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February 19, 2002
College Grads Facing Lower Salaries
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The jobs awaiting this spring's college graduates are not only fewer but also lower paying, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

In its current issue of Salary Survey, NACE reports on how the slumping economy has affected the earning potential of the Class of 2002.

"Starting salaries may look encouraging for graduates in certain fields," says Camille Luckenbaugh, NACE employment information manager. "But it's important to keep in mind that overall college hiring is down about 20 percent from last year."

Accounting graduates, the only group within the business disciplines to post an increase in salary offers, are entertaining average offers of $40,174 - an increase of 3.7 percent over last January. They have accounting services firms to thank for providing many of the opportunities available to them.

Conversely, business administration grads have been hit extremely hard by the sluggish economy, as their average offer dropped 9.1 percent to $32,994. To date, management trainee positions account for most of their offers. Even management information systems (MIS) graduates, the technical gurus of the business disciplines, have experienced a drop of 4.2 percent (to $42,983) in this year's salary offers versus last year's. They are still being courted for technical positions (largely in systems analysis and design and systems engineering) but not with the ardor of recent years.

Computer science graduates, who have commanded top dollar over the past few years, are facing a drop in salary by a mere three-tenths of 1 percent. While they may be experiencing a somewhat tighter job market, they continue to be one of the highest paid disciplines, their average salary offer is currently $51,429.

By comparison, information sciences and systems graduates took a fairly big hit as their average offer dropped 5.4 percent over last year, down to an average of $41,877.

Within the engineering disciplines, some graduates have enjoyed increases in their salary offers, but others have not, making for a wash. Chemical engineering graduates, for example, are receiving a 1.2 percent increase in salary offers (they now average $52,166), while computer engineering grads are facing a 1.8 percent drop (they now average $52,490). The most plentiful positions for chemical engineering grads are in process engineering and research engineering, while graduates with degrees in computer engineering are most in demand for software design jobs.

Civil engineering grads, who continue to work their way up the salary range, saw their offers rise to 40,380, an increase of 1.3 percent (the highest increase among the engineering disciplines). Engineering services firms extended most of the offers to them. Mechanical engineering grads also posted an ever-so-slight increase (eight-tenths of 1 percent) that raised their average offer to $48,733. Transportation equipment manufacturers and engineering services firms have been busy recruiting them, as have employers offering positions in the fields of design or project engineering.

"Economic recovery may be imminent, but many employers tell us they are not convinced," Luckenbaugh says. "They plan to wait and see if the economy turns the corner before recruiting new graduates or increasing their salary offers to them."


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