PULLMAN, Wash. — Some Washington State University graduates in all majors earn more than $40,000 in their first job after graduation.

Lonnie Dunlap, interim director of WSU’s Career Services, responded to a new salary report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers that shows many new college graduates commanded top dollar for their skills despite a downturn in the economy.

In general, trends at WSU follow the national trends, Dunlap said. However, an unscientific sample of graduating WSU seniors showed that across all majors, some graduates indicated their beginning salary was more than $40,000.

WSU graduates in agricultural economics, engineering, computer science, management information systems, accounting and finance, and construction management enjoy very competitive salaries, Dunlap said. In addition to a high demand for people in these fields, the demand is high for graduates in nursing, education and food science.

According to the NACE’s Summer 2001 Salary Survey, engineering graduates received the highest average starting salary offers, with graduates in computer engineering at $53,924, petroleum-engineering graduates at $53,878 and electrical engineering graduates at $51,910.

Other graduates who received high average starting salary offers are those in computer science at $52,723, management information systems at $45,585, information sciences and systems at $45,182, economics/finance at $40,577, and business administration at $38,449.

Dunlap said lower beginning salary levels tend to be associated with jobs in liberal arts and social sciences. “Folks with these qualifications are often strong in problem-solving and can make great contributions in companies. They often pick up technical skills and understand how to work with people. The beginning salary may be lower, but eventually the upper-end salaries might be very high.”

In the liberal-arts disciplines, the NACE survey shows the average starting salary for graduates was $32,774 in political science, $31,501 in English, $30,375 in history, $30,338 in psychology and $28,812 in sociology.

“Even though the salary is important, it shouldn’t be the only factor to influence someone’s career choice,” Dunlap said. “Self-fulfillment, using the skills that are important to you, having a sense of purpose in your job and being motivated to do the job are also important.”

Students willing to relocate will command higher salaries, she said. In addition, those who added value to their degree through work experience or international travel will enhance their employability. Students will be more marketable if they obtain analytical and quantitative skills, learn languages, develop their multicultural awareness and have leadership experience.

The demand for workers in a specific field often changes quickly, and students must prepare themselves to deal with the changes, Dunlap said. “Most employers want someone with the basic ability to learn, who has professionally related skills, who gets along with other workers and who has a strong work ethic.”

Job search preparation is essential to identify and compete for better jobs because well-prepared applicants are more competitive, she said. As part of the preparation for a job search, students should make sure they know what their personal strengths and skills are.

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