Class Of 2016 Forecast: More Jobs & Higher Starting Pay

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Industry-wise, accounting services has the most confidence in their prospects. On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), hiring managers rated the job market as a 4.11 collectively. Computers and electronics, information, and management consulting also averaged a 4.0 score. In fact, the only industry below a 3.0 (good) was oil and gas extraction, which scored a 1.78 due to lower energy prices.

Regionally, the best places for job hunting is the northeast, where 35.1% of companies surveyed were striving to increase hiring – and another 64.9% aimed to maintain previous years’ hiring levels. In fact, none of the 33 respondents from the northeast planned to cut hiring. That said, the biggest hiring gains were anticipated in the southeast, Midwest, and the west, where roughly 41% in each region planned to increase hiring intake. Nonetheless, employers in the west and southeast intend to scale back new graduate hiring by 22.7% and 20% margins respectively.

So how reliable are these numbers? Based on history, employers generally fulfill their hiring predictions. In NACE’s 2015 Job Outlook Study, for example, 149 employers estimated that they would need 34,294 graduates – and ended up hiring 33,629 people. In other words, just 1.95% of these positions went unfilled. In the previous four studies, the percentage of unfilled positions ranged from 3.4% to 5.6%, meaning employers know exactly how many people they need – and when and why.


And employers are willing to pay up as well. In 2016, 60.8% of employers are prepared to increase starting salaries for bachelor’s degree holders. Technically, this is a step back from 2015, where 65.5% of survey respondents planned to raise pay. On the other hand, it is double what the Class of 2010 – who graduated into a market mired in recession – could have expected. Like hiring, pay is contingent on industry and region. Every company in the miscellaneous professional services sector, for example, expected to increase pay. And over 70% of firms in finance, insurance and real estate, construction, and accounting services planned to do the same. On the other end, only a quarter of retail firms had budgeted higher salaries – and it wasn’t better in computer and electronics (37.5%) and chemicals and pharmaceuticals (45.5%).

That’s not to say graduates may not earn higher starting checks in other ways. For example, 51.8% of firms are offering signing bonuses to 2016 graduates. That’s down from the 52.9% that respondents projected in 2014 – but higher than the 51.0% that they actually delivered upon in 2015. The highest bonuses are expected to be doled out to computer science ($6,357) and engineering ($5,750) majors, though students with degrees in business ($3,100) and accounting ($2,929) can expect to get their cut too. For graduates pursue a master’s degree, their best option is an MBA, with employers budgeting bonuses of $9,929 for them (down from $20,205 for the Class of 2015).

Of course, the Class of 2016 can expect some meaty paychecks if the previous class is any indication. In NACE’s Fall Salary Survey released last month, 2015 graduates reported an average salary of $50,561, up 5.2% over the previous year. Topping the list were computer and information sciences majors at a $65,849 average. Other STEM majors, such as engineering technologies ($58,834), mathematics and statistics ($54,485), and physical sciences ($46,240) also fared well. At the low end, you’ll find several soft side majors, including cultural studies ($33,296), English and literature ($34,702), psychology ($35,108), visual and performing arts ($36,401), and communications and journalism ($36,650). Surprisingly, liberal arts and general studies majors outperformed graduates from the health professions and biomedical sciences, landing average salaries of $50,116 to start.