Michigan college graduates are overestimating starting salaries

Courtesy Image A map from based on the data from a LinkedIn survey of 5,000 users is seen in this courtesy image from Authority.org. The map showcases the national average of $73,400 and the median answers across every state. The 100 respondents from Michigan had an expectation above the national average, along with 23 other states.

ALPENA — The class of 2024 graduated over a month ago, and many are now looking for a job. However, a recent survey by college resource website Authority.org shows that college graduates are overestimating their starting salaries, with graduates in almost half of the states estimating above the average.

The survey was conducted from 5,000 recent college graduates on LinkedIn, and asked one question: “What salary do you expect to receive after graduating?”. A hundred graduates from each state responded, and the data was compiled into a map for comparison.

According to the map, the national average salary is expected to be $73,400. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current median salary in the country going into 2024 was actually $59,000.

Michigan graduates are expecting a starting salary of roughly $75,000, but the current average salary in the state is $68,000. This is roughly a 10% gap in expectations.

Despite this, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that salaries for the class of 2024 are expected to rise by 3.1%, but hiring has decreased by 2%. Even with this slight dip, NACE surveys show employers are planning to increase or maintain their hiring rates for college graduates, and these employers have said the job market for these graduates is either good or excellent.

This can be seen in some Michigan staffing agencies. Star Staffing Alpena said while they haven’t seen a change in college students coming in, they are seeing rising wages and college students getting hired quickly.

“In today’s economy, paying competitive wages has never been more important to a company’s success and growth,” Pamela Richardson, president and CEO of Star Staffing Alpena, said in an email. “We have had numerous direct hire opportunities for students with higher degrees, and we have placed them in new careers within a week or two.”

While getting hired and getting paid competitively is not much of an issue for graduates, some find themselves feeling locked in their careers. Patrick Bouman is a 2023 Central Michigan University graduate currently residing in Montana. While he was formerly a daily reporter at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he said the job started to burn him out.

“I love writing,” Bouman said. “But something changes when you have to deal with extremely tight deadlines every day, and that means a lot of the time projects get put on the back burner.”

Bouman said he was paid $20 an hour at the paper, which was the “industry standard” considering he lives in an area with a high cost of living. Despite the pay and benefits, he felt like it wasn’t the right fit for him.

Now, he works at a bakery, and he’s said with hourly pay and tips, he’s making the same he made at the paper, if not more.

“I get up at 1 a.m. and make bread,” he said. “I was kind of looking for a way out of the paper and I found a job opening for the bread team at a bakery in town that I really like. Now I get to roll around dough… It’s pretty cool.”

Bouman said that his experiences in college and the skills he has learned have been applicable in other areas of life, and said other college students should also appreciate the experience. He said that graduates should pursue whatever career makes them happy.

“Don’t feel like you’re forced to stay in a career for 50 years just because you studied it,” he said. “Those skills that you learned are probably going to be useful in a lot of things.”

This story was produced by the Michigan News Group Internship Program, a collaboration between WCMU Public Media and local newspapers in central and northern Michigan. The program’s mission is to train the next generation of journalists and combat the rise of rural news deserts.


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