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  • Salary Projections Dip for Most Class of 2020 Advanced Degree Grads

    January 23, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    A group of master's degree graduates smile on graduation day.

    TAGS: compensation, salaries, surveys, nace insights

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    The projected starting salaries for Class of 2020 advanced degree graduates are mostly down from the projections for their Class of 2019 counterparts, according to results of the Winter 2020 Salary Survey.

    Three of the four reported categories of Class of 2020 master’s degree graduates are projected to receive lower starting salaries. This comes in contrast to the projections for Class of 2019 master’s degree graduates, who had three of their four reported categories earning higher projected salaries. (See Figure 1.) Additionally, the increases last year were on the large side, ranging from 8.5 percent to 10.9 percent.

    Class of 2020 computer science graduates earning master’s degrees are expected to be the highest paid, with an overall salary projection of $79,793. This is down 2.1 percent from last year’s projected average salary.

    Master’s degree graduates in math and sciences have an average salary projection that is a close second to that of computer science graduates. Their overall salary projection currently stands at $79,717 and is 5.3 percent higher than the projection for their Class of 2019 counterparts.

    Engineering graduates earning master’s degrees were projected to be the highest-paid majors for the Class of 2019. This is not true for the Class of 2020, as their projected average of $77,298 is 6.4 percent lower than last year.

    While Class of 2020 master’s graduates earning degrees in business fall last on the list of top-paid majors, they have an average projected salary of $75,197, which is only 2.8 percent lower than last year’s salary projection.

    At the doctoral level, data are extremely limited and only allow for yearly comparisons in just two categories of majors. Both categories—math and sciences, and engineering—show slight movement in their average starting salary projections. (See Figure 2.)

    Math and sciences degrees top the short list of highest-paid doctoral degrees with an average salary projection of $103,083, which is up 2.1 percent over last year’s average projection.

    Meanwhile, the average salary projection for Class of 2020 graduates is down by 0.6 percent to $101,484.

    The Winter 2020 Salary Survey report contains annual salary projections for Class of 2020 college graduates. The figures reported are for base salaries only and do not include bonuses, commissions, fringe benefits, or overtime rates. The report provides the detailed salary projections by academic major and degree level, along with breakouts by both industry and geographic region. Data contained in the report were obtained by surveying NACE employer members from September 16, 2019, through December 2, 2019. A total of 134 surveys were returned—a 14.3 percent response rate. The Winter 2020 Salary Survey report is available to members in MyNACE. An executive summary report is available at

    Figure 1: Average salaries by discipline, master's degrees

    Broad Category 2020 Salary Projection 2019 Salary Projection  % change
    Computer Science $79,793 $81,466 -2.1%
    Math & Sciences $79,717 $75,737 5.3%
    Engineering $77,298 $82,589 -6.4%
    Business $75,197 $77,347 -2.8%
    Source: Winter 2020 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers

    Figure 2: Average salaries by discipline, doctoral degrees

    Broad Category 2020 Salary Projection 2019 Salary Projection

    % change

    Math & Sciences $103,083 $100,920 2.1%
    Engineering $101,484 $102,074 -0.6%
    Source: Winter 2020 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers
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