Gone are the days when college graduates left school expecting to receive huge salary offers. The media salary expectation for today’s grads is $39,581, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2014 Student Survey. That doesn’t seem too high, considering what college costs these days, but it’s probably realistic, given that employers aren’t exactly desperate for entry-level workers, at least in most industries.
Those expectations do vary greatly depending on college major, however, as they probably should. According to NACE, “career-oriented majors that expect to go directly into the for-profit, private sector still exhibit the highest level of expected salary, led by engineering and computer science with median expectations of $56,112 and $51,855, respectively.” Liberal arts-oriented majors like English and communications, however, didn’t expect to be offered above the mid-$30K range.
No matter what a student’s major, it’s important he/she have a sense of income potential before looking for work. However, they should look beyond just that yearly salary figure to get a clearer sense of a position’s value. For instance, an entry-level position in an industry might be low, but it’s not unheard of for income to double after a few years of experience. When doing such research, it’s important to encourage students to have a five-year plan, so to speak.
Also, keep in mind that salaries will vary greatly depending on the size of the company, the geographic location, and other factors, even if positions require the same responsibilities. That’s why it’s imperative to recommend they also consider other non-salary factors when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. The benefits and perks might translate into money or job satisfaction that’s worth more to them (i.e., it might pay for their master’s degree, let them expense commuting costs, or give them the opportunity to travel the world).
All in all, it’s great to motivate students to aim high and not sell themselves short, but just as important is managing their expectations as the respondents in this survey seem to have done.