Starting salaries rise, fall
Several majors will see employers offering higher starting salaries this year compared with a year ago, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers:
• Engineering: $59,149 overall, up 1.2 percent. Averages for specific disciplines within engineering: $59,326 for electrical, up 3 percent; $66,437 for chemical, up 1.6 percent; $52,443 for civil, up 1.3 percent; $61,121 for computer, up 0.2 percent; $58,881 for mechanical, up 0.2 percent.
• Computer-related degrees: $58,746 overall, up 5.8 percent. Computer-science graduates average $60,426, up 4.7 percent.
• Finance: $50,546, up 1.6 percent
• Accounting: $48,575, up 0.4 percent.
Among the majors losing ground with starting salaries compared with a year ago:
• Liberal arts: $33,540, down 8.9 percent.
• Business administration/management: $42,094, down 8 percent.
• Marketing: $42,710, down 2.1 percent.
The job market for college graduates is better than it was a year ago, but employment experts aren’t attributing the boost to indications of an economic turnaround.
More likely: Graduates simply are accepting job offers more often than in the past — perhaps an indication that they’ve actually learned something about the real world during the past four years.
Average starting salaries may be down, but a job is a job is a job.
“A greater number of the class of 2010 (have) accepted the jobs they were offered,” said Marilyn Mackes, executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. “There appears to be a greater awareness of the economic realities among this year’s graduates, and greater flexibility in the types of jobs they will consider.”
Nearly a quarter — 24.4 percent — of new graduates who have applied for jobs do actually have employment waiting for them, according to NACE, which tracks trends and data regarding the employment and prospects of college graduates. A year ago at this time, only 19.7 percent of those applying for work actually had accepted jobs.
Count Mandy Tickles among the fortunate ones. The Kansas University finance major is graduating today with more than a bachelor’s degree: She’s headed to Chicago to work in financial consulting for Deloitte & Touche, a top-four accounting firm.
The post was her first job offer after six or seven interviews, and she didn’t hesitate to accept. Of course, it helped that the firm was her No. 1 choice all along.
“I definitely think I’m very blessed,” said Tickles, of Lenexa. “Several of my friends still don’t have jobs. They’re either going back to school, or living with their parents and taking part-time jobs until they can find something.
“It’s definitely a difficult time.”
The number of students receiving job offers this year slipped to 39 percent, down from 40 percent a year ago, according to NACE. But among those students receiving job offers, 59 percent actually accepted this time around, compared with 45 percent at this time last year.
“I’m seeing college graduates say, ‘I have this degree, but I don’t need to work in my chosen field,’” said Shirley Martin-Smith, president of Martin-Smith Personnel Services and owner of the Adecco staffing agency in Lawrence. “They’re being more open, even before they begin the job search. I find that very refreshing.”
Starting salaries are down overall, according to NACE. The average offer to a student graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree is $47,079, down 1.7 percent from $48,515 a year ago. But starting salaries are up among some fields where entry-level hiring is strongest, including majors in accounting and engineering.
Dave Byrd-Stadler, employer relations coordinator for KU’s School of Business, said that while the overall sense is that entry-level hiring is on the rise — “a slight uptick,” he calls it — graduates shouldn’t expect a corresponding boost in compensation.
“That’s not, all of a sudden, going to translate into huge competition to drive salaries up,” he said.