NACE Logo NACE Center Logo
National Association of Colleges and Employers NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition
mobile menu
  • Master’s Degree Grads Outpace Bachelor’s Degree Counterparts in Full-Time Employment, Positive Outcomes


    CONTACT: Kevin Gray, 610.868.1421, ext. 139
    Andrea Koncz, 610.868.1421, ext. 121
    E-MAIL: kgray@naceweb.org
    akoncz@naceweb.org
    DATE: August 23, 2016
    SUBJECT: Master’s Degree Grads Outpace Bachelor’s Degree Counterparts in Full-Time Employment, Positive Outcomes

    BETHLEHEM, PA—Students earning master’s degrees were more likely than those earning a bachelor’s degree to land a full-time job within six months of graduating, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

    NACE’s Class of 2015 First-Destination Survey found that 75 percent of those earning a master’s degree were employed full time by the close of the 2015 calendar year compared to 58 percent of bachelor’s degree graduates. (See Figure 1.)

    Overall, the study found that master’s-level graduates fared better than bachelor’s degree graduates in terms of overall “positive” outcomes, which include part-time employment as well as continuing education: 87 percent versus 82 percent. Put another way, as of the end of 2015, just 10 percent of master’s graduates were still seeking employment or continuing education compared to 14 percent of those who earned a bachelor’s degree.

    Not surprisingly, master’s degree graduates also did better in starting salaries. Overall, the average starting salary for a graduate with a master’s degree was $65,818, while the average salary for a bachelor’s degree graduate was $50,219. However, it is important to note that, at both degree levels, starting salaries fluctuated greatly depending on major.

    Figure 1: Outcomes – Master’s Versus Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

    Outcome % Master’s Degree Graduates % Bachelor’s Degree Graduates
    Full-time employment 75.0% 58.4%
    Part-time employment 4.2% 6.0%
    Continuing education 8.0% 17.7%
    Still seeking employment or education 10.2% 14.2%
    Source: Class of 2015 First-Destination Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers, www.naceweb.org. All data represent initial post-graduation outcomes as of December 31, 2015.

    About the Class of 2015 First-Destination Survey: NACE’s Class of 2015 First-Destination Survey is the only national survey focused on outcomes of new college graduates that uses uniform standards for data collection and reporting. This annual survey, inaugurated with the Class of 2014, provides clear, concise, and consistent data on the outcomes associated with a college education on a national scale.

    The Class of 2015 survey, which covers those who graduated July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, is the first iteration to extend to all degree levels; it includes outcomes information for associate-, bachelor’s-, master’s-, and doctoral-level graduates. (The Class of 2014 survey covered associate- and bachelor’s-level graduates only.)

    A total of 279 colleges and universities nationwide, representing nearly half a million graduates, provided data for Class of 2015 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree graduates. Overall, data were reported for nearly 244,000 bachelor’s degree graduates in 34 broad disciplines and 185 majors, making this study the most comprehensive view of bachelor’s degree outcomes available. (For details about the number of graduates from other degree levels covered through the survey, see Figure 2.)

    An executive summary of the survey is available on NACE’s website.

    The Class of 2016 survey, which captures data for those graduating July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, is currently underway. Data will be collected through December 2016, reported to NACE through March 2017, and published in spring 2017.

    Figure 2: Graduates and Majors by Degree Level

    Degree level # of graduates # of majors
    Associate 4,902 23
    Bachelor’s 243,642 185
    Master’s  38,411 130
    Doctoral 6,377 73
    Source: Class of 2015 First-Destination Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers, www.naceweb.org.

    About NACE: Since 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. For more information, visit www.naceweb.org. NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media at www.naceweb.org/press-releases.aspx.