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« Seven Ideas for Maximizing Retirement Savings, Part 1 | Main | Tough Financial Choices, Part 1: Investing versus Paying Off Debt »

September 26, 2005


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I clearly recall reading my father's US News & World Report when I was about 14-15, in 1968, and in the "News You Can Use" section was a little article about starting salaries for engineers fresh out of college. Then as now, these were the highest majors, and about $1000/month = $12000/year. Fast forward 6-fold inflation, and we see that things are actually worse now than then, even for the best.

I thought of becoming a chemical engineer, but discovered that math was my greatest strength by far. So that's where I went.

That was some BS. Chemical Engineering? Give me a break. I was a ChE major and when I graduated in 96 with Cooper Union, supposedly one of the best in the country. Out of roughly 45 graduated that year in my class (yeah, small school) exactly 2 (two) found jobs. The rest of us toiled around and either went to grad school or end up doing something else. For me, I was fortunate that I always have a backup plan. Plan B was getting a computer programming job. In retrospect, it was a blessning in disguise. I am doing far better than most in my class and opened up a whole new direction in life. But I would never recommend anybody to go into a ChE major. Yes, you start up salary is high, but that's if you find a job. And then, your salary is pretty stuck for a long time with little upward mobility.

I agree with javasoy. I was also a chemical engineer major (NJIT). I, and most of my graduating class in 1998, did not find chemical engineering jobs. I disagree with javasoy about the upward mobility. AIChE has done salary surveys and found that older chemical engineers (about 20-25 years experience), in low to mid level management jobs have a median salary of about US$88,000 per year and chemical engineers with little or no supervisory responsibility have median salaries of US$70,000 to US$76,000 per year.

These starting salary surveys mean nothing if no one can get the job. It is too bad the surveys do not measure the likelihood graduates in the various majors find a major related job. Colleges should require financial aid students to complete an employment survey every year for a minimum of five years beyond graduation date to measure things like salary, benefits, and what percentage of students actually find work with these high starting salaries. Of course only aggregate data should be published and respondents' privacy should be kept in utmost confidentiality.

A business degree is valuable for all majors. The problem with career people change all the time especially when they hit the big '40.' It is better to be prepared than sorry.

I am 21 and currently working on my degree in finance. I am also contemplating getting a minor in economics. Does anyone have any insight on how the minor will effect 1) Employment Potential and 2) Entrance to B-School.

I have a minor in econ as well and it never made one bit of difference for either job opportunities (in business/marketing) or getting into grad school.

You guys all mentioned engineering, but nothing more than Chemical. What about something more broad like mechanical engineering. I was also considering double majoring in buisness. I was wondering what kind of ceiling there is for mechanical engineers and/or are there ceilings for those that have a Buisness degree?

I see no "ceiling" for mechanical engineers. I live in a low cost of living area, so keep that in perspective when looking at the numbers. I started at $33K six years ago, and have doubled my salary since to $66K. I'm expected to hit $70K next year, and $80K 3 years after that. I find it to be a very secure career choice. Besides my engineering salary, I run a profitable part-time business, and yes, without a business degree.

I am a ME and had a starting salary of $55,000 (in a below average cost of living city). There is absolutely no ceiling on salary for any kind of engineer. Many of my colleagues (only in their 40s) are making upwards of $250k and still have potential for promotion.

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