Science Resources Studies Division
DATA BRIEF Directorate for
Social, Behavioral
and Economic

National Science Foundation
Vol. 1996 No.13, November 8, 1996

Recent Engineering Graduates Out-Earn Their Science Counterparts

By John

In 1995, full-time employed recent college graduates with bachelor's degrees in engineering earned 46 percent more than graduates with bachelor's degrees in science fields.

In 1995, the median annual salary for recent (July 1992-June 1994) engineering graduates was $33,500 for those with a bachelor's degree in engineering and $44,000 for those with a master's degree in engineering (table 1). These salaries are 46 percent and 26 percent higher than salaries for recent bachelor's ($22,900) and master's ($35,000) degree recipients, respectively, in science fields.

Salary figures and employment status data for recent science and engineering (S&E) graduates are derived from the National Survey of Recent College Graduates, a survey conducted biennially by the National Science Foundation. The survey was conducted in 1995 and covers about 700,000 persons who received a bachelor's and/or master's degree from July 1992 through June 1994.

About one-fourth of the 1993 and 1994 S&E bachelor's and master's graduates were enrolled in graduate school on a full-time basis in 1995. Students who had majored in the physical and related sciences and the life and related sciences were more likely to be in graduate school as full-time students than were graduates with degrees in computer and mathematical sciences or engineering (table 1).

Success in the job market varies significantly by level and field of degree. One measure of success is the likelihood of finding employment directly related to a graduate's field of study. Approximately one-half of all master's degree recipients, but only a fifth of all bachelor's graduates, were employed in their field of study in 1995. Among both master's and bachelor's degree recipients, students who had received their degrees in either engineering or computer science were more likely to be working in their field of study than degree recipients in other S&E fields, whereas students majoring in the social sciences were less likely than their counterparts in other S&E fields to have jobs directly related to their degrees.

The private for-profit sector is by far the largest employer of recent bachelor's and master's S&E degree recipients. In 1995, 59 percent of bachelor's degree recipients and 47 percent of master's degree recipients were employed in a private, for-profit company (table 2). The academic sector has been the second largest employer of recent S&E graduates. Master's degree recipients were more likely to be employed in 4-year colleges and universities (23 percent) than were bachelor's degree recipients (13 percent). The Federal sector employed only 7 percent of S&E master's degree recipients and 4 percent of S&E bachelor's degree recipients in 1995. Engineering graduates are more likely to find employment in the Federal sector than science graduates. Other sectors employing small numbers of recent S&E graduates include educational institutions other than 4-year colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and State or local government agencies.

Another measure of job market success is the likelihood of finding a career path job. [1] As expected, S&E master's degree recipients were more likely than S&E bachelor's degree recipients to find a career path job. Approximately, two-thirds of all master's degree recipients and one-half of all bachelor's degree recipients found a career path job. Graduates with degrees in computer and mathematical sciences or engineering were more likely to find career path jobs than graduates with degrees in other fields. Three-fifths of bachelor's degree graduates in computer and mathematical sciences and engineering indicated that they had found career path jobs. Almost four-fifths of all master's graduates with degrees in computer and mathematical sciences and engineering found career path jobs.

This Data Brief was prepared by John Tsapogas who may be reached at the following address:

Division of Science Resources Studies
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965
Arlington, VA 22230

For free printed copies of SRS Data Briefs, write to the above address, call 703-306-1773, or send e-mail to

[1] A "career path" job is identified by the survey respondents as a job that will help graduates in their future career plans or a job in a field in which graduates want to make a career.

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