Surprise! Engineering beats English in pay

Surprise! Engineering graduates earn more than liberal arts grads, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Graduates with engineering degrees averaged $56,000 in their first full-time jobs out of college, compared to $34,000 for Communications and English majors. Computer science majors start at $50,000.


The PayScale survey included 11,000 people who graduated between 1999 and 2010. The reported starting pay was adjusted for inflation to make the salaries of graduates from different years comparable.

While accounting and economics majors do fairly well in their first job, business and marketing majors don’t earn much more than social sciences and liberal arts majors.

The analysis looks at starting pay for people with four-year degrees. It does not look at pay for people who earn master’s or professional degrees.

About Joanne


  1. I love that civil engineering doesn’t count as real engineering for the purposes of that chart…

  2. It’s not clear how this analysis treated people who went on to grad school–included, or not?

    There are quite a few people who get an engineering degree, work as engineers for a few years, then go back and get an MBA. It would be interesting to see a salary analysis of undergrad major combined with grad school experience, if any.

  3. This matches almost perfectly with what I made straight out of school with an engineering degree in 1979 (after you adjust for inflation).

    Per recent discussions about the value of math in daily life, note that there seems to be a pretty strong correlation between the amount of math required to get the degree and the rate of pay for the degree. Where is your mathless god now?

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    It’s not clear how this analysis treated people who went on to grad school–included, or not?

    The article doesn’t say (grrr!), but based on these numbers my guess is that this only counts 4-year degrees. $56K is pretty low for a masters degree (or PhD) in engineering, assuming that you are working as an engineer. And a lot of engineers now get at least a masters degree so if those are included $56K is very low for an average first job.

    -Mark Roulo

  5. If the figures don’t include lawyers, they’re leaving out the high-earning humanities graduates.

  6. For our society to work properly, we need experts in all the fields on that list (including list making – Civil Engineers are seperated from the other Engineers?). Some more than others though, of course! So, there’s nothing wrong with being an English major – but no one majoring in English should go into it with any delusions that they’re going to get rich off of it. But as long as they can pay the bills with whatever job(s) they get after graduation, and they enjoy what they do, then so be it.

  7. Civil engineers aren’t real engineers. They don’t drive trains.

  8. Mark Roulo says:

    Civil engineers aren’t real engineers. They don’t drive trains.

    They are, however, more likely to say “please” and “thank you.”

  9. How much is Starbucks paying English majors these days :)?

  10. By the way, Civil Engineers are treated differently because it’s a different type of discipline. I don’t know about everywhere else, but at the school I attended, we didn’t treat Civil Engineers with much respect at all. This may very well have been incorrect, but the opinion at the time was that Civil Engineering didn’t require much math and was therefore a lesser degree.

    Our opinion at the time was the Civil Engineers didn’t derive answers, they looked them up (again, I don’t know how factual this was, just that it was the prevailing attitude). If you wanted to know the proper radius for a curve in a 55 MPH highway or the necessary thickness of a roadbed in a certain sort of soil, you looked it up in a handbook.

    On the other hand, almost none of us would have to study and pass a PE exam and very few of us would ever get a fancy embosser we could use to announce our status to the world… so maybe the CE’s got the last laugh.