Will New College Grads Really Make $50K Salaries This Year?

Tim Sackett

I graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in education. I thought I was going to change the world as a male elementary education teacher. One of my professors told us that 50 percent of us would never work in education.

I thought that was insane. Why would I send four-ish years going to college to not work in my chosen profession!? Turns out, he was right. After student teaching, I ditched my grand plans on changing America’s youth, and took a job as an entry-level recruiter making $20,000 per year.

$20,000 seemed like a lot of money, plus I could make commission. My hope was I could clear $30,000 in my first year, buy a new Saturn, a pair of Air Jordans and one of those new fancy “car phones”!  Oh, those were the days!

CareerBuilder recently released their College Hiring Outlook survey about how the job market will be this year for new college graduates. One part I found fascinating was what employers expect to pay new grads for their first job. Can you guess what the average is?

If you asked the college students, most would say they expect to make “at least” $50,000 upon graduation. With the massive amount of college loan debt they’ll be dragging along with them to that first entry level job, I don’t blame them.

$50,000. Does that sound realistic? Are you going to be paying these grads $50,000?

Here’s what the survey said:

  • Will pay under $30,000: 25 percent
  • $30,000 to less than $40,000: 28 percent
  • $40,000 to less than $50,000: 20 percent
  • $50,000 and higher: 27 percent


So, basically, 75 percent of new grads will actually make less than $50,000. That actually seems more realistic to me. Fifty percent will make under $40,000, which makes even more sense. I hear from engineering and IT grads who are expecting $65,000+, accounting grads expecting $55,000+, and health care professionals expecting $50,000+. And these are for undergraduate degrees!

Which kids are getting the under $40,000? Those with majors like business, marketing, human resources, education, social sciences, and liberal arts; basically, the majority of college students. For some reason, it’s still hard to talk kids into going into a profession where people are actually hiring. But, the economics of it will always level this out.

I’ll hire at least 4-5 entry-level recruiters this year in my company, fresh out of school, with various degrees, all of whom will make at least $45,000 in their first year. Probably $55-65K their second year. Yet, not one of them will have a degree in recruiting because no college offers a degree in recruiting. Yet, employers around the world are begging for recruiting talent.

With $50,000 being this magic salary number for new grads, you may be wondering where that number came from. You can probably guess: The average cost of one year of college is currently running $24,000-$32,000 (depending whether it is public or private).

How do you sell an education that is going to run $100,000+ for four years? You make students believe the average starting salary will be $50,000+! It’s not reality, but when you only give high school students three options upon leaving — college, military or prison — most are going to choose college and massive debt.

What did you budget for new hire entry-level grad salaries for 2016? Hit me in the comments. I want to hear what this will look like from industry to industry, and across different parts of the country.

Click below to get the salary trends report:

Your Guide to Understanding Salary Trends

Previous Article
Hiring Summer Workers for Your Small Business? Go About It the Right Way
Hiring Summer Workers for Your Small Business? Go About It the Right Way

Companies that experience significant seasonal fluctuations often benefit from hiring temporary workers dur...

Next Article
Findings from CareerBuilder’s College Hiring Forecast
Findings from CareerBuilder’s College Hiring Forecast

Get the latest insight into what to expect from this year's college graduates and how hiring trends may shift.


Get the latest hiring trends delivered to your inbox.

More resources headed your way!
Error - something went wrong!