Salaries for College Graduates Climb Despite Pandemic

August 9, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

COMPENSATION
Bar graph with word salaries

TAGS: compensation, coronavirus, first destination, nace insights, salaries, surveys,

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Despite the deeply negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on business, average starting salaries for new college graduates continue to climb, according to results of NACE’s Summer 2021 Salary Survey. The final overall average starting salary for the college Class of 2020 landed at $55,260—2.5% above the final average starting salary of $53,889 for the Class of 2019.

Not surprisingly, technical majors were the highest paid among Class of 2020 graduates earning bachelor’s degrees. In fact, the list of the 10 majors with the highest average starting salary is dominated by those in technical areas, led by petroleum engineering, computer programming, and computer engineering. (See Figure 1.)

In addition, in some cases, salary increases most likely reflect these unique times. For example, the increased demand for nurses as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic may have fueled the 2.1% increase in the average starting salary for registered nursing majors, despite the overall salary of health sciences majors dipping 0.1% from last year.

The Summer 2021 Salary Survey report provides actual starting salaries and serves as the final salary report for the college Class of 2020. The figures reported are for base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits, or overtime rates. Data were gathered from Class of 2020 graduates through December 31, 2020, and reported to NACE through May 15, 2021. The salary data presented here were reported to NACE through its national Class of 2020 First-Destination Survey and are based on the 249 schools that provided salary data by specific program or major. The Summer 2021 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE.  

Figure 1: Top-Paid Majors Among Class of 2020 Graduates Earning Bachelor’s Degrees

MAJOR
Petroleum engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$87,989
Computer programming
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$86,098
Computer engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$85,996
Computer science
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$85,766
Electrical, electronics, and communications engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$80,819
Operations research
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$80,166
Computer and information science
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$78,603
Statistics
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$75,916
Applied mathematics
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$73,558
Chemical engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$72,713
MAJOR AVERAGE STARTING SALARY
Petroleum engineering $87,989
Computer programming $86,098
Computer engineering $85,996
Computer science $85,766
Electrical, electronics, and communications engineering $80,819
Operations research $80,166
Computer and information science $78,603
Statistics $75,916
Applied mathematics $73,558
Chemical engineering $72,713
Source: Summer 2021 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

Salaries for College Graduates Climb Despite Pandemic

August 9, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

COMPENSATION
Bar graph with word salaries

TAGS: compensation, coronavirus, first destination, nace insights, salaries, surveys,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

Despite the deeply negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on business, average starting salaries for new college graduates continue to climb, according to results of NACE’s Summer 2021 Salary Survey. The final overall average starting salary for the college Class of 2020 landed at $55,260—2.5% above the final average starting salary of $53,889 for the Class of 2019.

Not surprisingly, technical majors were the highest paid among Class of 2020 graduates earning bachelor’s degrees. In fact, the list of the 10 majors with the highest average starting salary is dominated by those in technical areas, led by petroleum engineering, computer programming, and computer engineering. (See Figure 1.)

In addition, in some cases, salary increases most likely reflect these unique times. For example, the increased demand for nurses as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic may have fueled the 2.1% increase in the average starting salary for registered nursing majors, despite the overall salary of health sciences majors dipping 0.1% from last year.

The Summer 2021 Salary Survey report provides actual starting salaries and serves as the final salary report for the college Class of 2020. The figures reported are for base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits, or overtime rates. Data were gathered from Class of 2020 graduates through December 31, 2020, and reported to NACE through May 15, 2021. The salary data presented here were reported to NACE through its national Class of 2020 First-Destination Survey and are based on the 249 schools that provided salary data by specific program or major. The Summer 2021 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE.  

Figure 1: Top-Paid Majors Among Class of 2020 Graduates Earning Bachelor’s Degrees

MAJOR
Petroleum engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$87,989
Computer programming
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$86,098
Computer engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$85,996
Computer science
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$85,766
Electrical, electronics, and communications engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$80,819
Operations research
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$80,166
Computer and information science
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$78,603
Statistics
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$75,916
Applied mathematics
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$73,558
Chemical engineering
AVERAGE STARTING SALARY$72,713
MAJOR AVERAGE STARTING SALARY
Petroleum engineering $87,989
Computer programming $86,098
Computer engineering $85,996
Computer science $85,766
Electrical, electronics, and communications engineering $80,819
Operations research $80,166
Computer and information science $78,603
Statistics $75,916
Applied mathematics $73,558
Chemical engineering $72,713
Source: Summer 2021 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

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