7 TFD Readers Tell Us What Their Starting Salary Was In Their STEM Field

Last week, I did a little investigating to find out what a bunch of recent grads were earning for their first post-grad starting salaries. It was definitely eye-opening — as a recent grad myself, I am always looking for something to compare to, so I’m definitely curious about what others are making (especially the ones working in fields related to the degree I graduated with, which was Communication).

As enlightening as it was to find out what a bunch of other people working in a bunch of different fields were earning, it was rightfully pointed out that none of them had graduated with STEM degrees, and therefore, the article may not have been painting an accurate picture of what post-grad salaries actually look like for many people.

I responded in the comments section asking everyone working in a STEM field to email me so we could talk ~salary~, and talk we did!

A few of them are recent 2017 grads (congrats squad!!!), and a few graduated back a couple of years ago, but all were able to provide me with insight on the differences between what a starting salary looks like for an engineer compared to that of a nanny or a writer or an HR administrator.

From what I found (although my sample population was only seven people, so this is an entirely unscientific experiment), STEM careers seem to start out at higher salaries right off the bat (which I could have probably guessed).

Now that both Phase One and Phase Two of my salary investigation are complete, I’m moving on to Phase Three: comparing salaries for the same job in different regions. After reading what these kickass STEM women have to say about their salaries, comment below or send me an email if you want to talk salary with me. (Don’t worry — I’ll keep your identity anonymous like I did here!)

I asked seven women what their starting salary was in their STEM field, and this is what they had to say.

1. “I graduated in 2015 with a degree in ceramic engineering, which is a specific branch of materials science and engineering. My first position out of college was at a glass manufacturing plant in a management development program. I lived in Indiana and made $60,000. I changed jobs (and companies!) less than a year after I started, so my current position is still considered entry-level. I now work in Washington state as a process engineer for a manufacturing plant in a different industry. My official title is now ‘Engineer I’ and I make $72,000.” — Jenn

2. “I am based in Kansas City, MO. I just graduated in May with a Bachelors of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing. I currently work for a global healthcare software company as a Business Consultant. Starting salary $47,000, with a $3,000 bonus once placed on a specific team. I also interned with this company my senior year of college, so it was a really nice transition into a full-time position.” — Christine 

3. “I work as a structural engineer for a consulting company in the private sector. I got a Bachelors of Science in Architectural Engineering in 2009 then immediately went to grad school full time to get my Masters of Science in Civil Engineering, specializing in structural engineering.

I got hired for my first job out of grad school after about 6 months of job searching. I had zero experience but was told I was an attractive candidate because I had a masters degree. My starting salary was $25/hour, or $52,000/year. I still work for the same company so I’m not positive if this is normal everywhere, but I get paid hourly for a set schedule (40 hours/week). I bill each hour of my time to the project I am working but if we are slow and I am not working on a project, I bill to general overhead. I also get paid overtime, which is just my normal hourly rate. But, the important part is that my paycheck is always the same unless I work overtime, then it’s just slightly more than the typical amount.

When I passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam about 4 months after I was hired, I got a raise of about $1/hour, or a little over $2,000/year. When I passed the Principals of Practice of Engineering exam earlier this year, making me a licensed professional engineer, I got a 10% raise. I’ve been with the same company for almost 5 years and have gotten several small yearly raises and now make a little over $70,000, plus a yearly bonus (which has varied from year to year depending on how the company as a whole has done that year). I know I could make more working for another company, but I really like the people here and the work environment has been really great as a young engineer. And, on top of that, I work 40 hours a week and go home and don’t think about work, which to me is priceless. I’ll eventually move to a new company and take a pay bump in doing so, but for now, I live comfortably while aggressively paying off my student debt, so I’m perfectly happy.” — Megan

4. “I just graduated in May with a BS in Computer Science. I’m currently working as a software engineer earning $68,000. I was hoping to make $75,000, but since my company offers full benefits, including matching my 401k, I’m not going to complain.” — Ivy

5. “I graduated with a BS in Marketing and a minor in Biology. My first job after graduation was for a major bank in New York City with starting salary $55,000/annually with a $10,000 sign-on bonus that I negotiated.” — Laura

6. “Well, I’m not sure if when we say ‘starting salary’ we’re talking post-undergrad or if more advanced degrees count, but I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and then went to PA school and became a Physician’s Assistant upon graduating with a starting salary of just over $90K. This was last year, and this year I’m earning $112K.” — Melanie

7. “So, I graduated in 2015 with a Chemical Engineering degree. I took the first job that I was offered and it was a contracted engineering position for a big Pharma/Consumer Product company. I negotiated $55K, no bonus, no 401K ’til 1 year, and vacations would accrue. Within two weeks of the job I knew it wasn’t a good fit because my coworkers were telling me to get out. I told them I was offered an interview with a big chemical company and they urged me to do the interview. I quit the contracted engineering position within two months and started at the big chemical company doing Environmental, Health, and Safety work making $72K, possibility to get a bonus, 401k with 4% matching/6% as a ‘pension,’ and 16 vacation days. A year and a half later, I’m at $76K and got a bonus of $6K. I want to stress that new graduates should take any interviews they are offered because I almost missed out on a TON of money.” — Abby

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!

Image via Unsplash

TFD Social Banners_Twitter-01

  • Tara

    Okay, your “Phase Three” was entirely my idea, which I posted in the comments on your last article. It’s not like you naturally were headed in that direction. I feel like you should acknowledge, at the very least, that this, like “Phase Two,” was also suggested by your commenters.

    • .

      There’s a lot that TFD had to improve on, but this? Idk maybe chill out yeah? She already gave credit. And you’re not the only one to mention that. Wow.

    • She straight up says “it was rightfully pointed out that none of them had graduated with STEM degrees, and therefore, the article may not have been painting an accurate picture of what post-grad salaries actually look like for many people.” Also, you have no way of knowing that she/TFD weren’t planning to eventually compare salaries in different parts of the country when she published that first post. It’s not like Mary or you were the first person to think to do such a comparison, either way. And if you want to do your own version of “Phase 3” on your own blog or a different site, you should go for it! You’ll certainly end up talking to different people and having at least some different findings, so I really think “the more the merrier” is true here.

    • geez it’s not that serious

  • Gem

    I have never really thought of business/marketing as STEM but it was interesting to see this round up either way. I hope you do other majors and fields in the future. It would also be interesting to compare starting salaries by geographic location.

  • TJ

    this is super interesting. I graduated with an engineering degree and it’s good to know that my salaries have been about normal. I also have passed on higher pay for jobs that fit my career goals and were a 40 hr/week work

    There was a super interesting study that said that women in STEM careers earn less because they value perks like flexibility more:
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-women-earn-less-than-men-in-stem-fields/
    “In her 2014 presidential address to the American Economic Association economist Claudia Goldin of Harvard University showed that women disproportionately place a premium on flexible work conditions, which results in lower wages and slower promotion. Her analyses suggest that women’s status in science may be the result of personal choices and time-flexibility preferences as opposed to gender differences in human capital and sex-based salary discrimination.”
    This wasn’t the article I originally saw…but it quotes the researcher

  • Raquel Moss

    I graduated with a degree in History and Art History, and did a diploma in teaching. I then switched careers to pursue my lifelong hobby as my career :-). I’m a full-stack software developer, started on $67k, now on $87k.

  • Christine

    I graduated with a BA in Biology in 2009 and immediately went into a nursing program. Graduated with my BSN in 2011. Got a job right away in a new grad RN orientation program (which was EXTREMELY lucky because it was damn near impossible to get a job as a new grad nurse in the Boston area at that time), starting at $26/hr on a typical med surg floor. That job was a 32 hour/week position, four 8 hour shifts. I worked the 3-11 shift almost the entire time I was there so I also got evening differential which was $2 and change, and I would get night differential too if I did a double which was something like $5 and change. It was very easy to pick up extra time for extra money working on the floors. I forget how much I was making for base pay when I left that job in 2014 but I want to say it was $31/hr. I left that job in 2014 and took an office job, so I definitely make less than RNs who work in ICUs, etc and there’s no flexibility to work extra. I know of career ICU RNs working in Boston hospitals who easily make over $100k/year, but not at our age. When I started this job I was making less per hour than my old job, but actually getting paid more in my paycheck because I was working five days instead of four. I currently make $34/hour.

  • Lauren

    Just some other data points for consideration — I got a BS in astronomy and started a job doing science writing (in the LA area) at 45k. There were a couple opportunities for promotion so I’m at 62k two years later. A friend had an engineering bachelor’s degree and got a job in her field starting around 66k (in an area where the cost of living is much lower than here in LA).

  • Wolf

    In case that’s relevant to anyone:
    Bachelor of Engineering, Biotechnology. Master of Science, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Then had a PhD student position that paid 38’000€/year. Didn’t finish the PhD yet. Got a position as a lab technician in a public-funded institution, which has a collective agreement on pay. My salary level now is 45’000. I get full health insurance, and an employee pension plan.

    Cost of living: about 600€ for an apartment (including utilities), 150-200€ on food. Biking to work, don’t own a car.

  • Becs

    I graduated with an agricultural/environmental engineering degree in 2015. I work at a state environmental agency in the Midwest. Our office is in the suburbs which helps financially. I started off making around $45k/year with a pension plan, health insurance, holidays, vacation accrual, etc. I got vision and dental at my one year, and now almost 2 years later I’m at around $52k.