Personal Finance 

2008 Best Paying Jobs for Graduates

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Graduation CakeEvery year, around this time of college graduation, various media outlets report the average salaries various college graduates and this year is no different. CNN and Careerbuilder are reporting, based on National Association of Colleges and Employers data, that salaries are up 4% this year compared to last year and hiring is expected to increase 8%. Take that recession! (cynics will say that employers are hiring cheaper graduates and dumping the more expensive seasoned employees!)

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Once again, technical degrees dominate the list of high increases with computer science majors (yay!) seeing a 7.9% increase and other engineering grads seeing a 5.7% boost. As an aside, my wife always told me that computer science “isn’t engineering,” to which I responded with – “you’re a manager, so you’re not an engineer either!” (then she tells me “at least I have a job,” which pretty much ends the conversation because I stuff a sock in her mouth – just kidding, I love you honey :))

Also not surprising, given the high cost of oil, is that chemical engineers once again are number one (my wife was a chemical engineering graduate). For as long as I’ve been reading these types of articles, it seems like chemical engineers have been consistently in the top spot for highest starting salaries. One thing they don’t talk about is that the highest paying chemical engineering jobs involve long stints on rigs in the middle of the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. However, if I was a high school graduate thinking about potential degrees, I think you can’t go wrong by going engineering, of any kind, or computer science (even given the ~4 year lead time until you graduate college).

Here’s the full list with year over year increase:

  • Chemical Engineering – $63,749 (+6.2%)
  • Computer Science – $56,921 (+7.9%)
  • Electrical Engineering – $56,512 (+3.5%)
  • Mechanical Engineering – $56,429 (+3.4%)
  • Economics – $52,926
  • Nursing – $52,129
  • Chemistry – $52,125
  • Civil Engineering – $49,427 (+4.8%)
  • Finance – $48,795 (+1.9%)
  • Accounting – $47,413 (+1.9%)
  • Business Administration, Management – $43,823 (+<1.0%)
  • Marketing – $43,459 (+5.2%)
  • Political science/government – $43,594
  • Human resources – $40,250
  • History – $35,956
  • Communications – $35,196
  • English language and literature – $34,757
  • Journalism – $32,250
  • Psychology – $30,877
  • Public relations/organizational communications – $30,667

(photo by CarbonNYC)

{ 12 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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12 Responses to “2008 Best Paying Jobs for Graduates”

  1. Trent Hamm says:

    Cynics always say “employers are hiring cheaper graduates and dumping the more expensive seasoned employees” even when the economy is booming. The truth is that employers are ALWAYS looking for the best people – they’ll pay more for a person that does their share and will be looking to toss a person who is dead weight, no matter what.

  2. jim says:

    My personal take is that a business will hire someone if they can, through company resources, earn more than they cost in salary/benefits/etc.

  3. Tom says:

    I agree… Chemical Engineers make bank.

    When I graduated, if you went to work for an oil company on a rig (or in a horrible location like Siberia), not only do you get 2.5x your base salary (which in 2005 was $60K), you also work on the rig for a month, then 2 weeks off, work a month, 2 weeks off.

    I hear the work can suck, but it’s unlike anything you’ll ever do again.

  4. Lily says:

    Looks like the finance category (1) conflates investment banking and management consulting with other financial jobs and (2) does not include bonuses, which, while not necessarily predictable, should not be ignored. Investment banking first-year analysts, who are almost all new grads, can expect $60,000 in salary at the bigger firms and probably six-figure in total compensation. I think last year the average compensation was $120,000 – $150,000 for first years at the big firms (Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Citi, etc.). You also get $25 per diem for dinner, because 99% of the time you’ll be in the office until well after dinner time. Nice health and retirement packages.

    Of course, the lifestyle sucks. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a way better paying job than chemical engineering.

  5. Jason says:

    I doubt that 90% of chem e’s ever go to a “rig”. Most rig people are petro eng’s. Most chem e’s go to processing facilities or offices. Many of the processing facilities are refineries or chemical plants in not nice places like Nigeria or Borger, TX (been to Borger, don’t want to return, and I live in Houston). But many of the processing facilities are in okay places like San Francisco area or Rotterdam.

    As always, and speaking from experience, remember that many engineering jobs start out high and only slowly move up. Currently, the raises are nice for engineers due to demand and the busy project era we are in. But I have had years with 0-1% raises. Still, my average is 7-8%.

  6. Adam (golferadam) says:

    nice to see ChEs at the top…

  7. Frugal Finances says:

    Law and Medicine didn’t even make the list?

  8. Austin says:

    @ Frugal Finances

    That is because both Law and Medicine usually require additional professional training beyond college. This list is focusing on best paying jobs for ONLY college graduates.

    Personally, I think a more interesting study would be a breakdown of the typical costs and time commitments for different jobs.

    For anyone interested a useful resource is the Occupational Outlook Handbook which is produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  9. Aaron says:

    I am a union pipefitter who makes 40-50k annually at 40 hours per week. I have collegues who work 10 or 12 hour days 6-7 days a week and bring in 150,000 a year. In construction with no college.

    • OK says:

      Yes – you are a pipefitter. Makes decent pay but honestly isn’t something I want to do the rest of my life.

      We become engineers because we love the work – not the pay. And most (good) engineers who have 8-10 years in a company should be coming up on $100k.

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