Image: Mortarboard , diploma and money © Comstock, Getty Images

Members of the class of 2014 who accepted job offers took positions with median earnings of $50,050, above their median expectations of $48,890, according to new data (pdf) from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a career-services and recruiting industry group.

Overall, average starting salaries were $48,707, up 7.5% from the 2013 class.

Engineering jobs topped the earnings list with average starting salaries of $62,891, up 1.3% from last year’s class. The biggest gainers were those in the communications discipline, with a 10.1% salary bump over last year to $48,253. Communications majors in particular benefitted from the uptick, with a 17.5% increase to $52,300.

The only broad discipline to report a salary decline was education, where graduates are earning an average of $40,267, down by $70 from last year. That’s troubling because the educational services industry was also the No. 1 recruiter, hiring 161,400 new graduates.

 2014 Average Salary2013 Average SalaryPercent Change
Business$57,229$55,6352.9%
Communications$48,253$43,835

10.1%

Computer Science$62,103$58,5476.1%
Education$40,267$40,337-0.2%
Engineering$62,891$62,0621.3%
Humanities & Social Sciences$38,049$37,7910.7%
Math & Sciences$44,299$42,7313.7%
Overall$48,707$45,3277.5%

Incessant media reports about the poor prospects for new college grads have clearly taken a toll on students’ psyches.

More than 30% of respondents said they expected to earn between $30,001 and $40,000, while nearly 21% predicted they’d earn $30,000 or less in their first jobs after graduation.

“Students have a bleak outlook,” said John Barker, director of the career center at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. “I hear regular comments from students about the poor job market, but we don’t have a poor job market right now.”

Barker will begin collecting detailed salary data from 2014 graduates in about two months but said anecdotal evidence suggests pay will be up by at least 5%. He also said campus visits by employers increased by a solid 20%.

Colgate University’s career services office is pushing more programming around salary negotiations, an option that shocks many students, says Director Mike Sciola. They have been conditioned to think they’d be lucky to land any job, and “we’re seeing them be amazed that they could actually do something like negotiate a higher salary.”

Last year Colgate joined $tart$mart, a national movement that educates college women on how to negotiate their salaries and minimize the gender pay gap.

Corrections & Amplifications:
An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed computer-science jobs as the top-paying occupations for 2014 college graduates. Those jobs were the second-highest paying, behind engineering.

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