Top 20 Degrees With The Highest Starting Salaries

By Katrease Stafford
Detroit Free Press.

For University of Michigan industrial operations engineering student Julie Hahn, her decision to seek a degree in a highly sought STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — field was an easy choice since it fused her love for math and science.

But her choice also could prove to be a lucrative one when she graduates nearly two years from now, according to a recent study by Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute.

Of the top 20 highest starting salaries for 2014-15 college graduates, engineering degrees from five disciplines are among them, according to findings released from the study Recruiting Trends, an annual survey of nearly 5,700 companies by MSU economist and CERI Director Phil Gardner.

The five are electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and civil engineering.
Hahn, 19, and a peer adviser at U-M’s Engineering Career Resource Center, said knowing that graduates with engineering degrees receive some of the highest starting salaries did play a part in deciding her major.

“I think it was definitely something I considered because I ultimately have to make a living off of this, but I higher-prioritized what I was passionate about,” she said. “I think engineering is one of those fields you can do a lot with.”

In fact, according to Gardner, it’s no surprise that engineering is the one college labor market that doesn’t change year after year.

His research shows that at every degree level, graduates with engineering degrees receive the highest starting salaries.

Engineering salaries across all disciplines are expected to increase nearly 16% from last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hiring within professional, business and scientific services fields — which includes engineering — is expected to increase 24%, Gardner said.

“Engineering always top the average starting salary list,” Gardner said. “While averages fluctuate because of economic conditions, engineering salaries have not been exceeded by other disciplines going back 65 years.”

Samuel Foran, a 2013 Penn State University engineering graduate who now works at the General Motors Milford Proving Grounds, said he’s not surprised the field has remained on top for the past several years.

Foran, 23, said the numerous auto suppliers and auto companies drew him and several friends to Michigan.

“There’s a huge opportunity for just about any type of engineering here in Michigan,” he said.

Gardner said it should be a good year for 2014-15 college graduates overall, since hiring is expected to jump 16% to a level that has not been seen since the “dot-com frenzy” of 1999-2000.

If math and science aren’t your thing, there are other fields that are expected to show significant growth.

Gardner’s survey shows the most growth expected in 2014-15 is within the field of information services–which includes telecommunications companies, publishing and broadcasting. Hiring is expected to jump by 51% over last year, according to Gardner’s research.

Almost all job sectors are expected to hire graduates with bachelor’s degrees, with six — nonprofits; manufacturing; government; professional, business and scientific services; finance and insurance; and information services — reporting double- digit growth ranging from 16% to 51%.

“This is a hot market,” Gardner said of the overall hiring trends. “As my report said, we have not seen double-digit growth like this since 2007. Drivers include growth, turnover and retirements.”

Here’s a list of the top 20 starting salaries for 2014-15 graduates, according to Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends 2014-15 report:
Electrical Engineering — $57,030
Computer Engineering — $56,576
Mechanical Engineering — $56,055
Software Design — $54,183
Computer Programming — $54,065
Chemical Engineering — $53,622
Computer Science — $52,237
Civil Engineering — $51,622
Mathematics (includes applied) — $47,952
Construction — $45,591
Supply Chain — $45,508
Finance — $44,699
Accounting — $44,525
Nursing — $43,481
Chemistry — $43,344
Human Resources — $42,495
Marketing — $41,481
Economics — $41,118
Humanities & Liberal Arts — $39,162
Agricultural Sciences — $38,854
Below is a sampling of salaries for other fields where wages are expected to increase. According to Recruiting Trends, some employers will increase salaries by more than 10% in these fields: manufacturing, finance and insurance services, and professional, business, and scientific services. Salaries are likely to increase by more than 7% in agriculture and natural resources. Wholesale, healthcare and social services are expected to increase by 6 to 7 %. Meanwhile, government, education, and utilities will offer the smallest increases at 4%.
Here is a list of salaries related to these fields:
Construction management — $46,688
Therapy — $45,643
Management information systems — $45,942
Logistics — $44,007
Entrepreneur/e-commerce — $43,145
Economics — $42,615
Political Science — $41,350
Anthropology/Sociology — $39,898
Natural resource management — $39,379
Public relations — $39,825
Journalism — $38,901
Multimedia — $38,895
Psychology — $38,553
Advertising — $38,475
Real estate agents — $38,385
Broadcasting -$37,687
Social work — $37,349
Education (teachers) — $35,901
Source: 2013-14 Recruiting Trends report and 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

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