Starting Salaries for 2017 College Grads Hit All-Time High

Entry-level salaries are up 14% since the recession; STEM jobs are highest-paid

Stephen Miller, CEBS By Stephen Miller, CEBS May 12, 2017
Starting Salaries for 2017 College Grads Hit All-Time High

There's good news for recent college graduates: Average salaries in the U.S. for people receiving undergraduate degrees in 2017 are at an all-time high, according to a recent study by pay consultants at the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry.

Researchers analyzed salaries of 145,000 entry-level positions from more than 700 organizations in the United States. A key finding: 2017 college grads will make on average $49,785 annually—3 percent more than the average for 2016 graduates ($48,270).

Adjusted for inflation, 2017 grads will make 14 percent more than those who graduated in 2007, just months before the start of the Great Recession.

"With unemployment rates back down to pre-recession levels and jobs requiring more highly specialized skills, companies will need to offer competitive compensation packages if they hope to attract top talent," said Benjamin Frost, Korn Ferry Hay Group's global product manager.

STEM Careers Still Pay the Most

As in years past, those beginning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers can expect to garner the best starting salaries. In an analysis that looked specifically at 25 entry-level professional roles, the five highest-paying positions were as shown below:

Best-Paying New-Graduate Professional Jobs


Average salary

Relative to average entry-level professional salary

Software developer









Environmental professional



Source: Korn Ferry Hay Group.


The five lowest-paying salaries from the entry-level professional roles that were analyzed were:

Lowest-Paying New-Graduate Professional Jobs


Average salary

Relative to average entry-level professional salary

Call center specialist



Claims examiner



Customer service representative



Category assistant—retail



Source: Korn Ferry Hay Group.

[SHRM members-only guide: How to Establish Salary Ranges]

Salary Differences in Major Cities

Of seven major cities across the U.S. that were analyzed, San Francisco is the place to be for college grads who want to make the most money (although it's also among America's most expensive places to live).

The average salaries for recent grads in these seven cities are:

  • San Francisco: $62,829
  • New York: $60,190
  • Los Angeles: $55,709
  • Chicago: $54,515
  • Minneapolis: $53,121
  • Dallas: $50,084
  • Atlanta: $49,038

Internships Lead to Hires

"We're seeing a trend toward companies hiring summer interns between their junior and senior years of college, and then making offers for full-time employment right after the internship ends," said Adam Blumberg, vice president for key accounts at Korn Ferry's Futurestep, which handles recruitment services. "It may be nine months before the graduate is ready to start, but this practice keeps the really talented new professionals out of the interview process and committed to the company for which they interned."

Related SHRM Article:

The Class of 2017: What They Expect from Their First Jobs, SHRM Online Talent Acquisition, June 2017

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