School and Major: What Pay is typical for Generation Y?
The pay reported in this report is defined as annual cash earnings, from hourly wages or salary, combined with bonuses, commissions, and other cash earnings. Earnings from equity (stock grants and stock options) are not included.
According to our education report, those who choose to major in engineering, computer science, and economics earn top dollar after about 2-3 years of experience, with a median salary of at least $55,000. In their mid-careers, those with these majors often earn a six-figure median pay.
Unsurprisingly, graduates from top-tier ivy leagues can expect to earn a higher starting salary. Graduates from these schools with 2-3 years of experience typically earn just under $60,000.
Generation Y: Typical Starting Pay of Men vs. Women
The starting median pay across all careers and majors in 2010 for a recent graduate in Gen Y was $40,000 for men and $33,200 for women.
This PayScale data set includes bachelor's degree graduates 20 to 32 years old in 2010 (the U.S. Census defines Generation Y as those born between 1977 and 1994), who have been working for <2 years in their field.
These figures represent the "typical" pay for the two genders in Generation Y, but what about the extremes? How low is low pay and how high is high pay? The answer is given by the 10th and 90th percentiles. The 10th percentile is a benchmark for low earners--90% of the workers will earn more, while only 10% will earn less. On the other hand, the 90th percentile represents the high earners as only 10% of workers can expect to earn more.
The 10th and 90 percentiles for male college graduates are $24,000 and $61,500 respectively, while the 10th and 90th percentiles for female college graduates are $21,100 and $52,900 respectively. As you can see, women from Generation Y still suffer from a similar fate as women from earlier generations: they often earn less than their male counterparts, which in large part is attributed to the likelihood of women choosing to work in lower paid fields (e.g. Education and Social Work).
Gen Y Men vs. Women and College Majors
Unlike the overall figures given above, the differences between male and female college graduates from Generation Y are not as clear-cut when we look at specific majors. In fact, women who major in engineering have a higher median pay then men in the same major. The following table gives the starting median pay across gender for 10 common majors.
|Major ||Male Median Pay ||Female Median Pay |
|Electrical Engineering ||$54,400 ||$59,200 |
|Civil Engineering ||$48,200 ||$48,600 |
|Computer Science ||$47,100 ||$46,900 |
|Accounting ||$40,000 ||$35,500 |
|Economics ||$41,000 ||$39,300 |
|Political Science ||$34,700 ||$31,700 |
|Biology ||$33,500 ||$30,900 |
|Psychology ||$31,000 ||$29,800 |
|Communications ||$31,900 ||$32,000 |
|English ||$32,800 ||$31,200 |
The female top earners (90th percentile) in the above majors can earn between $42,700 (Psychology) and $72,600 (Computer Science). The male top earners can earn between $48,800 (Psychology) and $70,000 (Computer Science). Although female pay is typically below male pay, women can see a wider range in pay than men.
Salary for Common Gen Y Jobs
The following table gives the starting median pay and the starting top earner (90th percentile) pay for 10 common jobs:
|Job ||Starting |
|Top Earner |
|Information Technology (IT) Consultant ||$51,900 ||$70,700 |
|Mechanical Engineer ||$52,400 ||$64,800 |
|Software Developer ||$50,600 ||$72,000 |
|Project Engineer, Construction ||$49,900 ||$61,200 |
|Registered Nurse (RN) ||$48,100 ||$64,500 |
|Financial Analyst ||$45,000 ||$61,900 |
|Staff Accountant ||$38,900 ||$50,800 |
|Inside Sales Representative ||$35,900 ||$51,700 |
|Elementary School Teacher ||$31,700 ||$43,200 |
|Marketing Assistant ||$30,400 ||$40,700 |
Similar to college majors, those in IT and engineering often earn higher median starting salaries than other careers. The starting median salaries of these careers are even higher than the top earners in the fields of Accounting, Sales, Teaching, and Marketing. Consequently, if high pay is your goal, follow the golden path of technology and engineering.
Finally, Location Matters
Earnings are tied to location, partially due to the cost of living in an area. For example, an Accountant in New York City can expect a higher median starting salary ($45,800) than one in Albuquerque, New Mexico ($37,900).
If you are interested in how your salary must change to compensate for a move to a new city, visit PayScale's Cost of Living Calculator.
$50,000/Year is a Lot of Money
With the exception of engineers and those in IT, recent Generation Y graduates simply should not expect pay in excess of $50,000 per year.
This goes against the current expectations for some, but a starting pay greater than $50,000 could be considered a high starting salary, depending upon the job.
These data are updated for 2010, after the white collar economy really hit the skids. Generation Y graduates still need to push their sense of entitlement and desire for high pay aside, especially during these tough economic times. As the unemployment rate continues to rise, Generation Y-ers will need to cut salary expectations if they hope to procure a job, particularly as the majority of others in the job market are doing so willingly.
What type of pay can you expect with your education? Be prepared with accurate salary expectations in your next job interview or review. For powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, job offer, and degree, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale's Full Salary Survey.
Research Analyst, PayScale, Inc.