Most lucrative college degrees
The Class of 2004 is faring well, with a special nod to the English majors.
By Deshundra Jefferson, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - You worked hard to earn that degree and found a job. But how does your pay compare to that of your peers?

The class of 2004 has fared well as starting salaries for most majors surpassed their 2003 levels, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

"This was the first year that we started to see more increases overall and they were consistent throughout all four reports," says Andrea Koncz, a spokesperson with NACE. The group issues a salary survey each quarter, with the final one each year released in September.

Engineering majors are seeing the most cash -- though with narrow percentage changes from last year -- led by gains from chemical engineering graduates, who now earn $52,539 a year on average, up 0.3 percent from a year earlier. Computer engineering graduates follow closely behind with $51,297, a 0.1 percent decrease from last year.

Those graduating with a degree in computer science are seeing heartier increases. According to NACE, information sciences and systems grads earn $42,375 a year on average. That's up 10.7 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, computer science graduates make $49,036 a year, a gain of 4.1 percent.

If those numbers sound enticing, it's probably because computer science graduates are long overdue for a pay increase.

"They haven't seen an increase since 2001 and this is the first year, in all four reports, that they showed an increase," Koncz says. "With the economy coming back, they are just starting to regain the ground lost in those two years."

Business majors are also doing well. Business administration and economics/finance graduates received a 6.2 percent and a 3 percent boost in average pay to $38,254 and $40,630, respectively. The average starting salary for marketing grads jumped 2 percent to $34,712 and 1 percent to $41,058 for accounting majors.

Liberal arts graduates, as a whole, still occupy the lower rungs of the pay scale, but are now earning $30,212, a 3.7 percent year-over-year increase.

Starting pay for English majors rose to $31,113, up 8.1 percent; political science majors got a 3.6 percent increase to $32,296. Psychology majors enjoyed a 2 percent increase with entry-level salaries averaging $28,230.

Overall, 66 percent of the disciplines surveyed reported an increase in pay compared to 49 percent this time last year.

While that's good news for most graduates, some professions just haven't kept pace. On the down side, entry-level pay for industrial and manufacturing engineers eased 2.2 percent to $46,036 and starting salaries for history majors fell 4.8 percent to $30,344. Top of page

--The original version of this story was published on July 27, 2004.