College graduates’ salaries

Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov, Ph.D. student Computer Science

In this post we look into ACS PUMS data to see what the average salary is for college graduates throughout different majors. We have selected respondents aged between 25 and 65 years that hold at least a bachelor’s degree and are currently employed. Below you can see a bar chart of the mean salary.

Graduates with Engineering, Biology and Physical science degrees have the top three salaries among all graduates, with engineers earning as high as $95,000 per year. The last place is divided between Fine Arts, Cosmetology and Culinary majors, who earn about $46,000 a year. It was not surprising that STEM (Science, Technology and Engineering and Math) graduates’ salaries are higher, although inside this group there are some interesting relations.

The Computer and Information Technology filed has extensively grown in the past decades as more occupations continue to emerge in the market. Considering the billions of dollars in IT companies’ revenue, one might expect CS and IT graduates to receive one of the highest salaries. According to our data, this is only partially true: Computer and Information Systems graduates earn about $80,000, which puts them in fifth place, but lower than “classic” STEM graduates of Math, Physics, Biology and Engineering.

One common challenge for new graduates is the difference between education in academia and a real job in the field. Many choose to switch their field at some point of their career. Next we will see how income differs for graduates working in the same field as their degree and those who decided to follow a different career path. Since the number of different occupation titles is significantly larger than the number of degree titles, we decided to examine only a few majors. For these it was easier to tell if the person remained in the field of their first degree.

For most degrees the salaries are very close. An interesting situation arises for Biology, Agriculture, Construction and Psychology: the average salary is higher for those who don’t work in the field! While this may be due to the imperfection of our procedure to match degrees and occupations “in the field,” we decided to investigate it further. It turns out that Biology & Agriculture majors prefer jobs in the Healthcare system, among other fields. Their earnings are higher in the Healthcare and Legal occupations.

To conclude our post, we note that according to our findings, only 30 percent of workers stay in the field of their first degree.  On average, people working outside their field of study have a 5 percent higher salary: $72,000 versus $68,000 per year.

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About Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov, Ph.D. student Computer Science

Alexander is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science. He currently holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Applied Math. He has experience working for industry major companies performing research in the fields of machine learning, data mining and natural language processing. In his free time, Alexander enjoys hiking, Nordic skiing and traveling.

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