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Most lucrative college degrees
Newly minted electrical engineers can relax, even if their psychology-major friends may be sweating
May 9, 2003: 2:08 PM EDT
By Leslie Haggin Geary, CNN/Money Staff Writer

New York (CNN/Money) - When they entered college four years ago, their future job prospects looked bright. Now, college seniors who graduate this month are finding that the world outside the Ivory Tower has changed drastically.

Job offers are no longer abundant. And graduates, who once commanded high salaries, signing bonuses and other sweetheart deals before they signed on to a working gig, are learning to set their sights much lower.

"Graduates who haven't received full-time job offers are looking for other things like part-time employment," says Camille Luckenbaugh, spokesperson for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. "Some are willing to do unpaid internships to get their foot in the door of a company that may convert them to a full-time hire when things change."

When it comes to hiring, there's good news and bad. On one hand, employers are generally going to maintain the number of college grads they recruit to their payrolls from last year. On the other, companies slashed the number of college hires by 36 percent last year, according to Luckenbaugh.

Grads who are fortunate enough to be hired this year will find that roughly four out of 10 employers -- 44 percent -- will keep salary levels unchanged. For example, electrical engineering grads will typically be paid a starting salary of $50,566, up just 0.5% from last spring, NACE found.

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Five years ago, at the height of the Internet economy, business schools graduates emerged into a booming market of opportunities. CNNfn's J. J. Ramberg visits the fifth reunion of Stanford's MBA class of 1998 to see how her fellow graduates are faring.

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Nearly as many employers, 42 percent, are cutting salaries for new hires. Psychology majors, for example, may be shocked to learn that their average starting salary runs about $26,738, nearly 11 percent less than what they would have been offered a year ago.

Even grads with top-earning degrees -- such as computer science majors -- are seeing smaller pay offers. In general, these computer gurus are being offered starting pay of $46,536. That's among the most lucrative offers for any major but nearly an 8 percent cut from the average $50,352 that computer science majors earned after graduation last year.

With that in mind, parents who had hoped their children would move smoothly into lucrative jobs after college may need to adjust their expectations. Instead, some grads may need more loans -- or even free room and board -- from Mom and Dad to get by.

Luckenbaugh urges graduates, and college students, not to despair. After all, a college degree is worth something and the more education you have, the higher your salary tends to be.

That observation is borne out by government statistics, which show that the unemployment rate for adults over age 25 who have just a high school diploma runs 4.2 percent while their median weekly income hovers around $520. For college grads, unemployment levels have hit 2.3 percent on average with median income levels at $924.  Top of page

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