Revenge of the Nerds: Starting salaries for Class of 2015 techies top $100K

stanford cs fair14jan15

The nation’s premier tech colleges are reporting white-hot demand for seniors majoring in computer science and other IT-related fields.

Students who will graduate in May with computer science, software engineering and computer engineering majors are fielding multiple offers, with top students accepting starting salaries over $100,000, career services departments say.

Indeed, tech colleges are reporting standing-room-only job fairs with a feeding frenzy atmosphere, as companies including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Intel try to recruit the best budding computer scientists.

Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

"We have cases of students with more than 50 offers," says Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). "I was an executive at Google up until a few months ago. I know how much work large companies put in to attract the very best computer scientists in the world, and I also know from CMU’s end the huge demand and excitement when it comes to recruiting our students."

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Graduates of CMU’s School of Computer Science have the highest starting salaries of any science or engineering program in the United States, according to the Web site Nerdwallet reported that starting salaries from CMU’s School of Computer Science were $89,832 a year ago, but Moore said the average initial offer this year is $100,000.

"It really is a sign of the amount of competition that is going on, with the companies fighting over the students," Moore says. "For the students, it’s not just about the salary. It’s about making sure that the work environment is pleasant and the meaningfulness, importance and relevance of the jobs."

At Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, starting salaries for Computer Science and Software Engineering majors are up more than 40% from 2010, with superior students receiving offers approaching $110,000.

"Demand for our IT graduates is sky high," says Kevin Hewerdine, Director of Career Services and Employee Relations at Rose-Hulman, which is based in Terre Haute, Ind. "We don’t have enough grads to even come close to what industry wants. The demand is driving the starting pay up." 

job growth 2 SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Even at less selective colleges, demand for tech majors has reached a new high. PayScale reports that starting salaries for undergraduates majoring in computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering from all U.S. universities have risen 9% in the last five years. 

041515 starting salaries PayScale

"Starting salaries for the IT job family are growing stronger and faster than any other engineering field," says Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale in Seattle. "There is upward pressure on wages because of the higher demand for these positions."

Demand for undergraduates majoring in computing-related fields is outpacing all other STEM [Science Technology Engineering Math] fields. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 71% of all newly-created jobs in all STEM fields between 2012 and 2022 will be in computing.

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Ed Lazowska

Prof. Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington

"Both nationally and in our region, the vast majority of all STEM jobs are in computing," says Professor Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. "In Washington State, computer science is one of only four fields with a gap between degrees granted and jobs available at the Baccalaureate level and above. The gap in computer science is greater than the total gap in the other three fields."

The gap between available computing jobs and the number of newly minted techies is what’s driving up starting salaries.

At Rose-Hulman – an engineering school that is ranked by PayScale as having among the best return-on-investment ratios in the United States – the highest starting salaries are for Computer Science and Software Engineering majors. Last year, the average accepted offer for Rose-Hulman’s computer science majors was $84,300, while software engineering majors received an average of $75,300. These figures are expected to rise around 5% for the Class of 2015.

Hewerdine says students majoring in these two fields are in demand not only from tech companies, but also General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Honda.

"The automobile companies are looking for individuals who can create software to run the robotics on an assembly line and to support the manufacturing process," he says. "There is enormous demand for people who can write code."

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