They're Earning What? America's Highest Starting Salaries Writer

If you're expecting to live the good life right after graduation, you'd better be good with numbers -- and not just so you can learn to balance your budget. The highest salaries offered to the class of 2005-06 were for jobs requiring significant quantitative prowess, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) Summer 2006 Salary Survey.

Students who major in numbers-based fields can yield starting salaries $25,000 higher than their liberal arts counterparts. Chemical engineering majors, for example, received starting salary offers averaging more than $56,000, the survey revealed. English majors, by contrast, reported salary offers averaging just $31,000.

Across the board, engineering grads fared well on the salary front. Civil engineering grads' starting salaries averaged about $46,000, while electrical engineering majors were offered nearly $54,000 and mechanical engineering grads were offered $52,000. Engineering disciplines also accounted for four of the 10 most in-demand majors among employers.

New graduates with business-related degrees also reported relatively high starting salary offers. The average salary offer to accounting majors was $46,000. Economics/finance majors were offered more than $45,000, and business administration/management graduates reported offers of just over $42,000.

That's not to say communications gurus can't earn fat paychecks, too -- but their jobs usually pay well in the form of bonuses rather than high guaranteed salaries. Entry-level sales jobs, for instance, offer starting salaries around $40,000, according to NACE. But a superior salesperson can bring home twice that -- or more -- when bonuses and commissions are factored in.

Although many of these jobs -- investment banking being a notable example -- can carry high bonus potential, they also offered the highest starting salaries to this year's graduates.

The Top 20

1. Investment Banking (Sales and Trading) -- $56,534

2. Chemical Process Engineering -- $55,405

3. Hardware Design and Development -- $54,804

4. Software Design and Development -- $53,592

5. Production Engineering -- $53,242

6. Systems Engineering -- $52,486

7. Research and Development Engineering -- $51,927

8. Investment Banking (Corporate Finance) -- $51,436

9. Manufacturing/Industrial Engineering -- $51,342

10. Systems Analysis and Design -- $51,167

11. Field Engineering -- $51,161

12. Test Engineering -- $50,971

13. Consulting -- $50,657

14. Project Engineering -- $49,888

15. Computer Programming -- $49,086

16. Other Computer-Related Occupations -- $48,192

17. Design/Construction Engineering -- $48,025

18. Quality Control Engineering -- $47,783

19. Financial/Treasury Analysis -- $46,448

20. Auditing (Public) -- $46,242

Copyright 2006

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