The New Year begins with some hopeful news for recent college graduates, with a new study finding that starting salaries for members of the class of 2011 in all fields posted increases over the previous year.
Graduates who earned a bachelor's degree in 2011 entered the job market with an average salary of $41,701, a 2.3 percent increase over the class of 2010, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) winter 2012 Salary Survey.
While the report indicated across the board growth, the gains and average salaries varied widely across disciplines and occupations.
Engineering and tech lead the charge
"Graduates in the engineering and computer science disciplines fared best in terms of overall average starting salary, and computer science graduates saw the largest overall increase," NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said in a statement.
Starting salaries for computer science graduates spiked 4.1 percent, jumping from $58,229 for 2010 graduates to $60,594 for the most recent class, according to the report. That ranked second on the salary scale, just behind engineering, with 2011 graduates in that field stepping into positions with an average starting salary of $61,872, a 1.5 percent increase from the previous class.
Among other majors, NACE reported average starting salaries as follows:
- Business: Starting salary of $48,144 for 2011 graduates, up 3.8 percent from an average of $46,378 for 2010 graduates;
- Communications: Starting salary of $39,577 for 2011 graduates, up 2.9 percent from an average of $38,450 for 2010 graduates;
- Education: Starting salary of $37,830 for 2011 graduates, up 2.1 percent from an average of $37,040 for 2010 graduates;
- Health sciences: Starting salary of $44,955 for 2011 graduates, up 1.1 percent from an average of $44,451 for 2010 graduates;
- Humanities and social sciences: Starting salary of $35,503 for 2011 graduates, up 1.9 percent from an average of $34,856 for 2010 graduates;
- Math and sciences: Starting salary of $40,204 for 2011 graduates, up 1.1 percent from an average of $39,749 for 2010 graduates.
Irrespective of major, the retail trade industry was the leading employer of new college graduates, bringing in an estimated 246,000 members of the class of 2011 with an average starting salary of $29,195, far below the overall average. Elementary and secondary schools were a fairly close second, employing 222,000 new graduates at an average entry-level salary of $33,718. Together, those two sectors were by far the leading initial employer of new graduates who took their degrees in liberal arts and social sciences disciplines.
NACE reported that criminal justice organizations, management consulting firms and members of the securities industry were also prominent employers of liberal arts and social sciences graduates, with average salaries well above those in the retail and education sectors.
The NACE salary survey draws on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compiled into a master data set by Job Search Intelligence. That marks a departure for NACE, which since 1960 had been basing its salary surveys on data from participating colleges and universities, which reported starting salary offers -- not actual earnings -- that recent graduates had provided. As a result, NACE believes that its current report is more accurate and representative of the actual employment picture for the class of 2011 than previous reports.