The Average Salary for a College Graduate

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 3, 2023

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College is a substantial investment in your academic and professional achievement — one that some people question is worth the expense. However, if you hope to obtain a decent-paying job, most employers will require you to have the necessary background and trending industry skills.

The average salary for a college graduate varies by field and career level. Regardless, those with conferred degrees have far more prospects with higher wages than those without. Here’s everything recent graduates should know about the average salary for entry-level positions. 

A Hot Job Market for College Graduates

The job market has been notoriously volatile for college graduates seeking work. In the past, graduates had to jump through hoops and leverage networking and personal connections to get a foot in the door. While networking continues to be crucial when navigating the workforce for the first time — the earlier you start networking in college, the better — things have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite ongoing chatter about a recession and inflation causing layoffs in unlikely fields, such as technology, college graduates couldn’t be entering the workforce at a better time. 

For one thing, job openings are plentiful — the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) says employers intend to hire 31.6% of recent college graduates from the Class of 2022 than they had from the Class of 2021 — a 5% increase in initial hiring projections from the previous year.

Additionally, while entry-level hires typically lack the ability to negotiate work expectations, the Great Resignation and the newly-shaped employment landscape have given them wiggle room for compromise.

For example, most college graduates and human resources managers fail to see eye-to-eye on salary. According to a recent study from iCIMS, the Class of 2022 expects a starting salary of over $70,000, while most employers expect to pay new hires under $53,000 — a 20% gap. 

However, companies are compensating with added benefits and perks, including more flexible, hybrid work.

Nevertheless, while the average salary for a college graduate may be lower than most candidates would prefer, it’s possible to earn a lucrative salary in a first job.

The Average Salary for a College Graduate Varies By Industry

There’s no denying that the higher the degree, the higher the salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you can make a median salary of $78,580 with a bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, master’s degree holders earn an average of $77,750, while a post-doctorate can get you about $115,010. 

Naturally, your salary greatly depends on the field, position and years of experience. The Winter 2022 NACE Salary Survey finds that the highest entry-level wages are available for computer science, engineering, manufacturing, and mathematics majors. Some of the mean salaries for bachelor’s degrees are as follows:

  • Accounting: $62,942
  • Management information systems: $72,840
  • Food and beverage manufacturing: $65,333
  • Information technology: $85,400
  • Electrical engineering: $74,439
  • Mathematics and statistics: $86,487

That doesn’t mean entry-level earning potential doesn’t exist for other fields. However, college students need only look as far as the current industry trends to determine where the most opportunities are. 

For instance, the pharmaceutical industry has a high job market segment due to the rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. In fact, the life sciences field saw a 7.9% to 11.4% year-over-year growth from 2020 to 2021.

Likewise, recent supply chain issues have opened doors for college students with the latest knowledge of logistical functions and management information systems. Logistics majors study a product’s movement from acquisition to distribution and ensure companies meet federal compliance regulations. 

Regardless of the industry or position, the more educated you are, the more successful you’ll be in obtaining a lucrative career. As a 25 to 24-year-old, you can earn $15,500 more with a bachelor’s degree than you would with just an associate degree. 

Big Earnings for the New Workforce

Many have questioned whether the cost of tuition is worth getting a degree at all. However, a degree pays for itself when college graduates get selected for a high-paying job. Even entry-level positions can come with significant earnings for the new workforce. You’ll be satisfied with the average salary if you choose the right degree program.

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