Highest-Paid Majors for New Grads with Bachelor’s Degrees


When it comes to earnings prospects for the graduating class of 2013, not all majors are created equal. For new college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in engineering disciplines or computer-related fields, starting salaries are rising, new reports indicate.

The right college degree can still pay off well in the salary department, provided a recent graduate is fortunate enough to land a job in the field of his or her major. For the graduating class of 2013, those with diplomas in engineering or computer science should be positioned well to attain good-paying jobs, according to new findings from two separate reports.

Overall, the average starting salary for new college graduates earning bachelor’s degrees has increased 5.3 percent over last year, according to an April salary report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), an association that serves as a resource for campus recruiting and career services.

Based on data from 400,000 employers, gathered from government and private sources, last month’s NACE report shows seven engineering majors among the 10 top-paid for the graduating class of 2013. At $62,535, the overall average salary for engineering graduates rose 4 percent from the 2012 class’s starting salary prospects, making engineering graduates the highest-paid group of majors in the NACE’s spring report.

“Engineering majors are consistently among the highest paid because the demand for them is so great,” Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, said in an announcement of the findings.

Meanwhile, NACE found computer science to be the top-paid non-engineering major. This year, computer science majors’ average salary rose 5.2 percent to $64,800, marking the biggest increase in computer-related fields. Information sciences and systems graduates also saw an increase, their average salary rising 3.6 percent to $57,100. The NACE report determined that graduates earning degrees in computer-related fields saw their average salaries rise 4.3 percent, with the overall average salary now standing at $59,977.

Among other STEM fields, starting salaries for math and sciences graduates rose 3.1 percent from last year, with the overall average salary currently standing at $42,724, according to the NACE. Although math majors saw only a modest 1.8 percent increase in their overall average, making it $49,700, chemistry majors saw a larger increase of 3.6 percent, bringing their overall average salary to $46,300.

On the heels of the NACE’s findings, Employers Resource Association (ERA) this month reports that the careers with the five highest starting salaries for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. are in engineering or tech. Moreover, for graduates with bachelor’s degrees, software engineering and computer science were among the top jobs with the biggest jumps over 2012, up 42 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

ERA’s new report is based on a survey of more than 1,300 companies, ranging from Fortune 500 to small companies and primarily in the Midwest.

Below is a brief overview of the careers with the five highest starting salaries for graduates with a bachelor’s degree, based on ERA’s salary findings and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

1) Software Engineering

Starting Salary: $71,666

Educational Requirements: Software engineers, which the BLS refers to as software developers, usually have a bachelor’s degree, typically in computer science, software engineering, or a related field, although a degree in mathematics is also acceptable.

Employment Outlook: Employment of software engineers/developers is projected to surge 30 percent between 2010 and 2020.

2) Industrial Engineering

Starting Salary: $62,245

Educational Requirements: While industrial engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, employers also value experience, so cooperative-education engineering programs at universities are also valuable.

Employment Outlook: Employment of industrial engineers is expected to grow 6 percent between 2010 and 2020.

3) Chemical Engineering

Starting Salary: $57,500

Educational Requirements: Chemical engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, now sometimes known as a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn college credit for structured job experience, are valuable as well. Having a Professional Engineer license can also increase employment prospects.

Employment Outlook: Employment of chemical engineers is expected to grow 6 percent between 2010 and 2020.

4) Electrical/Electronic Engineering

Starting Salary: $57,145

Educational Requirements: Electrical and electronic engineering technicians typically require an associate’s degree.

Employment Outlook: Between 2010 and 2020, a 2 percent uptick is expected for employment of electrical and electronic engineering technicians.

5) Computer Science

Starting Salary: $55,664

Educational Requirements: A Ph.D. in computer science or a related subject is required for most computer and information research scientist jobs, although a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some jobs in the federal government.

Employment Outlook: Employment of computer and information research scientists is expected to rise 19 percent between 2010 and 2020.

ERA suggests that findings indicate new grads are finally getting better entry-level pay now that they’re less likely to be competing with experienced applicants as they were during the recession.

“Since the start of the recession, students have been competing for entry-level jobs with older workers who have more experience,” Douglas Matthews, survey manager for ERA, said in a statement. “Now, college graduates have a better opportunity to obtain a job after graduation because there is an increase in jobs and starting salaries, which is good news for college graduates.”

Even as the costs associated with formal education continue to rise and a highly competitive hiring environment continues, the new ERA and NACE reports suggest a strong correlation between a bachelor’s degree in engineering or computer science and larger initial earnings prospects.



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