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Recent Engineering and Computer Science Graduates Continue to Earn the Highest Salaries
NSF 06-303 | December 2005 | PDF format PDF format  

Data from the National Science Foundation's 2003 National Survey of Recent College Graduates (NSRCG) reveal patterns and trends in the employment of recent graduates who received bachelor's or master's degrees in science, engineering, or health fields. Data were collected between October 2003 and June 2004 and included bachelor's and master's graduates who received science, engineering, or health degrees between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2002. Survey results on salaries, full-time employment status, full-time student status, employment in science, engineering, or health occupations, and employment sector of these graduates (hereafter, recent graduates) are highlighted here.

Salaries

Among those employed full time, median annual salaries for electrical/computer engineering graduates and chemical engineering graduates were the highest at the bachelor's degree level (table 1), and industrial engineering and electrical/computer engineering graduates were the highest at the master's degree level (table 2). Among recent bachelor's degree recipients, median annual salaries in October 2003 were $53,000 for graduates with degrees in electrical/computer engineering or chemical engineering, compared with $36,000 for all science, engineering, and health graduates (table 1). Among recent master's degree recipients, median annual salaries in October 2003 were $71,000 for graduates with degrees in industrial engineering and $70,000 for graduates with degrees in electrical/computer engineering, compared with $52,000 for all science, engineering, or health master's graduates (table 2). Among science graduates, the median annual salaries of computer science graduates were the highest. Computer science graduates with bachelor's degrees earned a median annual salary of $45,000, and those with master's degrees earned a median annual salary of $60,000.

TABLE 1.  Enrollment and employment status and median annual salaries of 2001 and 2002 science, engineering, and health bachelor's degree recipients, by field of degree: 2003.
  Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

 

TABLE 2.  Enrollment and employment status and median annual salaries of 2001 and 2002 science, engineering, and health master's degree recipients, by field of degree: 2003.
  Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Full-Time Employment Status

The percentage of recent science, engineering, and health graduates holding full-time jobs within a year or two after graduation varied substantially by level and field of degree (tables 1 and 2). In 2003, 66 percent of all recent science, engineering, and health bachelor's degree recipients and about three-quarters of all recent science, engineering, and health master's degree recipients were employed full time. At both degree levels, recent engineering and health graduates were more likely than science graduates to be employed full time: 79 percent of engineering graduates at the bachelor's level and 77 percent at the master's levels were employed full time, compared with 63 percent of science graduates with bachelor's degrees and 68 percent of science graduates with master's degrees. Among health graduates, 75 percent at the bachelor's level and 79 percent at the master's level held full-time jobs.

Among all recent graduates at both degree levels, those with degrees in industrial engineering and civil and architectural engineering were very likely to be employed full time (more than 80 percent) as were bachelor's graduates in computer science. At the master's level, 87 percent of recent graduates in the field of civil and architectural engineering and 86 percent of recent graduates in the field of industrial engineering had gained full-time employment as of the survey reference date, October 1, 2003.

Full-time Student Status

The number of recent science and engineering graduates who were full-time students 1-2 years after receiving their degrees varied significantly by degree level and field of study. S&E bachelor's degree recipients were more likely than S&E master's degree recipients to be enrolled as full-time students, 24 percent versus 17 percent. Among S&E bachelor's graduates, those with degrees in science fields were more likely to be full-time students than those with degrees in engineering fields, 27 percent versus 17 percent. Among master's degree recipients those with degrees in science fields were equally as likely as those with degrees in engineering fields to be full-time students 1-2 years after receiving their S&E degrees, 24 percent versus 23 percent.

Employment in Science, Engineering, and Health Occupations

At both degree levels, recent graduates in engineering fields were much more likely to be employed in science, engineering, or health occupations than were recipients of degrees in science fields (table 3). Recent graduates with bachelor's degrees in science were least likely to be employed in science, engineering, or health occupations. Recent graduates with health degrees at either the bachelor's or master's level were more likely than graduates in all other fields to be employed in science, engineering, or health occupations.

TABLE 3.  S&E bachelor's and master's degree recipients in 2001 and 2002 employed in science, engineering, or health jobs, by field of degree: 2003.
  Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

Employment Sector

The business or industry sector is by far the largest employer of recent bachelor's and master's science, engineering, or health degree recipients. Overall, business or industry in 2003 employed 68 percent of bachelor's degree recipients and 58 percent of master's degree recipients and employed a larger proportion of engineering graduates than science graduates. This sector employed three-quarters of engineering graduates at both the bachelor's and master's levels and three-quarters of bachelor's graduates with health degrees. Business and industry employed 64 percent of master's graduates with health degrees and 65 percent of bachelor's graduates with science degrees (table 4).

TABLE 4.  Employed 2001 and 2002 science, engineering, or health bachelor's and master's degree recipients, by sector of employment and field of degree: 2003.
  Table 4 Source Data: Excel file

Educational institutions were the second largest employer of recent science, engineering, or health graduates at both degree levels, employing 21 percent of bachelor's graduates and 28 percent of master's graduates. Science graduates were more likely than engineering or health graduates to be employed in educational institutions at both degree levels.

With one exception, the government sector employed the smallest number of science, engineering, and health graduates at both the bachelor's and master's levels. The government sector was the second largest employer of recent bachelor's level graduates with engineering degrees, slightly outpacing the educational sector.

Conclusion

Continuing a pattern that has been evident for decades, recent bachelor's and master's engineering graduates and computer science graduates at the bachelor's level are more likely than graduates in other fields to be employed full time after graduation, and upon entering the workforce, they are rewarded with higher salaries. Science and engineering master's degree recipients have a higher likelihood of being employed in science and engineering jobs than science and engineering bachelor's degree recipients. Data on bachelor's and master's graduates in health were collected for the first time in the 2003 NSRCG. Health graduates show high levels of full-time employment 1-2 years after receiving their degrees. The private for-profit sector continues to be the largest employer of recent recipients of bachelor's and master's degrees in science, engineering, and health fields.

Survey Information

The NSRCG is a biennial survey. The 2003 survey covered persons who received bachelor's and/or master's degrees between July 2000 and June 2002. This report is the first release of data from the 2003 survey. Data on graduates with degrees in health were collected for the first time in the 2003 NSRCG. The health degrees include bachelor's and master's degrees in a number of health and related fields ranging from health/medical assistants and technologies to physical therapy, public health, and nursing. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvyrecentgrads/ for additional information on the NSRCG, including methodology and sampling errors.

For more information, contact

John Tsapogas
Human Resources Statistics Program
Division of Science Resources Statistics
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230
703-292-7799
jtsapoga@nsf.gov

 

National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics
Recent Engineering and Computer Science Graduates Continue to Earn the Highest Salaries
Arlington, VA (NSF 06-303) [December 2005]


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