Average Starting College Graduate Salary – How Much Do New College Graduates Make?

Often the dream of a parent to see their child have a college diploma, more and more people are worried about the value of a bachelor’s degree. What do they make, and what do they have to do to get there? Can we even afford college anymore? Here, we take a look at what you can make as a new college graduate , and what you can do to become a college graduate in the first place.

Average Salary for New College Graduates – $49,780

For the 2017 year, the average college grad can expect about a $50,000 job coming right out of the campus. However, one should take this number with a great deal of salt. A diploma alone won’t secure this sort of salary in many cases, as there are many other factors to take into account.

The first and perhaps most important to determine your earnings is what major you graduated with. It is well known that someone with a Sociology degree or Education degree will likely not make as a much as entry level Engineers or Biomedical graduates. While it is encouraged that one follows their passions, if you are in it for the money, and can handle the work load, a STEM career on average lands far better pay than most other fields, with some Computer Science and Engineering grads netting almost $100,000 out the gate, more than most other fields will make even with 20 years experience.

The next largest factor in terms of earnings is internships and jobs while in school. It’s no secret that internships (though often and in my opinion, unfairly unpaid) can help land you a job after graduation and usually with a decent bump to salary. Working in a related field can also be helpful. One good example is if going into the Biomedical or Nursing fields, working as a CNA or Medical Scribe may not only help cover textbooks, but also get you some field experience that gives you a step up over other students. I would recommend checking out your local university or college’s career center to see if there are any local opportunities that you can work in.

Lastly, school choice can factor into salary quite a bit as well. A degree from Harvard or Yale may net you a better salary than a bachelor’s from a community college in the same field. This is because of the prestige that comes with the degree, and the amount of leverage it grants you in salary discussion at the interview. While it may at times be an unfair judgement call, it is often assumed that the Ivy League schools churn out better performers on the whole, and thus can be trusted with better results. However, this can be over taken with sufficient work experience or extra certifications in related fields which can be done on the cheap as “add-ons” to your current degree.

How to Become a College Graduate

Now, we all know more or less the single most traditional way of getting into college. Graduate High School, kill the ACT and SAT, apply everywhere, hope you get in to a 4 year University, study, pay a lot of money and graduate again. Easy, right? Well, not always. And this certainly isn’t the only method. Let’s take a look at the branching paths that can still lead you to graduate college even if one of these steps didn’t work out so well for you.

What can you do if you fail or drop out of high school? Well, though years ago this may have been a nail in the coffin of earnings, now you can work around it though it’s not easy. First, look up to see what the GED requirements are for your state if you are in the United States, or the equivalent testing is for your country. Some, but not all have an age requirement of between 17 and 25, though exceptions can be made. Next, study for the equivalence exam to get a GED that will be one of the key parts of your application package.

Next, what if you failed the ACT or SAT exams? Well, that’s unfortunate but again not a death sentence. You can either take the other exam (which I personally did, taking both before finding the results of each other) or retake the exam that you had failed. Keep in mind that most colleges will accept one or the other without an issue, but “hiding” results may harm your application. There are plenty of online resources nowadays to study from, and it’s encouraged to get a good grip on the topics before going into the test.

Now, what if you are worried about the financials of college? Well, there are again several options that can reduce the weight of loans or upfront costs, several of which I will mention as options I wish I had taken myself. The first is, if you are still in high school and have the academic ability, enroll in AP or dual enrollment classes. I myself took a handful of AP classes and one dual enrollment class in high school, and can say they are not much harder than an honors class. Unlike honors however, they give you college credits for cheap. As a result of them, I was able to get about 12 college credits towards my degree before graduating high school for under $300, a killer deal by any stretch of the meaning. However, others have been able to essentially get their associates at time of high school graduation, saving time and money. This will however cut into your social life, so if that matters, AP classes are a go-to. There are options of funding for low income students that should be explored too, if you qualify.

Another key financial consideration is In-State versus Scholarships. In my specific case, I was offered an out of state scholarship for $30,000, or an In-State tuition. Looking back, the choice should have been obvious. Many Universities offer higher tuitions to out of state students (which negated the $30,000 quickly) and ultimately, the move may not be worth it. Lastly, consider getting your associates at a community college and then moving up into a 4 year degree for extra savings. This also makes a GED recipient a good University prospect.

Now, say you’ve done all the above and you’re finally in a University. Now, you have two choices. You can work for what pays, or do what you love. If you’re lucky, they are one in the same, but if not, a Double Major or Major Minor combo with the bread earner up top may be your best bet. But don’t take my word as gospel, it’s your life after all. Regardless though, study and do your best. Time management and performance can help you graduate and get a fine job, hopefully one even above the average mentioned above.

One final note from someone who’s graduate college, and is now in Graduate School. Do not give up on what you want to do. Explore, but do not be afraid of failure. There is no real exact timeline to graduation, only what you are willing to make up for. And while there may be many who want you to pick a certain path, if you cannot look yourself in the mirror after changing paths, then go back and change it back if you can manage. At the end of the day, that diploma will have your name on it; Be proud of that, and what major is selected underneath.

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Cody Carmichael
University graduate in Psychology, and health worker. On my off time I'm usually tinkering with tech or traveling to the ends of the globe.