New STEM grads get a pleasant pay surprise

New college graduates who major in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), are earning higher salaries than they anticipated when they were undergraduates.

Chemistry majors were the ones most likely to lowball their beginning salaries, according to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Students graduating with bachelor's degrees in chemistry in 2014 anticipated making a beginning salary of roughly $38,500, but they ended up making 50.5 percent more ($57,900).

Mathematics majors also badly underestimated their beginning salaries. They expected average offers of $37,000, but they found jobs paying roughly $52,800. They were followed by computer science majors whose average starting salary ($62,200) was 22 percent higher than their expectations.

Only biology majors, who have traditionally been paid worse than other STEM majors, were accurate about their starting pay of $33,248. They were only off by 2.5 percent.

Among STEM majors, engineers were earning the highest average salaries. These graduates expected to make initial salaries of roughly $56,150, but they ended up earning $64,891.

The association's statistics come from its national survey of 140 colleges and universities that covers 45,000 graduates with bachelor's degrees, as well as a survey of more than 10,000 seniors from the 2014 class.

Not surprisingly, NACE's surveys also showed that the $64,891 average starting salary for engineers made them the new college-educated workers making the highest salaries among all majors.

In comparison, the mean salary for all new grads with bachelor degrees was $48,127. Business majors were earning $49,807, while liberal arts majors earned $38,604.

The latest employer survey from NACE also included good news for new grads. Employers expect to boost their hiring of members of the Class of 2015 by 9.6 percent over last year.

On average, employers said they had posted 148 jobs for new college graduates in the 2014-2015 academic year compared with an average of 99 for the previous academic year. For employers, grads with the most desired majors have been engineering, business and computer science.

While it's still early, more than two-thirds of employers said they expect to increase or maintain their current hiring levels for the Class of 2016.