In 2011, for the first time since 2008, a U.S. college class began the year with an average starting salary offer that was on the rise, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
The overall average salary offer to a class of 2011 bachelor’s degree graduate is $50,034, up 3.5 percent over the previous year, according to NACE’s Winter 2011 Salary Survey report.
This is the latest sign of improvement in the college job market. Employers responding to an earlier NACE study reported plans to increase their college hiring with the class of 2011 by 13.5 percent over the previous year, and monthly polls conducted by NACE show hiring remains in positive territory.
"The hiring outlook for the class of 2011 looks increasingly positive," said Marilyn Mackes, executive director of NACE. "On-campus recruiting activity for both internships and full-time hiring should be better than what we have seen in the past two years."
While not all categories of majors posted increases to their average salary offers, the increases seen in the Winter 2011 Salary Survey far outweigh the decreases. That’s a significant improvement over the previous year. As of February 2011, 67 percent of disciplines posting a change to staring salary offers were showing an increase. In February 2010, 63 percent of disciplines that indicated a change were projecting them to be decreases.
Starting Pay Varies by Majors
Among the bachelor's degree majors with the highest starting pay, average salary offers for:
• Computer science graduates rose almost 1 percent to $61,783.
• Finance graduates rose 1.9 percent to $50,535.
• Accounting graduates rose 2.2 percent to $49,022.
• Business graduates rose almost 2 percent to $48,089.
• Business administration/management graduates fell 2.3 percent to $44,171.
• Marketing graduates fell 1.3 percent to $41,948.
Salary offers to engineering graduates as a group remained nearly level—a 0.3 percent increase to $59,435—but some of the individual majors fared far better. Electrical engineering majors saw their average salary offer jump 4.4 percent to $61,690, while mechanical engineering graduates saw a healthy increase—3.8 percent—for an average salary offer of $60,598.
Conversely, chemical engineering and civil engineering majors saw their average salary offers fall. The average offer to chemical engineering graduates dipped by 0.8 percent to $64,641. Meanwhile, civil engineers fared worst among their engineering peers; their average offer dropped 7.1 percent to $48,885.
Liberal Arts Majors
Data was limited for liberal arts majors, but as a group their average offer jumped 9.5 percent to $35,633. This was in sharp contrast to 2010, when they watched their average offer fall almost 11 percent.
The Winter 2011 Salary Survey report is NACE's initial quarterly look at salaries for the class of 2011, compiling data from U.S. college and university career services offices nationwide.
Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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