Salaries for Class of 2021 Moving Upward



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

The average starting salary for all categories of majors in the class of 2021 should be higher than previous years. That’s the finding of a new research study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).  But, the study also reveals some of the increases will be rather small.  

NACE bases its salary forecast on a national survey of employers that was conducted from September 14 through November 30, 2020.  A total of 139 surveys were completed. The figures reported are for base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits, or overtime rates.  NACE also acknowledges the limitations of its study; in some of the majors, projected increases look high but are based on limited data.

NACE forecasts the highest starting salaries for computer sciences at more than $72,000, an increase of 7% over what was projected for the class of 2020.  Research indicated the biggest increases of 11% for the humanities category with an average starting salary of $59,500.   Much smaller increases are forecast in engineering, math & science, and business. Full results of the NACE study are in this table.

NACE Salaries


The director of the UofL University Career Center, Bill Fletcher, expects entry-level salaries in this region to be lower than national averages due to the lower cost of living in the area.  Fletcher said, "Averages are just that, averages. Some offers are higher, some lower. What is more important is the cost of living.  An offer of $45,000 in Kentuckiana has a lot more buying power that the same offer in the Northeast or West Coast."

NACE said it is important to note that although each broad academic category in its study are projected with increases, that is not the case for all academic majors within each category.  For example, while the overall average salary for the math and sciences category is expected to increase 1.3%, chemistry majors, who fall into this category, are projected to see their average salary drop 3% while math majors are expected to move upward by 4.5%.

NACE also makes it a point to suggest the strong benefit of any college degree when it comes to employment.  It cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2020 that indicate a 10.2% unemployment rate for high school graduates, an 8.8% rate for those with some college but no degree, and a significantly lower 5.1% unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.