Starting Salaries Rise For Recent College Grads in 5 Fields

Posted By Terri Williams on September 9, 2016 at 2:38 pm
Starting Salaries Rise For Recent College Grads in 5 Fields

Starting salaries for recent college grads appear to be on the way up in 2017, though the hikes don’t come close to matching the escalating costs of a college degree. Nevertheless, the improved prospects represent positive news for students with mammoth student loan debt struggling with stagnant wages.

How stagnant? A recent Economic Policy Institute report reveals that eight classes of college students graduated to a dismal labor market in which they had to compete with more experienced applicants. As a result of this job competition, both the quality and wages of jobs for college graduates have been declining.

That’s why the Robert Half 2017 Salary Guides‘ suggestions that starting salaries for jobs requiring college degrees will increase by 3.6% next year is such good news. The increases aren’t across the board, of course. Below are the sectors with the largest 2017 increases in starting salaries:

Salary Increase Sector
3.80% Technology
3.70% Accounting and finance
3.60% Creative and marketing
3.60% Legal
3.50% Administrative and office support


However, some specific occupations will experience even higher starting salary increases. For example, in technology, salary increases are as follows:

  • Data scientist, 6.4%
  • Network security engineer, 5.7%
  • Software developer, 5.0%

Hikes in starting salaries for some of the specific positions in accounting and finance include:

  • Financial analyst, 4.3%
  • Internal auditor, 4.2%
  • Staff Accountant, 4.1%

Below are some of the starting salary increases in administrative and office support:

  • Certified professional coder, 4.0%
  • Office manager, 3.8%
  • HR assistant, 3.6%

(Note: At the time of publication, similar breakdowns weren’t available for specific positions in Creative and Marketing, and Legal professions)

Why starting salaries are increasing overall

Brett Good, senior district president of Robert Half, tells GoodCall that business growth and company initiatives require an influx of workers. “However, as much as they may want to add staff, employers are running into severe challenges, namely talent shortages – and they’re also finding that salaries for current staff are oftentimes below the market average and need to be adjusted up to keep pace with the current market.”

Good says demand far outpaces supply in many fields. “While the national unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, a number of positions, including compliance officer, financial analyst, software developer, information security analyst, and paralegal, have rates below 2 percent.”

This causes companies to compete for employees with highly sought-after skills, many of whom, Good says, receive more than one job offer. “As a result, firms are realizing they must raise the salaries they offer – and quickly – to be able to hire their top candidates.”

In addition, Good says that companies are rethinking their total compensation package and other bonuses that can give them a competitive edge. “They’re looking at the benefits and perks they offer, including those related to work-life balance, professional development, and career pathing.”

Why starting salaries are up in these 5 fields


Since technology drives many of an organization’s initiatives, Good says companies are sweetening their starting salaries to hire qualified IT talent as quickly as possible. “Because of this trend and companies’ growing mobile, big data, and security needs, skilled technology professionals remain highly sought after.”

Accounting and finance

Good says there are several factors affecting salary increases in this area. “Businesses seek professionals who can support growth initiatives, help ensure the organization is compliant with regulatory mandates, and manage financial systems upgrades and implementations.” Accounting also is one of the fields known for opportunities to work abroad, and some accounting firms gain a competitive edge by touting this perk.

Creative and marketing

Companies are turning their efforts toward branding, marketing, and online programs, and increasing the staff in these areas. “However, the demand for professionals who possess the requisite skills is outpacing the supply – and the talent shortage is even more pronounced for specialists with diverse skill sets, such as web designers with coding expertise.” Good says companies are not only offering higher starting salaries but also tempting candidates with signing and performance bonuses.

Creative and marketing jobs are in such demand that Gemmy Allen, co-coordinator and faculty member in the management and business administration program at North Lake College, says faculty are being lured from teaching positions. “Faculty members themselves do leave and will leave for higher-paying jobs in industry.” Allen explains that faculty members are dedicated but says, “If the right opportunity comes along, they will leave teaching and head for industry jobs.”


“Compliance, data privacy and e-Discovery are all red hot practice areas in the legal field, and the demand for specialists in these areas is soaring,” Good says. The number of candidates with both legal and technical skills is sorely lacking – and driving salaries higher.

Administrative and office support

There is also a shortage of employees with administrative skills, especially in senior administration, administrative health care, and customer service. “Experienced professionals with strong technical and communication skills, in particular, often receive multiple offers and can be selective in which to accept,” Good says.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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