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July 16, 2002
New College Grads Earning Less
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has been a tough year for job seekers, and many 2002 new college graduates walked away from graduation without a job in hand. But even those graduates who have job offers are feeling the pinch of the economy, according to survey results from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The latest edition of NACE's salary survey, done quarterly, shows that salary offers in many fields are significantly lower than they were just one year ago.

"We're seeing reduced demand from employers and increased competition among job seekers translate into lower starting salaries," says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director. "We've come to expect starting salary offers to increase, and, for many fields, to increase substantially. This year, we've seen a lot of disciplines lose ground and those that have made gains have, for the most part, posted very small increases."

According to NACE's Summer 2002 Salary Survey report, in the business fields, accounting graduates earned a less than 1 percent increase, for an average starting salary offer of $39,768. Starting salary offers fell, however, in most business disciplines. For example, management information systems grads saw their average starting salary offer drop 6.3 percent to $42,705; the average offer to business administration graduates fell 5.3 percent to $36,429; and economics/finance graduates are now averaging $39,953, a 1.5 percent drop.

Worst hit among the business disciplines were logistics/materials management graduates, who have seen their average offer drop 9.1 percent since last year at this time to $39,407. The drop can be attributed in part to the fall in average starting salary offers for management trainee jobs, which account for the majority of their offers both last year and this year. Such jobs averaged $37,430 last year; currently management trainee positions are being offered at $33,921, a 9.4 percent decrease. In addition, logistics/materials management grads, like many other types of graduates, have been hurt by the steep decline in demand for consulting positions. Last year, consulting jobs accounted for 19 percent of the offers to logistics/materials management grads and paid an average of $49,957; this year, just 2.6 percent of their offers are for such positions.

Nor are graduates in the technical disciplines immune to the pain: They, too, are seeing their average starting salary offers fall. For the first time since the fall of 2000, the average offer to computer science grads is below $50,000; they are now averaging $49,596, a 5.9 percent drop from last year at this time.

Computer engineering grads remain among the top-paid engineering disciplines, despite a 4.3 percent decrease in the average starting salary offer, now at $51,587. Similarly, the average offer to electrical engineering graduates fell 3.4 percent, lowering their average offer to $50,123.

On the plus side, civil engineering graduates saw a small increase of 1.7 percent, nudging their average up to $41,317. Offers to chemical engineering graduates rose ever so slightly to $51,417, an increase of just 0.7 percent.

Not surprisingly, graduates in the liberal arts disciplines are also feeling the effects of reduced employer demand. Average starting salary offers among many of the liberal arts disciplines fell below $30,000. Political science graduates were hit with one of the biggest decreases-their average offer fell 13.4 percent to $28,397. Psychology majors, down 12.8 percent over last year, now average $26,456. English majors are currently averaging $28,488, a decrease of 9.6 percent.

On a brighter note, history majors saw their average offer increase 2.7 percent to $31,201 and visual and performing arts majors got a boost of 4.5 percent, pushing their average up to $27,575.

As the need for healthcare workers continues to increase, nursing graduates are among the more fortunate of those graduating this year. They are averaging $38,459, an increase of 4.8 percent over last year.

NACE says the final salary report for the Class of 2002 will be published in September. But it's unlikely that it will show a reversal in the trend toward lower salaries, according to Mackes. "Now the question is, Will this trend continue with the Class of 2003?" says Mackes.


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