College Graduates Are Expecting To Make $84,000, Report Says Reality Is $55,000

College Graduates Are Expecting To Make $84,000, Report Says Reality Is $55,000

college graduates

Students cheer as President Barack Obama delivers the commencement speech at Howard University graduation, May 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Despite a hot labor market and record-high job openings, college graduates could experience a rude awakening after stepping off the stage of their commencement ceremonies when it comes to salary expectations versus reality.

The average starting salary for recent graduates is $55,911 but today’s undergraduates expect to make $84,855 one year after graduation — a difference of nearly $30,000, according to a survey of college students by Real Estate Witch, part of real estate site Clever, in March.

Salaries have increased by 4.5 percent since December 2020 — the largest increase since 1983 — with starting salaries increasing 8 percent in the last five years alone.

The strength of the economy, boosted by a job market recovering from the covid pandemic, has likely inspired unrealistic salary expectations that will leave students disappointed, wrote Jaime Dunaway-Seale for Clever, a real estate education platform for home buyers, sellers, and investors. 

Real Estate Witch asked 1,000 undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree across all majors and institutions about their financial situation, college experience, and the job market. Respondents overestimated their starting salaries by 88 percent. Faced with reality, nearly one in three undergrads (31 percent) think they won’t make enough money to live comfortably after graduation.

expected salaries
EXPECTED AVERAGE SALARY VERSUS ACTUAL MEDIAN EARLY CAREER SALARY Source: Zippia, https://www.zippia.com/advice/average-starting-salary-out-of-college-statistics/

Black Americans Have the Highest Mortality Rates But Lowest Levels of Life Insurance
Are you prioritizing your cable entertainment bill over protecting and investing in your family?
Smart Policies are as low as $30 a month, No Medical Exam Required
Click Here to Get Smart on Protecting Your Family and Loves Ones, No Matter What Happens

Zoomers — members of Generation Z who were born in the late 1990s and early 2000 — say they won’t work for less than $72,580 on average at their first job.

However, faced with reality, 97 percent of undergrads say they would accept less money if the job came with other perks. But with student loan debt and inflation, students say they can’t afford reduce their salary expectations significantly.

While high salary expectations are common among students of all majors, those studying journalism, psychology, and liberal arts are the most likely to overestimate the value of their degrees, according to the survey results. Journalism students especially are the most delusional, expecting $107,040 one year after they graduate — 139 percent more than the median journalist’s starting salary.

By contrast, computer science majors have the most realistic expectations, overestimating their starting salary by 27 percent.

The disconnect between perception and reality gets worse as time passes. Ten years into their careers, students expect they’ll be making more than $204,560. That’s way more than the average mid-career salary of $98,647, according to Glassdoor.

Here are more statistics on average and median starting salaries for recent college graduates, according to online recruitment service provider Zippia:

  • Computer science majors have the highest average starting salary of all degree programs, at $75,900.
  • The median starting salary for college graduates is $47,000.
  • A person with a bachelor’s degree earns 75 percent more than they would have with only a high school diploma.
  • Female students expect to earn an average of about $4,300 less than men each year.
  • This is especially true in political science and economics, with women expecting to earn about $48,500 out of college and men expecting to earn about $74,000.
  • There are several majors where women anticipate that they’ll earn more than men: nursing, physical or life sciences, computer science, communications/journalism, humanities/liberal arts/English/philosophy/history

Despite new graduates receiving the highest starting salary on record, 79 percent of undergraduates think they deserve more money, according to the survey results.

Here are more statistics on student expectations from Real Estate Witch:

  • Nearly 3 in 4 students (72 percent) think majoring in a high-demand field will guarantee them a job immediately after graduation.
  • 61 percent of students don’t think they need to build their resume because their degree alone will be enough to impress employers.
  • 61 percent of students think they won’t have to work entry-level jobs because employers will see their potential and offer them senior-level positions right away.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 students (62 percent) think their social life in college is more important than their academic life.
  • Two-thirds of students (67 percent) think college tuition is too expensive, and 89 percent will graduate with some student loan debt.
  • 80 percent of undergrads felt obligated to attend college, but 40 percent regret it.