College graduate starting salary - Top earners & their measures

This may interest people trying to pick their majors and don’t have a strong preference.

I was pleased but not particularly surprised to see applied mathematics on the list.

There was also no surprise seeing the word “engineering” occur eight times. This is probably about average for any list of the top 10 paying bachelor’s degrees.


It’s also not surprising that the list of national universities with the highest ROI offer most of those majors.

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I prefer to look at the source list rather than the article summarizing the source list. The article says it is based on Payscale, but the list doesn’t match Payscale’s one at The Highest-Paying Careers with a Bachelor's Degree for 2018 | PayScale . A huge number of majors are skipped over, and the specific numbers for the majors that are not skipped differ slightly. Payscale’s list is:

1 . EE + CS – $108k
2. Physicians Assistant – $96k
3. Petroleum Eng – $93k
4. Op Research + IE – $85k
5. Op Research – $84k
5. Nuclear Eng – $84k
7. Metal. Eng – $82k
8. CS + Business – $81k
9. ES Tech – $81k
9. Welding Eng – $81k


What’s the highest base starting salary you personally know of for an undergrad without any grad/professional degree or experience?

Not counting ones who get hired at their dad’s business empire.

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I am aware of kids walking away from Investment Banking full time offers of $95k plus $10k signing bonuses to pursue founders roles for start ups.

The asymmetric equity upside (vs a few years of lost wages at a young age) and independence far outweighs the base.

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i will say my S15’s GF earned a bachelors in finance and computer science from a midwest state school. she started at $110 plus $10K bonus 2 yrs ago at age 22 - in NYC. making more than that now; but of course she’s in NY. So that’s part of the equation.

I know of someone who got $70k coming out of Northeastern - this was to work at the TJX companies and wasn’t a finance position.

The going rate for IB is $100K+ packages. Some engineers can make more than that to start. But most of these students do have internship experience, for at least the summer prior to senior year (and some for the previous two summers as well).

To see the upper end you have to look at college first destination reports. For example, here is CMU’s, where a 2020 bachelor’s grad reported a $200K starting package (don’t know what major). The risk in the school based reports is that students self-report the data, so it could be inaccurate. Post-Graduation Outcomes - Career & Professional Development Center - Student Affairs - Carnegie Mellon University

As of this year, CS grads can make 100K base in NJ in the Banking industry.

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For clarity almost all of the bulge bracket and foreign investment banks offer comparable analyst pay packages so they can’t be shopped against one another.

This year typical base is $95k, sign on is $10k with $5k in relocation funds. Bonus eligible with typical proration given start day and performance. Typical total first year comp $130-$150k.

After becomes more subjective as kids move from analyst training to permanent positions and group, team and individual performance play more of a factor.


MBB consulting base is $100k regardless of city. We are in DFW and DD will be living at home (because she wants to), has no debt and a paid off car, so will be able to save almost all of her income.


I know two software engineers (friends of my son), who made well north of $100K when hired. Both are above $150K two years in.

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You are right about credibility of self reported as $200K doesn’t sound right at all.
I suppose less than 1-2% percent of all fresh undergrads earn >$100K starting base.

Those that do are engineers and SEs in CA.

There could be $200k outliers with signing bonuses and substantial work achievements before graduating. But they are not the norm.

The College Scorecard medians may represent more realistic targets. While they only cover graduates who used federal financial aid as students, that may mean that most of the already-well-connected graduates are removed from the pool, so they may be more realistic for the unconnected student or graduate.

My D is a chem e. Her co-op company pays mid $70s plus covers relocation and housing costs during their rotational program. After the two year rotational program, salaries jump to $105K (but no more housing allowance, just relo costs).
The company H works for has a similar compensation structure for their new engineers (mostly chem es or materials) and D’s friends are reporting similar offers. Mostly low cost of living, mid west locations too.


Both myself and my son (who is a college senior) know students who have received packages (not just salaries) north, and in a few cases, well north of $200k. They’re in select sectors of either high finance or high tech.


May be a higher package but we were talking about base salaries and if anyone gets $200K per year base salary as a fresh graduate, hoping to see it in news to know unicorn’s secret. Not even surgeons get it until after 10+ years schooling/training slavery after undergrad.

Most non-EE/CS engineering majors in the RDU area that I know of make between $55-75K starting salaries plus a small bonus $3-5K. These are typically NCSU engineering kids with internship experience only. Starting at 6 figures total compensation is quite common for CS/CE majors in the area.