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Top paying jobs for class of 2011

By Kaitlin Madden, CareerBuilder.com
Chemical engineering grads are at the top of the list for successful careers and a high salary.
Chemical engineering grads are at the top of the list for successful careers and a high salary.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In 2011, the job market and salaries are looking up for recent college graduates
  • Chemical engineering and computer science jobs anticipate the highest pay-outs
  • Nursing, mathematics and economics grads also expect to pull in big bucks
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(CareerBuilder.com) -- Historically, college graduation has been a time of celebration. The years of hard work and studying have come to end, and life in the real world -- with a real paycheck -- can finally begin.

Yet for the students who graduated from college over the past three years, leaving the safe haven of a university campus and entering into the unstable job market was more panic provoking than festive.

Hiring of new college graduates began to decline in 2008, when companies first started feeling the effects of the recession. By 2009, the graduating class was faced with industry-wide hiring freezes.

Things started to look up for the class of 2010, but companies -- many of which had gotten used to doing more with less -- were still hiring cautiously.

Now, in 2011, we can at last say that things are really and truly looking up for new college grads. According to the annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, overall, employers plan to hire 19.3 percent more new college graduates this fall than they did in the fall of 2010, the first double-digit percentage increase since 2007.

In comparison, last year, hiring managers reported that they would be hiring 6.9 percent fewer new grads than the year prior.

There's good news on the pay front, too. Salaries for the graduating class of 2011 are up from the previous year for the first time since 2008.

On average, students can expect a starting offer of around $50,462, 5.9 percent higher than the average offer of $47,673 that 2010 grads received. Plus, 75 percent of employers surveyed said they planned to offer higher salaries to this year's graduating class.

Like every year, though, certain degrees command a higher salary than others. While graduates from a variety of majors and disciplines have a shot at a decent salary in 2011, almost all of the top-10 offers will go to engineering and computer science grads.

According to the NACE survey, the following are the highest anticipated payouts:

1. Chemical engineering -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $66,886

2. Computer science -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $63,017

3. Mechanical engineering -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $60,739

4. Electrical/electronics and communications engineering -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $60,646

5. Computer engineering -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $60,112

6. Industrial/manufacturing engineering -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $58,549

7. Systems engineering -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $57,497

8. Engineering technology -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $57,176

9. Information sciences & systems -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $56,868

10. Business systems networking/ telecommunications -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $56,808

For those who aren't graduating with an engineering or computer science degree, however, all hope for a high salary is not lost. There are other majors that can expect offers of more than $50,000 per year.

Here are 10 more degrees that will pull in the big bucks.

1. Nursing -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $55,774

2. Mathematics -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $55,300

3. Economics -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $54,634

4. Management information systems/ business data processing -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $$54,372

5. Finance -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $53,048

6. Agricultural sciences (not including plant science, animal science or conservation majors) -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $52,934

7. Human resources -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $52,532

8. Logistics/materials management -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $50,602

9. Accounting -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $50,316

10. Liberal arts & sciences/general studies -- Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $50,313

Unfortunately, not all new graduates can expect high salaries right away.

Those who might have delayed gratification when it comes to compensation include students who majored in elementary and secondary education, communications, journalism, social work, visual and performing arts, plant sciences and animal sciences -- all degrees with an average starting salary of $35,000 or less.

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