March 2013

Starting salaries for college grads jump; health benefits less important, according to new NACE studies

College graduates with bachelor’s degrees are landing higher starting salaries than their 2011 counterparts, according to the 2012 salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The average starting salary is $44,455, up from $42,987 in 2011.

Average starting salaries increased 3.4 percent overall. Six of the eight major disciplines highlighted by NACE saw increases of nearly four percent or higher in 2012. In comparison, 2011’s average increase was 2.3 percent—with only one discipline in the same group seeing an increase of four percent or more.

Education majors saw the highest increase in average starting pay (5.4 percent, to $40,668). Business (4.2 percent, to $53,900) and communications (4.1 percent, to $43,717) rounded out the top three gainers in 2012.

In Texas, the average starting pay for teachers is $36,352, up 1.6 percent from 2011–12, according to the 2012–13 TASB/TASA Salaries and Wages in Texas Public School survey. Districts with 10,000 or more students pay an average starting salary of $44,359.

The recent trend in rising entry-level salaries is a good sign for new college graduates. According to NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes, “We’ve seen a steady increase in the average starting salary for bachelor’s degree graduates over the past two years, indicating improvement in the job market for college graduates.“

In addition to the salary survey, NACE conducts an annual student survey, measuring other career and employment related issues for graduating seniors. The results of the latest student survey revealed that annual salary increases ranked as the most preferred benefit an employer can provide to job-seeking new college grads.

Health care benefits, which have ranked in the top spot in past surveys, landed fourth on the list in the new survey. Mackes indicated the change was likely due to the federal Affordable Care Act, which allows graduates to stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26 years old.

 A 401(k) company match and tuition reimbursement rated as the second and third most preferred benefits, respectively.

NACE collected data for the January 2013 Salary Survey in November 2012. The data reflects the final results for the class of 2012. The NACE 2012 Student Survey was conducted February through April of 2012 and included graduates who applied for a job.