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Most lucrative college degrees
Latest survey on hiring and starting salaries finds there may be more in '04 for many college grads.
February 5, 2004: 3:30 PM EST
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) The job market may not be booming. But for many in the college class of 2004, it won't be quite as dismal as it was for last year's grads.

That's the preliminary conclusion of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which released its latest quarterly starting-salary survey on Thursday.

It's still early days for most college seniors on the hunt for a job. Only a small number of students typically have full-time job offers in hand halfway through their senior year. And the number of offers covered in NACE's winter survey is a small percentage of the offers covered in its fall survey, which reflects hiring through the previous August.

Still, NACE thinks there's reason for cautious optimism.

On balance, employers said they expect college-grad hires to be up 12.7 percent from last year, which is the first hiring increase in two years, said NACE spokesperson Camille Luckenbaugh.

Based on the 2,300 offers covered in the current survey, more disciplines were reporting increases in starting salaries. Only a third of disciplines are seeing starting salaries drop, compared with nearly half at the same time last year.

Major dollars

Majors in computer engineering and chemical engineering top the list of most lucrative college degrees. Average starting salaries for computer engineers reached $53,117, up very slightly from their levels at this time last year. Starting salaries for chemical engineers, meanwhile, rose 2.5 percent to $52,563.

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Starting salaries for those who major in civil engineering and electrical engineering still compare favorably with those of most other majors, but both experienced modest declines compared with last year.

For the first time since 2001, employers reported increases in starting salary offers to students in computer science, information sciences and systems, and management information systems.


The average offer for computer science majors rose 8.9 percent to $48,656; and more than half the offers surveyed topped $50,000.

Information sciences grads had an average starting salary of $42,108, up 2.6 percent from last year, while management information systems grads have seen starting salaries average $41,103, up a modest 1.3 percent.

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Meanwhile, liberal arts majors still rank on the low-end of the salary scale, although as a group, the average starting offer rose 3.5 percent to $30,153.

Many psychology majors aren't as likely to see that kind of paycheck, however. Their starting salary average fell 8 percent to $25,032.  Top of page

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