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6 Recent Grads From 6 Different Majors Share Their First Salaries

A few weeks before my graduation, in a car piled full of Communication majors (like myself), we began discussing what we thought our first grown-up salaries were going to look like.

I knew my situation would be a little different. My full-time income is made up of a few different jobs, so I know roughly how much I make in a year, but I don’t have a “salary” to speak about — so I mostly kept quiet and listened. 

One of them mentioned that he was offered a job with a salary of $28,000 with dental insurance only and a one-week paid vacation. Everyone’s eyes widened. To a bunch of kids just creeping towards their commencement ceremony, this seemed like the biggest amount of money ever.

I guess for me, I was shocked. I’m not saying I make an outrageous amount of money, but I think due to the fact that I’m a part of TFD and think, talk, and write about money every day, I know that $28,000 — especially in Fairfield County, Connecticut — is pretty low. I wondered to myself if my classmate was getting ripped off — I wasn’t sure if he was so excited to be offered a job that he just took it with no research or negotiation, or if that was genuinely a salary that made sense, and the company employing him was actually being generous offering him that amount.

I’m not sure. I have a lot to learn about jobs and salaries still — I find myself Googling things like “Salary for ____ job” because I’m curious about the degrees that make you qualified for certain jobs, and the jobs that earn you certain amounts of money. To be honest, I’m not even sure I know what a “good salary” is.

According to the internet, the median household income in CT for 2015 was $71,346, compared to $55,775 in the entire U.S. I’m not sure if these stats look much different now in 2k17, but I imagine they’re at least similar. It got me feeling curious.

We talk a lot on TFD about being transparent about money, but the weird thing is, even when people open up about struggles, careers, debt, methods of saving, and crazy money-stories, the thing I see almost no one talk about is their salary. And I totally get why.

If I had a good grasp on my own salary, I think I would be comfortable sharing it — in fact, I think the only reason I don’t share it is because my income is so different from month-to-month depending on what to do. What I can say is, I definitely somehow budget and earn enough to live every month, I’m diligent about saving just in case I have a month where I earn a bit less, and my annual take-home pay has never been over $30,000. 

I decided to ask six people (from six different programs of study) what their entry-level salaries are looking like, because to be honest, I need something to compare to, and I want to know the experience of real people — not statistics. I assured everyone that their identity will be kept anonymous, and they started sharing. I asked six post-grads what their fresh-out-of-college, entry-level salary is. This is what they had to say.

1. “I got a degree in Anthropology, but you find that there’s just not a lot of work to do with such a degree. I got an entry-level job that is slightly related to what I’d like to do, and I earn roughly $31,000. It is a tiny bit over that, but I’ll round down, especially because it feels like way way way less after taxes and student loan payments. Lol.” — Nick

2. “I studied human resources, and mine is $38,000. It is an entry-level HR admin job so I don’t feel like that is terrible for starting in HR. I will get a review after six months and I can only hope it will go up at least a little bit. I think I’d be comfortable with anything over $40,000 but apparently my four-year honors bachelor’s degree isn’t worth that extravagant amount of money yet!” — Shelby

3. “I majored in Com, and when I researched average salaries of Communication graduates, it said something like ‘between $40,000 and 70,000 starting,’ and I thought oh, well, I hope it is closer to the $70,000 range than 40 — 40,000 would kind of blow. So I got my first job a few weeks after graduation in a com-related field, and my starting is $36,000. So I guess now $40,000 actually looks pretty damn good.” — Kristen

4. “This is unfortunate, but it is truly because of the field I’m going into — I want to go into television production in some way, but this is just a field where you have to pay your dues. I don’t have a real ‘job’ or ‘salary’ because I actually just have an internship, and I’m lucky it is a paid internship because so many people are trying so hard to get a foot in the door that they’ll work for free post-grad and like, wait tables at night to afford their expensive city apartments so they can be close to their unpaid internships where all the action is. What I get paid breaks down to about $12/hour, and I work a 35hr/week schedule, so not much money — but definitely enough for now while I work towards something bigger.” — Juliana

5. “I went to school for early childhood education, and I decided not to get a ~real job~ (lol) right away, but continued nannying for $18/hour, 40 hours per week. My position requires me to have a college degree, so I do feel like I’m making use of my degree even though I’m not becoming a teacher or anything like that at the moment. And I feel like I’m making decent money. I’m actually making more than all of my friends who took office jobs right out of college. I know there is opportunity for growth and advancement in those types of jobs usually, so even though I’m the one earning the most now, there’s a low chance of me earning much more than this at this particular job.” — Anna

6. “I did a five-year program to get my master’s in social work and I make around $46,000. It feels like very little considering there is a more advanced degree that I worked for, but I guess it is okay because to be honest, people don’t go into social work for the money. But I have a lot of friends with bachelor’s degrees making as much as or more than me and I’m like damn. But it is fine — different jobs just earn different money.” — Kim

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

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  • Angie

    Why aren’t any of these examples STEM majors. I feel like a point is trying to be made here but obviously Humanity majors are going to have a hard time.

    • Ella

      Agreed. This feels like half an article.

    • Keisha

      First job, 4 years ago (recent-ish) with a BS in nursing. $59,000 annually. Pretty sure I’m considered STEM in many places. Depends on your uni.

      • Angie

        I sure hope they would consider that STEM

        • Keisha

          Literally depends on your University. Kind of a good example of the bias against nursing. I consider myself STEM, absolutely. I work in research.

    • Tara

      Further, are these all just Mary’s friends living and working in CT? Or are they spread out around the country? Starting salaries are all different depending on location.

    • Scout

      I am a biomedical scientist in the Midwest. I have a PhD and I didn’t start out in an entry level position. But I’ve been involved in hiring other people so I do know what people make right out of college. My company doesn’t hire anyone without experience. A person with a 4 year degree in the biomedical field is hired on contract and makes $25/hour. 2-3 years later they get made permanent ~$60K base

    • Mary Parisi

      Good call everyone! I’ll do some investigating and see if I can talk to some people and write another post representing salaries for STEM majors — I really hardly know any personally which is why they didn’t make the list! If you or anyone you know wants to talk to me about your STEM salary email me pls and I’ll work on an updated post with different fields included! (email is mary@thefinancialdiet.com)

    • Gulnaaz Afzal

      Exactly! I am pursuing my master’s in aerospace engineering and was really looking forward to someone’s account in a STEM program. Please narrate a tale of someone who works in engineering or an allied field. That would be immensely helpful and rewarding!

  • Miss Meg

    I’m 23, a film production/arts major and work in graphic design and make $57,000 a year before bonuses and taxes bump that up and back down. As a starting salary it’s not too bad. That said, I work in one of the most expensive cities in California – so it really depends on if you make 40K a year in a place where the rent is $600 a month or a place where it’s $1600 a month!

  • alyjarrett

    Love salary transparency articles like this, so I thought I’d throw in my starting salary: In 2012, after I graduated with my MA in Journalism, I was making $60,000 as a marketing coordinator in the SF Bay Area. Obviously, salaries are higher in cities with high cost of living!

  • I love the idea of this article, appreciate the transparency and that you’re willing to shed some light around real numbers. But like another commenter pointed out below, it would have been great to see more comparison between different majors. There are huge differences between starting salaries in STEM, business, arts/comms, etc. and it would have been nice to see that represented in this article.

  • Gem

    I graduated in 2012 with a Humanities major BA. I spent to about 2 years doing Americorps, a paid internship, and random part-time jobs until I got a full-time starting salary of $30,000 working for a small NYC nonprofit. Many of my friends who graduated around the same time struggled to find full-time jobs and mostly landed in low paying positions. Being in a major city does not mean starting salaries will be high.

  • Tara

    A better idea for an article or a series of articles would be to take a few basic professions across a variety of fields’ starting salaries and break them down by region. What can you expect to make in the northeast versus the midwest versus the south?

    • Mary Parisi

      Love this idea! Stay tuned 😉

      • jessica

        Alternatively, it would be cool to feature particular fields/career types and have people contribute their position, location, training, and salary (e.g. “here’s what working in medicine/biomedical science, the law, counselling, marketing, hospitality, etc. really looks like” – it could be a repeat feature or something.

  • Ellie Hamilton

    I got a job making $12 an hour pre graduation with a tech start up, and after six month went to a salaried $41,000, and a year later when I graduated with my BS in Business, I got a raise up to $51,000. I also got 3 weeks paid vacation, free food at work, some work from home, and a $5k annual bonus. 3 months later the company was bought and I couldn’t find other work for a long time. I hopped around making $15-19 dollars an hour at some internships, and now I have a $36,000 salary working for the state government. It was really depressing to go so far down the income scale after getting “used to” $51,000. At the time, I was married and my partner had a master’s in information systems and made $80,000 with 2 years experience. So I felt $51,000 was totally reasonable. Now making what I do, I sort of just am amazed my ex and I were broke and living paycheck to paycheck making $130k. I do more fun things and have a better life now making literally almost $100k less in my “household.” Money is weird.

  • Alexia

    Really appreciate this article! I’m a recent grad working in accounting. My starting salary was $40k plus 5% bonus.

  • Emma

    I kind of have two “first jobs”, so here’s my input:

    My first job right out of college, where I got a BA in Politics, was as an Assistant Paralegal in Los Angeles. My base salary was $41,500, but when I filed my taxes I realized I had actually made about $50,000 with overtime pay.

    I was at that job for a year, realized I didn’t want to go into law, and decided to move back to my hometown of Seattle and do a coding bootcamp, after which I landed an entry-level job as a software engineer (many of my peers in this role are new grads). I’ve been making $90k as a Jr. Software Engineer in Seattle, and just got a raise to $100k. I turn 25 next month and have been out of school for three years, but it still seems pretty recent!

    • GemNoelle

      Thanks for sharing! I have looked into coding bootcamps but have heard mixed reviews when it comes to job outcomes. Do you mind share the name of the boot camp you completed?

      • Emma

        Hey! I think the mixed reviews are pretty accurate, based on anecdotal experience from my own class and others. I did General Assembly and really liked it, but definitely make sure you enjoy coding before you dive in!

  • Marium

    Degree: B.S. Chemistry
    Time to find job: 6 mos after graduation
    Location: Charlotte, NC
    Work Type: FT- contract
    Company type: clinical laboratory- pain management
    Wage: 14/hr + overtime
    Benefits: none as a contract employee
    Work Shift: 1st

    Graduate School (MS chem)
    Location: Greensboro, NC
    Work Type: 10 hrs/wk (rly more like 20 when grading is factored in)
    Company: university- TAship
    Wage: stipend 14,000/yr
    Benefits: Tuition and health insurancr covered
    Work Shift: seemed like 24 hrs

    Degree: MS chemistry
    Time to find job: 2 mos after graduation
    Location: Lincolnton, NC
    Work Type: FT- salaried
    Company type:pharmaceutical manufacturing
    Wage: 37,080/yr + overtime and 6% of your annual salary as a bonus
    Benefits: health insurance, dental, vision, pto accural: 6.75 hrs/ 2wks max pto of 176 hrs/ yr amd one floating holiday.
    Work Shift: 2nd shift mon- thrus. (Fri-Sun off)

    Currently doing:
    Graduate School: (phd chem)
    Location: boulder, co
    Work type: TA/RAship 20 hrs/week
    Company: university
    Wage: stipend 30,000/yr
    Benefits: Tuition, health insurance, dental
    Work: really 40 hrs/wk

    I hope this is helpful:)

  • FS

    To add an international perspective : I’ve got a BA and an MLitt and made £19.5k ($25k-ish) in my first job in London in publishing (that salary already included a 3k London bonus).
    Then I moved to continental Europe and here I make €26k ($29k-ish) but taxation is higher so my take home is not significantly more. However, my living expenses are way down so it really does depend on where you live.

    Also, my European salary is very much at the bottom of the range so most people I know with the same/similar degrees actually make more than me (I’m trying not to be bitter :)).

  • Anon

    This article makes it seem like there’s little variation in what a social sciences or humanities major makes. Salaries for these fields are really diverse depending on the industry you choose to take your degree to. I graduated from college in 2014 and took a consulting job for $72,500 in Houston. I’m now in law school and my summer internship at a law firm pays $3,500 per week (and I’m in a small regional market, not NYC/SF/DC).

    • Anon

      I forgot to mention, my undergrad degree was in sociology.

    • Jac

      I’m guessing you meant 3500 per month? 14k a month seems very very high for a student intern

      • Emma

        Law intern salaries are crazy, 14k a month sounds right to me

        • Jac

          god damn i regret every decision i have ever made in my life

      • Anon

        $3,500 is per week. We are paid first-year associate rates.

        • Jac

          [insert 1000 gasping face emoji] holy fffffffffff — i’m sure you pay for it through grueling hours and potentially gross law firm culture (assuming you’re a young woman based on tfd demographics), but W O W

          • Anon

            Haha, the caveat is that law definitely isn’t a golden ticket for everyone. I’m still figuring out whether I want to do it post-grad. I do think that law is one of the industries that’s pretty behind in gender equity.

  • osu86

    Degree: B.A. History
    Location: Indianapolis, IN
    Job: Teach for America teacher, paid by Indianapolis Public Schools
    Salary: $37,000 (around 10 years ago)

    Degree: MA in Education (completed during TFA)
    Location: Columbus, OH
    Job: Program Coordinator at a large university
    Salary: $35,000 (about 8 years ago) ** I did not attempt to negotiate this salary at all. I wanted to stop teaching so badly that I gladly accepted the first position I was offered. To this day, I tell every person I mentor to always negotiate. Had I gotten even $2K more then, I’d probably make $10K more today.

  • Jane

    ooh these are always interesting, i’ll share. went to an nyc private liberal arts college on a half scholarship (other half funded by $80k worth of student loans) and got myself a communications degree (didn’t know any better!! if i could do it over i would have gone to a state school to get a business degree, but that’s a whole ‘nother story)..anyway, while i was there, i interned for a 3 years at various media buying/planning agencies (not the same as an ad agency, more strategy than creative). after graduating, i scored an entry level full time gig at a different nyc media agency making a measly $30k salary. the hours sucked, the high pressure atmosphere sucked, but the weekly open bar/party perks and fancy vendor lunches to restaurants that i could never afford were good enough for a thirsty 21 year old like me (that’s how they hook you). 8 months in i was burnt out from working from 9a-midnight and convinced myself this was what a career was like. at the same time, i managed to earn a promotion, earning me more responsibility, a bigger workload, and a whole $10k more. the agency became a revolving door of entry/low level employees so i too started interviewing. (i should also add, that agency hopping is very common in the industry as it is really the only way to make any more money). dealing with 60+ vendors, i made a TON of connections that really helped me later on in my career when i wanted to make some moves. 2 months later one of these connections helped me score a lateral move to another up and coming agency and got another $10k salary bump, bringing my salary to $50k. the work/life balance was WAY more manageable at this agency, i got to leave work at 6 every day, and the employees were long time employees who seemed happy at their jobs. i worked there for two years until i decided to move to a more lucrative position in ad sales (with the help of one of my connections) which eventually brought me to a beach city complete with my own beach apartment (a lofty dream i always had). now 8 years in my advertising career, i have make more than 5x my starting salary of $30k and increased my quality of life greatly by my strategic career moves and relationships.

  • Jessica

    Degree: MA in Economics (graduated May 2017, and came straight from undergrad so this is my first post school job)
    Position: research associate at a large nonprofit
    Location: Washington D.C.
    Salary: 51,000 (with great benefits)
    The nonprofit does have a policy where people at the same level with the same qualifications make within a predetermined 5k range, which makes negotiating salary nonexistent but also unnecessary.

  • Courtney M

    Graduated in 2014 with an MA in journalism and a starting salary of $42,000 working as a web content manager

  • Abby V

    I just graduated with a Bachelors, and my major was Marketing. I work in Chicago in Digital Marketing and make $50,000 before taxes and bonuses!

  • Hailey

    Love this! I graduated in May 2016 with a BS in journalism and started at an internship in NYC making a measly $10/hr. After 3 months I got a job as a marketing coordinator for a pretty big food brand. I was so excited and thought for sure my pay would be good, but was crushed when I got the offer letter and the pay was $15/hr. Since I can get overtime, I work about 50-55 hrs/week, so I probably make closer to 40-42k, but still, I couldn’t believe a public company paid a coordinator $15/hr.

  • X

    2012 grad, sociology major/anthropology minor. Took a job at a call center in Chicago starting at $14/hr (around $28,500 excluding commission/bonuses) for a startup.

    Moved up thru various positions (on 5th now) and now I’m making roughly $53,000, 3 years later. Did not negotiate in the beginning and unsuccessfully negotiated through each position thereafter. Since finding TFD, I feel more confident in negotiating when I move onto another company.

  • Anon

    FWIW, talking to people who work at large tech corporations is worthwhile for the perspective.

    Most of my friends (no matter what school they graduated from) who had undergraduate CS degrees and got jobs at Facebook, Google, etc. got $100-120k as their first-year-out-of-college salary across a variety of positions (designer, software engineer, associate product manager, etc). I am thinking of people who live both in the Bay Area and New York City.

    I graduated from an Ivy League school with a degree in Sociology; my first job was $18/hour for 6 months for a fellowship (equivalent to around $35k per year) and my second job as a researcher is now a contracting position that pays $3750 per month which is around $45,000 per year, but my cash flow is lower than it would be if they paid me as an employee rather than a contractor — because I have to set money aside for future taxes. And self-employed taxes are higher than when you work for someone who takes out your taxes from your paycheck (they pay around half of the payroll tax, if I’m understanding correctly). I live in NYC.

  • Declan

    I am amazed by the starting salaries of young professionals in America! I know there will be higher cost of living in certain cities so it isn’t really comparable. But I live in London, far and away the most expensive city to live in in the UK. My starting salary after graduating with a major in Physics was £26,000 (~$33,000) and that is a lot higher than most. Most graduates in the UK will earn between £21,000 – £25,000 (~$26,000 – $31,000)

  • Taryn

    Graduated in 2015 with my BA in Business Management. After working at a stupid job while I searched for a good job, I didn’t make much, but now I work as an Auditor making $55k before taxes and bonuses, get 4 weeks PTO, and get 4%+ a raise yearly. They’re also paying for me to finish up my CPA credentials and take that exam.

  • Ivy

    Graduated : May 2014
    Degree: Business. Large public university. Focused in Tourism.
    Relevant Experience: Interned and worked part-time for tourism nonprofit while in school, 2 years

    POST GRAD –

    Stayed part-time at nonprofit as they kept promising full time employment, which never came. 5 months after graduation and still being told “we’re working on it”, I was frustrated and knew I had to move on.
    Interviewed and landed job with Fortune 500 company closely related to travel/tourism. Starting salary 45k with 10% bonus, 3 week vacation, travel and health benefits. Location: Texas.

    Informed nonprofit I would be taking the other job and moving. THEN they offered me full time employment. 25k. No bonus. Not great benefits, and 1 week vacation. Location: Arizona. For someone who had been a great intern/part-timer for them for 2 years, I felt almost insulted. Admittedly, my own expectations for what a nonprofit would offer were VERY off. I turned this down.

    A year into my new job in Texas, I transferred (same company, same job) to Southern California. Pay went from 45k to 61k, still with +10% bonus. After 2 years with the company, my PTO has gone up to 4 weeks, and travel benefits have also increased.

    I hope this (especially the industry and location details) helps someone!

  • lulu

    A little late to the party. I graduated in 2011 and got a program coordinator job at a private foundation. My starting salary was $49,000. I just finished my MA and have an analyst position in a small boutique consulting company making $65,000. Granted, I just moved to one of the most expensive cities in the country so that $65k doesn’t go very far.

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