 2022?
- Electrical & Computer Engineering - $97,940
- Computer Science - $95,456
- Computer Engineering - $90,255
- Petroleum Engineering - $86,830
- Computer & Information Science - $83,399
Average starting salaries for different majors do fluctuate from year to year. Petroleum engineering graduates from the Class of 2022 had an impressive 14.4% increase in salary over the class of 2021, whereas 2022 computer engineering graduates had a modest 2.4% increase over the class of 2021.
It’s also important to note that, on average, salaries increase by approximately 20-30% for each degree level a person obtains starting from no college degree through associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral.
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