New Graduates Expect to Earn More in 2021

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Young students getting ready to enter the workforce during a global pandemic might be justified in felling that they got the short end of the stick. They had to transition to online learning, changing their university experience dramatically (while still paying full retail for college, in most cases.)

Their off-campus jobs disappeared during lockdown, and their social lives evaporated. They may have had loved ones become seriously ill and might have gotten sick themselves. Many suffered from mental health issues during the pandemic-induced isolation. They graduated in may cases without a ceremony and certainly without throwing big bashes to celebrate.

So I’m glad to read that there’s a silver lining for new graduates entering the workforce at a time like no other. A CNBC article says that students are optimistic about their future employment opportunities. 

“About 17% of students expect to earn more than $85,000 per year from their first job after graduation, according to a recent survey by AIG Retirement Services and EVERFI of over 20,000 college students nationwide. The $85,000 starting salary was the most common response from students.”

Computer Science majors expect to earn the most, and with technology at the forefront in workplace innovation, it’s not surprising to learn that these grads expect to earn more than those who graduated a year ago.  The average post-grad salary for those majoring in computer sciences in the Class of 2021 is $72,173, research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows. That’s a roughly 7% increase from last year’s estimate of $67,411 for those majors.

Prior to the pandemic, the average starting salary was $53,889 for those in the Class of 2019 earning a bachelor’s degree.

The aftereffects of the pandemic will probably increase the gap in job prospects and earnings between the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduates and those in the fine arts. Some economists are calling the post-pandemic recovery “K shaped” because the high earners will see things go up, and those at the middle and below are seeing things go down and get worse. (Visualize two diverging lines coming from the vertical line of the K. See what we did there?)

A significant number of students (39%) don’t expect COVID to affect their careers after graduation, which we hope is an accurate prediction. But those of us who lived through this extraordinary time got an education in more ways than one.

Workers at all levels saw how fragile the macro economy was, and how quickly industries and jobs could shrink, even disappear. Young graduates who develop good spending, saving, and financial discipline habits will be much better off throughout their peak earning years and less susceptible to sudden economic shocks.

They’ll also be more prepared for retirement, if that’s even a thing 40 or 50 years from now. Their early decisions will be the difference between whether they view their late careers as the spring of hope or the winter of despair.

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