Average starting salaries for job seekers with undergraduate degrees vary widely depending on the field of study. The factors that go into a recent graduate's starting salary include the college major, the type of employment obtained post-graduation and the kind of institution the graduate goes to work for--a private company or firm, local or federal government, or a non-profit organisation.
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Majors and Degrees
In the job market, a recent graduate's major greatly impacts his starting salary. Social science majors such as psychology and sociology fell on the lower end of the pay scale with salaries in the £19,500 range in 2009. Engineering degrees such as chemical engineering and computer science placed graduates near the top at close to £39,000. Majors such as information technology, marketing and architecture tended to fall in the middle with salaries between £26,000 and £32,500.
Jobs With Top Starting Salaries
On average, engineers are the best compensated in their starting salary. On the very top are those who obtained degrees in aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, and computer engineering and started their careers in 2009 with average starting salaries between £35,750 and £38,350. Meanwhile, degrees in physics, computer science, nursing and economics hover near the top of the pay spectrum at salaries in the low £32,500 range in 2009.
Jobs in the Middle of the Pay Scale
Most degrees generally fall in the wide span of the middle of the pay spectrum. General non-engineering-based sciences such as chemistry, geology and biology majors find themselves in this area of the pay scale with average starting salaries of between £26,000 and £29,250 in 2009, as well as those with business degrees such as accounting, finance, and business management who earned between £29,250 and £32,500. Other majors that land in this range include international relations, architecture, environmental science and medical technology.
Jobs at the Lower End of the Pay Scale
Majors in social sciences and humanities tend to fall at the bottom of the pay scale including those with degrees in psychology, sociology, history and art, who typically earn just over £19,500 starting off in 2009. Communications and related majors join them, including those with degrees in English and journalism. Some professional degrees such as education and social work also fall in this area.
Types of Positions by Salary
While the subject of study has a great deal of influence, the actual post-graduation position significantly impacts that salary. The type of job a person lands often correlates to his major. Chemical engineering jobs, for example, are only offered to those with degrees in chemical engineering. A degree in social work is mostly likely to lead to a career as a social worker. However, many positions are flexible in the types of education they require. A paralegal might have a degree in history or something else largely unrelated, just as many social science majors go into banking. The ability to land a position outside a particular field of study depends on the level of specific skill required for the job and the amount of on-the-job training the employer offers.
Types of Employment by Salary
Those going to work in a private industry usually make a larger starting salary than those who take jobs with non-profit. Federal employees also tend to earn a greater beginning salary than those who go to work for a municipal government or non-profit. Choosing what type of institution, whether it is a large company, a small firm, any level of government or a non-profit, can help in determining what the starting salary will be regardless of major. For example, a finance major who works at a major bank on Wall Street will likely make significantly more--as much as £87,100 in 2009-- than one who works for a small town government, who made between £22,750 and £35,750 in 2009.
Another consideration for recent college grads is the rate at which their starting salary will increase, which varies by field. A college graduate with a degree in economics or math, for example, will more likely see his salary double by mid-career than someone with a degree in business.
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