Class of 2011 Gets Bump in Starting Salaries

By Theresa Minton-Eversole Jul 12, 2011

The average starting salary for the U.S. college Class of 2011 rose 4.8 percent over that offered to the Class of 2010, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The NACESummer 2011 Salary Survey report shows the overall average at $51,018, up from $48,661 in 2010.

“The steady increases in starting salary offers we’re seeing” in 2011 demonstrate that “the job market for new college graduates is gathering strength,” said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, in a statement about the report findings.

This is the third consecutive overall increase in the average offer noted by the quarterly report; however, results from all 2010 issues reported losses over 2009.

Overall, most organizations are still keeping new-hire compensation rates flat, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) July 2011 Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) survey report, released July 7. This is consistent with BLS findings that show that real average hourly earnings changed little between April 2011 and May 2011.

The LINE Employment Report, based on a monthly survey of private-sector human resource professionals at more than 500 manufacturing and 500 service-sector companies, examines four key areas: employers’ hiring expectations, new-hire compensation, difficulty in recruiting top-level talent and job vacancies.

Difficulty filling key positions might be one reason why the overall new-hire compensation index continues to rise, said Jennifer Schramm, GPHR, manager of SHRM workplace trends and forecasting. Compensation packages for new hires increased in June 2011—the ninth consecutive month that the rate of increase for wages and benefits rose on an annual basis in both sectors.

NACE’s quarterly survey report reveals starting salary offers to new college graduates in 70 disciplines at the bachelor's degree level, compiling data from college and university career services offices nationwide. It is issued in winter, spring, summer and fall, with the fall issue serving as the year-end report for each class.

Another positive sign from this latest report: Among the disciplines that saw their average offer change, more than 82 percent saw their average offer gain ground.

Computer, Business Majors Post Strong Gains

​As a group, students in the computer science disciplines saw their average offer rise 4.3 percent to $62,328. Graduates majoring specifically in computer science saw their average salary offer increase 3.7 percent to $63,402; the average offer to information sciences and systems graduates rose 4.4 percent to $57,499.

Overall, the average salary offer to graduates in the business disciplines rose 3 percent to $48,694. Within the individual majors, accounting majors saw a 2 percent increase and now average $49,671 annual salaries. Similarly, business administration graduates posted a 2.2 percent increase, for an average of $44,825. Economics and finance graduates fared better, with 6 percent ($53,906) and 4 percent ($52,351) increases, respectively.

Engineering Salaries Rebound

The engineering disciplines as a group earned a 2.5 percent increase to their overall average starting salary offer, which now stands at $60,465—the best increase this group has seen since fall 2009, when the overall average gained 4.2 percent over fall 2008. In addition, nearly all of the reported engineering disciplines posted increases, with petroleum engineering and computer engineering grads seeing the highest bumps.

The average offer to those earning degrees in petroleum engineering rose 8.1 percent to $80,849—driven by interest from petroleum and coal products manufacturers, which made nearly 90 percent of the offers to these graduates. The average offer to computer engineering graduates rose 7.6 percent to $64,499.

At the other end of the scale, civil engineering graduates posted a tiny increase—less than 1 percent—bringing their average offer to $52,069. Electrical engineering graduates and mechanical engineering graduates fared better, posting increases of 2.8 percent ($61,021) and 3.2 percent ($60,345), respectively. Chemical engineering grads saw no movement: Their average offer remains at $65,617.

Liberal Arts Majors See Big Increases

Humanities and social sciences graduates also fared well in this report: Their average salary offer rose 15.3 percent to $40,057. Although this marks the third consecutive increase for this group of graduates in 2011, their overall average is just 1.3 percent higher than the average ($39,527) reported in the spring 2011 survey.

Most individual liberal arts disciplines saw their average offers increase. English majors posted a 6.6 percent increase, bringing their average offer to $39,611. History majors also posted a healthy increase; their average offer rose 8.1 percent to $40,051.

In the social sciences category, psychology graduates saw a whopping 23.8 percent increase in their average salary offer, which now stands at $40,069. However, that average is skewed—and the median salary is $34,000. Most of the offers to psychology grads were for sales or teaching positions, which averaged $35,362 and $38,866, respectively.

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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