Starting Salaries Up for Liberal Arts Majors

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Feb 19, 2013
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Recent graduates with degrees in three liberal arts majors had average starting salaries that ​topped $40,000 in 2012, according to a report by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

NACE’s January 2013 Salary Survey found that liberal arts and sciences/general studies ($43,100), history ($41,900) and English language and literature/letters ($40,200) were the top-paying liberal arts majors in 2012.


The increases in average starting salaries from those paid in 2011 for these three majors ranged from 3.6 percent for English language and literature/letters to 3.9 percent for general studies.

While the average starting salary for those who majored in visual and performing arts was the lowest ($33,800) among the liberal arts in 2012, it, too, is on the upswing, representing a 3 percent bump from the average starting salary earned by recent graduates with these majors in 2011.

“This is good news for liberal arts majors and follows the general trend over the past two years of increasing starting salaries for new college graduates,” said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

Across-the-Board Increases

The report also revealed that overall average salary for class of 2012 graduates was 3.4 percent higher the average salary for those in the class of 2011. Salaries rose across all broad categories of majors.

Average Salaries by Discipline

Broad Category

2012 Average Salary

2011 Average Salary











Computer Science












Health Sciences




Humanities & Social Sciences




Math & Sciences








Source: NACE January 2013 Salary Survey report

​Report data represent accepted starting salaries (not salary offers); they were produced through a compilation of data derived from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau and a master set of data developed by Job Search Intelligence. Data for the January 2013 report were retrieved in November 2012, and reflect the final results for the class of 2012.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

2012 Graduates' Starting Salaries Jump 3.4%, SHRM Online Compensation, January 2013

Job Seekers value Pay and Perks, SHRM Online Compensation, January 2013

In 2013, 'Hot' Skills Will Reap Higher Rewards, SHRM Online Compensation, October 2012

Salary Outlook Brightens—Slightly—in 2013, SHRM Online Compensation, September 2012

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