College grads on the hunt for jobs may have a little more budgetary breathing room this year. Starting salaries are climbing.
One-third of employers said they plan to offer higher pay than last year, according to a new CareerBuilder.com survey of 2,175 hiring managers. While 26 percent said they plan to offer salaries under $30,000, another 26 percent said they do plan to offer at least $50,000. (Certified nursing assistants, teaching assistants and bank tellers are among the worst-paying entry level jobs, according to an analysis by Wallethub.)
Higher salaries bode well for grads with student loan debt. About 70 percent of the Class of 2013 graduated with student loan debt, according to the latest figures from the Institute for College Access & Success's Project on Student Debt. The average owed: $28,400. A starting salary that's higher than your outstanding loan balance is a good indicator that you'll be able to manage debt payments, said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com.
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But don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet, if you haven't already got a job offer in hand. "Recognize that it's an average," said Kantrowitz. "That doesn't mean you're going to earn that."
Overall, the class of 2015 can expect an average starting salary of $62,998, according to initial estimates from a January survey of 316 employer members of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. To compare, an association salary survey of 45,370 Class of 2014 grads released this week put their average starting salary at $48,127.
Of course, there's a lot of variation by discipline and major. Average 2015 starting salary projections from the group range from $80,600 for petroleum engineering majors, for example, down to $43,852 for liberal arts/ general studies grads. A Payscale.com report examining 207 college majors found an even wider scale, with several early career salaries averaging $35,000 or less, including athletic training ($35,000), human services ($33,800) and child development ($32,200).
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Grads may not have an easy time getting hired. Currently, 5 percent of all job openings nationwide are targeted to college students, down from 6 percent a year ago, according to a report from job marketplace SimplyHired.com.
"It's still a competitive market," said Andrea Koncz, research manager for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. "It doesn't mean they will automatically get a job when they graduate. They have to work at it."
Even grads who score a generous salary should conservatively budget, said Karin Maloney Stifler, a certified financial planner in Solon, Ohio. After all, there's a six-month grace period between graduation and when loan repayment begins, and it doesn't do to forget about that forthcoming bill when you're say, deciding how much you can afford to pay on rent or car payments. "Mindful spending and savings is the best way to launch yourself into adulthood," she said.
Another key step? Negotiate. Two-thirds of employers in the CareerBuilder.com survey said they are willing to negotiate salary offers.