New Grads Vastly Overestimate Their Starting Salaries, Survey Finds

Teaching And Technology


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Teaching And Technology

Expectation vs. Reality

Think back to your first job. Were you happy with your paycheck — or just grateful to be getting a paycheck at all? Well, times have changed. Wages have risen in recent years, but so have prices — and so have the expectations of soon-to-be college grads. A recent survey by Clever's Real Estate Witch finds that students overestimate their starting salary by anywhere from about $20,000 to more than $60,000, depending on the field. Here's a rundown of how Generation Z's expectations compare with the cold, hard reality of the real world.

Related: 18 Things Boomers Need to Stop Saying to Millennials About Money

Shot of a young male engineer using his laptop in a server room
Kobus Louw/istockphoto

Computer Science

Expected starting salary: $95,690

Median starting salary: $75,100

Students targeting jobs in this competitive, well-paying field are the most realistic about their beginning salaries — though they still overestimate what they'll be making just a year after graduation by a substantial $20,590. 

Related: Looking for Work? These Are the Best and Worst Job Markets in America 

Nurse at the hospital putting an IV Drip on a patient


Expected starting salary: $104,270

Median starting salary: $65,000

Nurses are always in demand, and that might be clouding the vision of nursing students. They expect to make $39,270 more than what's typical in a starter nursing job.

Related: Here's Where You Can Work 4 Days a Week or Less

graduate job interviewee


Expected starting salary: $101,120

Median starting salary: $50,200

Business students would do well to spend a little more time on sites like Glassdoor or They expect to earn $50,920 more than what they're likely to get when just starting out.

Related: 30 Most Satisfying Jobs That Also Pay Well

Talking to audience

Political Science / Economics

Expected starting salary: $108,160

Median starting salary: $57,100

Political science and economics students are certainly bullish on their job prospects, saying they expect to make $51,103 more than they're actually likely to see in their first positions.

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African American Accountant Or Auditor


Expected starting salary: $111,240

Median starting salary: $59,200

You might lose a little faith in the future number-crunchers of the world when you hear this: Accounting students are confident they'll be earning $52,040 more than the median starting salary in their industry.

Men analyzing plants science

Physical or Life Sciences

Expected starting salary: $110,360

Median starting salary: $53,100

Alas, it appears that student scientists are also overestimating their future earning power. They expect to be earning $57,260 more than the median starting salary.

Diverse group of friends discussing a book in library.

Humanities / Liberal Arts

Expected starting salary: $105,790

Median starting salary: $46,500

It's a classic question: What are you going to do with that liberal arts degree? Whatever the answer, liberal arts students say they expect to be paid handsomely, to the tune of $59,290 more than the median starting salary in their field.

psychologist with child


Expected starting salary: $104,120

Median starting salary: $44,700

Psychologists can certainly do well, but the field's starting salaries are fairly low. Psychology students haven't gotten the memo, though, and overestimate their earning potential in a starter job by $59,420

Learning at School


Expected starting salary: $99,090

Median starting salary: $44,100

Teaching, on the other hand, isn't typically known as a lucrative field, but education students seem to think they'll be the exception to the rule. They expect to start out making $54,990 more than the median starting salary in education.

Lifestyles of hipster men while thinking the ideas of his work at the rustic cafe

Communications / Journalism

Expected starting salary: $107,040

Median starting salary: $44,800

Ouch. They may prefer to spin it as "optimistic," but students aiming for communications or journalism careers have the biggest delusions of salary grandeur. They expect to make $62,240 more than their field's median starting salary — that's a difference of 139%. 

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