The Difference a Master’s Degree Can Have on Starting Salary

February 6, 2019 | By NACE Staff


TAGS: compensation, nace insights, salaries, surveys,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

College students often want to know the impact of attaining an advanced degree. In terms of a college graduate’s starting salary, earning a master’s degree can make a substantial difference—as much as tens of thousands of dollars—according to results of NACE’s Winter 2019 Salary Survey.

The survey found that while a Class of 2019 graduate earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration is projected to earn a starting salary of $57,133, a graduate with an M.B.A. can expect to earn $84,580—a differential of nearly $27,500. (See Figure 1.)

Historically, earning an advanced degree has been especially beneficial for those in non-career-related fields, such as humanities, impacting career prospects and opportunities as well as salary. However, holding a master’s degree can also reap benefits for those in career-related fields, including in terms of salary.

The differential between average starting salaries for Class of 2019 computer science majors is also significant. A graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science is projected to earn a starting salary of $68,103, while a computer science major earning a master’s degree this year is expected to earn $82,275, for a difference of more than $14,000.

The Winter 2019 Salary Survey contains annual salary projections for Class of 2019 college graduates. Data from the survey were obtained by surveying NACE employer members from August 1, 2018, through December 3, 2018. A total of 186 surveys were returned for a 20 percent response rate. The Winter 2019 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE. An executive summary report is available at  

Figure 1: Salary Differential Between Students Who Earn Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees


Average Starting Salary by Degree Level


Bachelor’s Degree

Master’s Degree

Business administration




Computer science




Source: Winter 2019 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers