life after college

Here’s What the Average Grad Makes Right Out of College

Income for new bachelor's degree holders varies widely depending on college major.

College graduates with bachelor’s degrees are making more right out of school, on average, than their peers who graduated just two years prior.

In its most recent survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that for 10 broad degree categories ranging from engineering to communications, 2016 graduates are projected to have an average salary of $50,556. That’s up 5% from 2014, when new grads earned an average of $48,127.

The survey, which looked at the first-year income of more than 45,000 graduates, found big differences in pay depending on the new hires’ college majors. Here’s a breakdown of average projected salaries by discipline for 2016:

Bachelor’s Degree Major 2016 Average Salary
Engineering $64,891
Computer Science $61,321
Math and Sciences $55,087
Business $52,236
Agriculture/Natural Resources $48,729
Healthcare $48,712
Communications $47,047
Social Sciences $46,585
Humanities $46,065
Education $34,891

Even as overall salaries have increased, some trends persist. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors, for example, consistently earn more than their humanities peers. On the highest end are the class of 2016’s engineers, who on average will earn $64,891. The top-paid engineers are petroleum engineers, projected to earn an average of $80,600 in their first year out of college, per 2015 data.

In addition, according to NACE, more than half of employers surveyed say they plan to hire STEM grads, making them among the most highly sought-after students in the class. After science and engineering, business majors take home the most money. They’re also the most in demand: more than three-quarters of employers put business majors on the list of grads they’d like to hire. Those in communications and social sciences fields, on the other hand, are looking at lower starting salaries this year than last.

As student debt levels climb, it’s increasingly important for incoming college students to choose not where they go to school but also what they study.

For more insights into the college majors that pay you back the most, check out PayScale’s 2015-2016 College Salary Report, with information on more than 200 majors.

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