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Pay for 2023 grads: Humanities grads set for raises, computer science majors a dip

Tech layoffs may take a toll on the financial outlook of this year's crop of college graduates, with a new survey predicting that 2023 computer science majors will earn salaries 4% below a year ago. Yet communications and humanities majors are likely to see healthy boosts in starting salaries, the study found.

Major tech companies such as Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta have laid off tens of thousands of workers in recent weeks, reversing a hiring spree that surged during the pandemic as millions of Americans worked remotely and demand jumped for digital products.

But a slowing economy is putting pressure on the industry to trim expenses, which in turn could translate into lower salaries for 2023 grads with computer science degrees, according to the new study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which surveyed 170 employers about their salary plans. Despite the decline, computer science grads will still enjoy a relatively high starting salary, at almost $73,000.

The tech layoffs "are most likely the cause" of the expectations for lower salaries for CS majors, said Andrea Koncz, senior research manager at the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

It's unclear whether the impact will be short-lived, but the issue could echo throughout new grads' careers — especially if the U.S. dips into a recession, as some economists predict — given that entering the workforce during a downturn can crimp a worker's earnings for up to a decade, research has found.

But, Koncz added, "Salaries to new college graduates appear to be stable and there are increases for the Class of 2023 graduates in all but two areas of study compared to the Class of 2022." 

Social science grads are expected to receive pay that is 1.7% lower than a year earlier, the study found. The previous time employers expected to pay computer science majors less was in 2020, although that was a dip of 0.2%, Koncz added.

Humanities, communications majors

On the other hand, grads with humanities degrees will enjoy a salary boost of 4.5%, while communications majors will receive a 4.8% increase, the survey found. 

"Humanities and communications majors are most likely keeping up with the typical increases seen in new graduate salaries," Koncz said. 

Even with those bumps, these majors are likely to earn far less than computer science graduates, the study found. For instance, starting salaries for humanities majors — such as philosophy, history, literature and the arts — are likely to be about $53,000 this year, or almost $20,000 less than CS majors.

The study found that more than half of employers intend to increase salaries for new college graduates, with the typical increase between 3% to 5%. 

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