Starting Salary Projections Climb for Most Master’s Majors

February 19, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

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

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Starting salaries are expected to increase among many master’s degree majors this year, according to NACE’s Winter 2021 Salary Survey.

In fact, employers anticipate offering higher average starting salaries to Class of 2021 master’s degree graduates in three of the four reported categories of majors compared to what was offered to their Class of 2020 counterparts.

The survey revealed that computer sciences, engineering, and business graduates at the master’s degree level are expected to earn higher salaries, while those in the fourth category—math and sciences—are projected to earn lower salaries. (See Figure 1.)

Master’s level majors in the computer sciences category, in particular, are expected to do well. As a group, their projected average offer—$85,373—is the highest average salary offer among the reported categories.

As a group, engineering graduates have an average salary projection of $80,320, which is almost 4% higher than last year’s average projection of $77,298. Computer engineering (up 10.2% to $87,729) has the highest projected increase.

Overall, master’s degree graduates in the business majors category have projected average salaries that will closely resemble those for their Class of 2020 counterparts; as a group, their average salary projection ($75,461) is less than 1% higher than last year’s projection. However, some individual majors within this category will fare better. The average offer to M.B.A.s, for example, is projected at $87,966, which is up 11.3% over last year.

The average salary projection for master’s degree math and sciences majors ($73,992) has dropped by 7.2% for the Class of 2021. However, in examining the individual majors, mathematics majors have an average salary projection that is up 3.2% to $84,975 from $82,350 last year, and the average salary projection for chemistry majors is also up for the Class of 2021, rising 1.7%, from $72,457 to $73,700.

The Winter 2021 Salary Survey report features annual salary projections for Class of 2021 college graduates. The figures reported are for base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits, or overtime rates. The report provides the detailed salary projections by academic major and degree level, along with breakouts by both industry and geographic region. Data contained in the Winter 2021 Salary Survey report were obtained by surveying NACE employer members from September 14, 2020, through November 30, 2020. A total of 139 surveys were returned—a 14.9 percent response rate. The Winter 2021 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE. An executive summary report is available at

Figure 1: Average salaries by discipline, master’s degrees

Broad Category
Computer sciences
2021 Salary Projection$85,373
2020 Salary Projection$79,793
% Change7.0%
2021 Salary Projection$80,320
2020 Salary Projection$77,298
% Change3.9%
2021 Salary Projection$75,461
2020 Salary Projection$75,197
% Change0.4%
Math and sciences
2021 Salary Projection$73,992
2020 Salary Projection$79,717
% Change-7.2%
Broad Category 2021 Salary Projection 2020 Salary Projection % Change
Computer sciences $85,373 $79,793 7.0%
Engineering $80,320 $77,298 3.9%
Business $75,461 $75,197 0.4%
Math and sciences $73,992 $79,717 -7.2%
Source: Winter 2021 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers