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  • Starting Salary Projections Positive for the Class of 2021

    January 22, 2021 | By Kevin Gray

    Compensation
    A data chart superimposed on a sea of graduation caps.

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    The average starting salary projections for all reported categories of majors for Class of 2021 bachelor’s degree graduates show increases, albeit some of them are on the smaller side, according to NACE’s Winter 2021 Salary Survey. (See Figure 1.)

    This news points to the relative inequality in the labor market. While college graduates see a somewhat favorable job market, that is not the case for those without degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, the overall unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was 5.1%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for high school graduates with no college degree was 10.2% and the rate for those with some college, but no degree was 8.8%.

    Class of 2021 graduates earning degrees in the computer sciences field are one exception to the small increases in starting salary projections. The average salary projection for these graduates is $72,173, which is a climb of 7.1% from last year’s projection of $67,411 for the Class of 2020.

    All three of the individual reported computer sciences majors—computer science (7.1%), information sciences and systems (7.1%), and software applications (6.8%)—reflect similar increases.

    It is important to note that, although all categories are projected to see increases in their salaries, not all majors within the category are expected to do so. For example, the overall average salary for math and sciences majors is expected to increase 1.3% to $63,316. However, chemistry majors, who fall into this category, are projected to see their average salary drop 3% to $59,625, while math majors are expected to average $67,360—a 4.5% increase.

    In addition, in some cases, projected increases look high, but are based on limited data. Such is the case with social sciences degrees and humanities degrees, and the projected increases should be viewed with caution.

    The Winter 2021 Salary Survey report features annual salary projections for Class of 2021 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 Winter 2021 Salary Survey report were obtained by surveying NACE employer members from September 14, 2020, through November 30, 2020. A total of 139 surveys were returned—a 14.9 percent response rate. The Winter 2021 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE. An executive summary report is available at www.naceweb.org/store/subscription/salary-survey/.

    Figure 1: Average salaries by discipline, bachelor’s degrees

    Broad Category 2021 Salary Projection 2020 Salary Projection % Change
    Computer Sciences $72,173 $67,411 7.1%
    Engineering $71,088 $69,961 1.6%
    Math & Sciences $63,316 $62,488 1.3%
    Social Sciences $59,919 $57,425 4.3%
    Humanities $59,500 $53,617 11.0%
    Business $58,869 $57,939 1.6%
    Communications $58,174 $56,484 3.0%
    Agriculture & Natural Resources $54,857 $53,504 2.5%
    Source: Winter 2021 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers
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