Starting Salary Projections for Top-Earning Degrees Level

January 13, 2020 | By NACE Staff

A group of STEM students work together on a project.

TAGS: compensation, nace insights, salaries, surveys,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

It is no surprise that the first look at employer starting salary projections for the Class of 2020 reveals that engineering, computer science, and math and sciences degrees continue to be the highest earning bachelor’s degrees. However, NACE’s Winter 2020 Salary Survey shows that starting salaries for these degrees appear to be flat, with little movement either up or down.  

Among these three disciplines, engineering majors show the largest change in average starting salary projections. (See Figure 1.)

The current projection for Class of 2020 engineering graduates is $69,961, which is up just 1.1 percent from last year’s salary projection at this time ($69,188). For comparison, last year’s average was 4 percent higher than the average salary projection for the Class of 2018 ($66,521).

The average salary projection for Class of 2020 computer science graduates remains essentially level, slipping 0.2 percent to $67,411. In last year’s winter report, Class of 2019 graduates were projected to earn an average starting salary ($67,539) that was 2.3 percent higher than that for the Class of 2018 ($66,005).

The overall average starting salary projections for math and science ($62,488), and social sciences ($57,425) graduates remains relatively flat this year, while the projections for humanities ($53,617) and agriculture and natural resources ($53,504) graduates have fallen by at least 4.0 percent.

On the other hand, communication graduates from the Class of 2020 are expected to see the largest increase in average starting salaries. Their overall salary projection of $56,484 is 8.5 percent higher than last year’s projection.

The Winter 2020 Salary Survey report contains annual salary projections for Class of 2020 college graduates. The figures reported are for base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits, or overtime rates. The report provides the detailed salary projections by academic major and degree level, along with breakouts by both industry and geographic region. Data contained in the report were obtained by surveying NACE employer members from September 16, 2019, through December 2, 2019. A total of 134 surveys were returned—a 14.3 percent response rate. The Winter 2020 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE. An executive summary report is available at

Figure 1: Average Salaries by Discipline, Bachelor’s Degrees

Broad Category
2020 Salary Projection$69,961
2019 Salary Projection$69,188
% Change1.1%
Computer Science
2020 Salary Projection$67,411
2019 Salary Projection$67,539
% Change-0.2%
Math & Sciences
2020 Salary Projection$62,488
2019 Salary Projection$62,177
% Change0.5%
2020 Salary Projection$57,939
2019 Salary Projection$57,657
% Change0.5%
Social Sciences
2020 Salary Projection$57,425
2019 Salary Projection$57,310
% Change0.2%
2020 Salary Projection$56,484
2019 Salary Projection$52,056
% Change8.5%
2020 Salary Projection$53,617
2019 Salary Projection$56,651
% Change-5.4%
Agriculture & Natural Resources
2020 Salary Projection$53,504
2019 Salary Projection$55,750
% Change-4.0%
Broad Category 2020 Salary Projection 2019 Salary Projection % Change
Engineering $69,961 $69,188 1.1%
Computer Science $67,411 $67,539 -0.2%
Math & Sciences $62,488 $62,177 0.5%
Business $57,939 $57,657 0.5%
Social Sciences $57,425 $57,310 0.2%
Communications $56,484 $52,056 8.5%
Humanities $53,617 $56,651 -5.4%
Agriculture & Natural Resources $53,504 $55,750 -4.0%
Source: Winter 2020 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers