Average College Graduate Salaries | Bankrate

Even though a college degree is expensive, the economic returns are worth it. College graduates earn much more on average than workers without a degree, and the potential salary increases with each successive degree.

When evaluating your potential salary after college, consider your major, degree level and location.

Average college graduate salaries

According to research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers:

  • The average college graduate starting salary is around $55,260.
  • Computer science majors have the highest projected average salary for 2022, making an average of $75,900.
  • Humanities majors have the lowest projected average salary for 2022, making an average of $50,681.
  • There is a projected hiring increase of 26.6 percent for the class of 2022.

Average salary by education level

Careers that call for higher skill and education levels pay significantly more than jobs that do not require advanced degrees. Median annual earnings for people with a doctoral degree are more than $30,000 higher than earnings for people with a bachelor’s degree and almost $60,000 higher than earnings for people with only a high school diploma.

Education level Median weekly earnings Median annual salary
Doctoral degree $1,883 $97,916
Professional degree $1,861 $96,772
Master’s degree $1,497 $77,844
Bachelor’s degree $1,248 $64,896
Associate degree $887 $46,124
Some college, no degree $833 $43,316
High school diploma, no college $746 $38,792
Less than a high school diploma $592 $30,784

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Average salary by college degree

The major you choose to pursue has a big impact on your potential salary. In general, the more specialized a major, the higher salary potential it has in the job market. STEM majors also tend to earn more than fine arts and humanities majors.

Degrees with highest average salaries

College degree Average salary
Electrical engineering $107,000
Computer engineering $101,000
Pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and administration $101,000
Aerospace engineering $100,000
Chemical engineering $100,000
Metallurgical engineering $100,000
Naval architecture and marine engineering $100,000
Nuclear engineering $100,000

Source: Bankrate

Degrees with lowest average salaries

College degree Average salary
Theology and religious vocations $40,000
Human services and community organization $40,000
Cosmetology services and culinary arts $40,000
Music $40,000
Miscellaneous fine arts $38,000
Studio arts $36,000
Visual and performing arts $35,500

Source: Bankrate

Average salary by age

In general, salary increases with age and experience. Median salaries tend to rise until age 55, at which point they start to drop.

Age Median annual salary
16 to 19 $29,432
20 to 24 $34,684
25 to 34 $49,920
35 to 44 $58,604
45 to 54 $59,904
55 to 64 $59,540
65 and older $52,416

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Average salary by gender

Female graduates, on average, earn less than their male counterparts. There’s a difference of $11,820 for associate degree graduates, $10,980 for bachelor’s degree graduates and $13,130 for graduates with a master’s degree or higher.

Gender Associate degree median annual earnings Bachelor’s degree median annual earnings Master’s degree or higher median annual earnings
Male (age 25 to 34) $50,000 $64,730 $77,770
Female (age 25 to 34) $38,180 $53,750 $64,640

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Average salary by race and ethnicity

Racial disparities have also persisted in the U.S. economy. White and Asian workers earn significantly more than Black and Hispanic workers at all levels of education. The gap is particularly large for workers with a master’s degree or higher: Asian workers earn a median income of $84,790, while Black workers earn a median of just $53,340.

Race/ethnicity Associate degree median annual earnings Bachelor’s degree median annual earnings Master’s degree or higher median annual earnings
Asian (age 25 to 34) $50,840 $69,490 $84,780
Black (age 25 to 34) $34,940 $50,030 $53,340
Hispanic (age 25 to 34) $40,500 $49,910 $59,230
White (age 25 to 34) $45,000 $59,970 $69,660
Two or more races (age 25 to 34) $39,610 $49,250 $59,240

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Average college graduate salary FAQ

How can college graduates negotiate their starting salary?

Writing a clear and persuasive cover letter, being passionate in describing your motivation for the role and highlighting ways you can add value to the company are all ways to start negotiating for a high starting salary. You should also go into the interview process with statistics about average salaries for the role in your location; resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics can help here. Don’t be afraid to ask for the salary range of the position early in the process, and be prepared to counteroffer if you’re not satisfied with the offer.

What is the average salary for students who drop out of college?

Students drop out of college for many reasons, one of which is the steep cost of tuition. However, students who drop out of college can expect a lower salary than those who complete their degree. Most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that workers with some college but no degree have a median weekly income of $833, versus $1,248 for workers with a bachelor’s degree. That’s a difference of $21,580 a year.

How does location impact starting salary for college graduates?

Metropolitan regions tend to pay more than rural or suburban areas. For instance, workers in architecture and engineering occupations can earn an average salary of $108,210 in Midland, Texas, but only $75,100 in the North Texas nonmetropolitan area.

The bottom line

When looking for your first job out of college, your potential salary is important. However, you should also consider your potential for personal growth, your interests and the overall work-life balance you expect. In the end, you may forgo the highest salary for a slightly lower-paying job that brings you the most personal fulfillment.

Learn more:

https://www.bankrate.com/loans/student-loans/average-college-graduate-salary/

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