New NACE Data: Slight Dip in CS Salaries

I often refer to data from NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which works with college placement offices to collect data on trends in starting salaries, by field.

The figures for computer science, though higher than for most other majors, as has been the case over the years, have never shown a sharp upward trend indicating a labor shortage. The CS figure in the current survey, Fall 2015, at $65,004, is nearly 4% below the one reported last fall, when the figure was $67,500. (These numbers are specific to CS; read the text part rather than the charts.) This is particularly interesting in that salaries overall rose 5.2%.

Also interesting are the results for petroleum engineering, often cited by researchers such as Hal Salzman of Rutgers as evidence that, rather than bringing in foreign workers, national policy should just let the market work. There was a sudden demand for petroleum engineers, so enrollment in such majors went up accordingly. Now, as we know, the boom has turned to bust, and sure enough, the average starting salary plummeted from $86,255 to $72,063. Still high, but the effect of market forces is clear.

All this is especially important in view of the “staple a green card” proposals in Congress, which would give fast-track green cards to foreign Master’s and PhD students in U.S. STEM programs. These workers become permanent fixtures in the labor market, which hardly justifies bringing them in to remedy “shortages,” which are typically not real and are short-lived even when they are real.


14 thoughts on “New NACE Data: Slight Dip in CS Salaries

  1. >salaries overall rose 5.2%

    Sounds absurd, what salaries – all bachelors? I don’t believe that for a femtosecond.

    Please remember that these tiny deltas, whether 4% down or 5% up, are from a basis that has barely moved in even nominal terms in thirty years – if the average today is anywhere near $50k so what, it was probably $40k in 1985, but thirty years inflation at even 4%/year means salaries have been cut in half in real terms, in CS as in other fields.


  2. For 2015, NACE gives the median starting salary for a bachelor’s degree in engineering as $62,000 and a mean of $61,819.

    For 2013, NACE gives the average starting salary for a bachelor’s degree in engineering as $62,062.

    While average wages in the US for the past 2 years have increased by a few percent, the average starting salary for engineers has actually declined. The shortage shouters have some explaining to do.


  3. I entered the profession during much better times and can’t imagine how difficult it must be for those just leaving college now. It is very difficult for me to advise my son to consider CS or a related degree. I own an IT consulting firm and could put him to work, but even so I’m not optimistic about the long term viability given today’s trend and the cronyism that is harming the profession.

    Of course, if there is a safe harbor for students I’m not sure where it is.


    • Ditto for my kid, Lawson- She’s interested in computerized graphic design, but I’m disinclined to encourage her, since I got out of software development years ago when the interviewers became more and more Indian, and young enough to be my children. They seemed to revel in coming up with abstruse, techie gotcha questions. My defense for failing their tests, that I had forgotten more than they had yet learned, didn’t set well.

      And let’s face it, the IT industry tends to be sexist.

      Wage growth has been stagnant for years. When are Americans going to realize they’re getting screwed? When are they going to vote their economic interest instead of their bigotry and paranoia?

      Issues like the H-1B situation are symptoms of a political & economic system skewed against the bulk of the population.. The causes are never recognized, let alone addressed. But unfortunately it’s the fault of the people. We’re getting what we vote for.

      So what do I tell my kid? Learn German and move to Switzerland? Be a plumber? Get a masters in Business and plug into the prevailing mantra, buy the party line? I don’t know. I have no answers.


  4. Norm — why don’t you do a blog on S 2266, the Grassley/Durbin bill? Some interesting stuff in it, such as the 50% cap on H-1B hirings by the outsourcing firms. And 200 more DoL investigators, and fees to be paid to DoL. And a complex priority system about who gets slots when there are too many applications.

    David North


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