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Job Salaries for College Graduates

Selecting the right major is an essential component of the educational process; you want to pick a field that you're passionate about, and at the same time you want to choose a degree that's going to allow you to support yourself financially (and pay back your student loans).

The good news is that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2011 saw an increase in starting salaries for recent college graduates across the board.  However, as you can see in the table below some majors have had larger increases from the previous year than others, and some majors average higher salaries in general.

Starting Salary by Major in 2011

Major 2010 Average Salary 2011 Average Salary Percent Change
Business $46,378 $48,144 3.80%
Communications $38,450 $39,577 2.90%
Computer Science $58,299 $60,594 4.10%
Education $37,040 $37,830 2.10%
Engineering $60,971 $61,872 1.50%
Health Sciences $44,451 $44,955 1.10%
Humanities & Social Sciences $34,856 $35,503 1.90%
Math & Sciences $39,749 $40,204 1.10%
Overall Average $40,766 $41,701 2.30%

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey: January 2012

  • The overall average salary for the undergraduate class of 2011 is $41,701, 2.3 percent higher than the previous year's average at $40,766.

  • Computer science majors saw the largest change in starting salary between 2010 and 2011, with a 4.1 percent increase from $58,299 to $60,594.

  • Engineering majors grabbed the highest starting salary at $61,872, however this was only a 1.5 percent increase from their 2010 average salary of $60,971.

  • Of engineering majors, computer engineering majors had the largest increase with their average starting salary rising from $68,700 in 2010 to $70,400 in 2011.  They are also the highest paid of the engineering majors.

  • Business majors saw an overall average salary increase of 3.8 percent, up to $48,144 annually, grabbing the second highest salary increase behind computer science majors.  Of business majors, those concentrating in economics are the highest paid with the largest increase in salary, at $54,400, a 6.3 percent increase from 2010.

  • The overall starting salary for communications majors rose to $39,577, an increase of 2.9 percent.  Of this larger group, advertising majors had the greatest increase (4 percent) to $52,300 annually.

  • Education majors rose to $37,830 overall, an increase of 2.1 percent.

  • The average starting salary for health sciences majors rose only 1.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, to $44,955.  Hospitals came in as the number one employer of health science majors, also paying the highest salaries.

  • Humanities and social science majors had an average salary increase of 1.9 percent, up to $35,503.  The largest increase within that major was for those concentrating in social work, with a 3.9 percent hike up to $34,900.  Humanities and social science majors seeking a high starting salary may want to check out the criminal justice field, which provides the highest starting salary for criminal justice majors (at $38,830), psychology majors ($47,560), and sociology majors ($44,870).

  • The overall average salary for math and science majors only rose 1.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, to $40,204 annually.  However, when you separate out just the mathematics majors, those students entered the workforce with an average salary of $43,800 in 2011, an increase of 3.1 percent.  Even more strikingly, four out of five of the employers that provide math majors with the greatest number of positions right out of college (insurance, management counseling, computer systems design, and manufacturing) pay these majors salaries of more than $50,000 annually.