What can today’s new grads expect to earn?

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Commencement processionToday, we have a guest blog about salaries for the Class of 2009 from our friends at Parade magazine. Parade has been contributing weekly content to CareerBuilder and TheWorkBuzz related to its “What People Earn” issue, which reports on salary trends and the earnings of real Americans.

What People Earn: College Graduates Finding Bright Spots in Dreary Economy

By Brad Dunn, PARADE

The Class of 2009 has been watching the job market disintegrate since senior year began.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released another round of discouraging data in early May. Fewer than one in five graduates who are looking for jobs have found one, and employers are planning to hire 22 percent fewer graduates this year than they did last year.

On top of that, the worst job market in 25 years has brought of a sense of déjà vu to households across the country. Many of the estimated 1.6 million students graduating college in May and June have parents who went searching for their first jobs in the equally dismal early-1980s. It’s an economic rerun for the whole family.

“You are graduating into a world of anxiety and uncertainty,” Vice President Joe Biden told graduates of Syracuse University. “But these are the moments you can embrace … only a handful of us ever get a chance to actually shape the course of history.”

History might need shaping, but now is a great time for graduates to embrace the positive. The numbers aren’t all bad.

For one, bachelor’s degrees are still vital for landing jobs. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the unemployment rate among four-year college graduates between age 20 and 24 is 6.1 percent, while those with only high-school diplomas is 19.6 percent.

Serious job hunters also can take advantage of their fellow graduates’ idleness. Right now, fewer students are seeking jobs than in years past. By this time in 2007, about 64 percent of graduates had begun looking for a job. In 2008, about 67 percent had begun. This year, only 59 percent have launched a job search. That’s about 130,000 fewer people competing for work.

“Whether they’ve decided to delay their careers because of the economy or don’t realize how tough the job market is, fewer grads have started job hunting,” said Andrea Koncz, employment information manager at NACE.

Another silver lining: Several industries actually are planning to hire more graduates this year than in 2008, including transportation, utilities and alternative energy.

“The big openings right now are in the solar industry. Anything green,” said Eric Lochtefeld, founder of University of Dreams, an organization that seeks internships for students. “The nice thing is there’s not a huge level of experience expected because it’s a new sector.”

Uncle Sam is also hiring. U.S. and state governments are planning to hire 6 percent more college graduates than last year, and federal are offering up to 60,000 internships.

“Not only is the government hiring, it’s providing salaries and benefits in line with the private sector,” said Tim McManus, vice president of education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service. “We’re in a unique time and place in this country. Graduates who used to look for careers on Wall Street, for example, are now seeing that they can have a greater impact in government.”

For graduates who have landed jobs, how much are they earning?

To date, the average job offer to a 2009 graduate with a bachelor’s degree is $48,515, down about 2 percent from last year, according to NACE. (Parents who got their first jobs in the early 1980s had it slightly better. The average job offer for the Class of 1982 was $22,450 — or, adjusted for inflation, $49,485).

To be sure, an entry-level salary of $48,000 seems high in this economy. However, that amount represents only the one in five graduates who have already been offered employment, and pre-graduation job offers tend to come from relatively lucrative industries, including engineering, computer sciences and health care.

In specific fields of study, NACE found that the average job offer was $58,438 for engineering students; $57,693 for computer science students; $46,973 for business students; and, $36,807 for liberal arts students.

What about all those government jobs? McManus said most graduates with bachelor’s degrees receive a base starting salary from $33,000 to $42,000, plus “locality pay,” which raises it between 13 percent and 34 percent depending on the cost of living where they work.

Job seekers’ increasing reliance on technology also gives graduates an opportunity to set themselves apart. Those who apply old-fashioned job-hunting techniques have a better chance of outmatching those who rely solely on online submission forms.

“Students say all the time, ‘I submitted my resume online and I never heard back.’” Lochtefeld says. “The best advice that I can give to students is stop playing the numbers game. Things that worked 20 years ago before the Internet — direct contact, person-to-person networking — still work today.”

Slideshow: See What Real Graduates Earn

Take a look at these recent grads to see what they’re really earning:

jon_tv-reporterJon, 24
TV news reporter
Mattydale, N.Y.



aubrey-social-workerAubrey, 24
Social worker
Southaven, Miss.



joshua-crimeJoshua, 25
Crime investigator
Fayetteville, Ga.




nicole-armyNicole, 25
1st Lt. U.S. Army, specializing in finance
Fayetteville, N.C.



yordana-pharmacyYordana, 25
Pharmacy technician
Tampa, Fla.



leah-ad-agencyLeah, 24
Ad-agency employee
Kernersville, N.C.




See What Real Graduates Earn

Think you know who makes more?  Play the Salary Guessing Game

Check out how much top celebrities earn

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  2. The $36,900 salary of a 1st Lt. is inaccurate. A 1st Lt. as of Oct. 1 2009 (begining of fiscal for federal employees) is $3,483.90 a month = 41,806.82 a year. But here is the kicker that most people do not realize. Military gets two additional monthly pays that are tax free. A 1st Lt based out of Fayetteville N.C. (Fort Bragg) makes an additional $1,065 a month if single, or, $1,270 if married or have dependents (this is a housing allowance). The other tax-free monthly payment is a subsistence allowance of $223. In short, a new Lt in Fayetteville N.C. will earn between $57,262-$59,722, but only claim $41,000 on taxes http://www.military.com

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