Article by Susan Adams of Forbes Magazine, published on November 19, 2014.
College graduates in the class of 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering can expect an average starting salary of $57,000. Computer engineering graduates are close behind, with average salaries of $56,600. Next come mechanical engineering graduates with starting salaries of $56,000.
For the last 20 years, Phil Gardner, who runs Michigan State University’s employment office, has been in charge of a broad-based survey that gathers starting salary information from thousands of employers across the country. Gardner works through Michigan State’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute, where he is the director. This year CERI collected data from mid-August to mid-September, tapping the employment offices at 200 schools, which gathered starting salary data from 3,300 employers. Gardner says that engineering degrees have come out on top since he first took charge at CERI. “Students with these majors are highly technical and deeply trained so they have a more immediate value to employers,” he says. “They can apply their knowledge quickly to the workplace, so they can command a higher salary.”
After the top two engineering degrees, employers are paying the most for grads with degrees in software design and computer programming. “Everybody is looking for graduates with expertise in computer science,” says Gardner. “There’s just a huge demand.”
While engineering and computer science graduates will command strong starting salaries next year, CERI’s research also shows a sobering statistic: The majority of employers, 62%, plan to keep salaries at the same level as last year, which means a slight decline in wages, given inflation. Only 37% of employers are planning to increase salaries, and then only by 3%-5%. A smaller group, 18% of employers, plan to hike salaries by more than 10%. Those increases will come in the following sectors: manufacturing, finance and insurance services, and professional, business and scientific services. As for company size, small- and fast-growth companies will have the greatest increases, with 23% of those firms offering compensation that is 10% higher than last year.
If engineering and computer science are at the top of the list, what’s at the bottom? Advertising, social work and psychology all pay below $37,000. A major the table lists as “Humanities and Liberal Arts” fares a bit better, with a starting salary of $39,000. (The salaries in the table include only base salaries and not commissions, stipends, bonuses, housing and moving allowances or other incentives.)
Click here for CERI's chart of 25 degrees and their expected starting salaries for the class of 2015.