Post-Grad Salary: Is Gen Z Expecting Too Much?


Today’s college graduates expect to receive a starting salary at their first job that’s nearly double the actual average entry-level salary — and these unrealistic expectations extend to everything from their mid-career prospects to the financial value of their degree.


Those are some of the takeaways from a recent survey conducted by Real Estate Witch, which gathered responses from 1,000 undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree.


Notably, the survey found that nearly half of respondents believe college isn’t worth the cost. And if given a chance for a do-over, 40% of them would make different choices about what or where they studied.

A Strong Job Market May Skew Expectations

Today’s job market is booming. Department of Labor data shows job openings are historically high as the nation continues to feel the effects of the Great Resignation.

Wages, too, are rapidly increasing. Labor statistics show wages have shot up by 4.5% since December 2020, the largest spike in 40 years.

Graduates know the job market is hot, but they overestimate how hot it is. According to a report by education analysts at ThinkImpact, the average salary for a college graduate today is $55,260. Meanwhile, undergraduates now expect to earn $103,880 in their first job after college.

Those unrealistic expectations extend to mid-career earnings, too. Students today think they’ll be making just over $200,000 10 years after graduating — though the average mid-career salary is $132,497, according to Glassdoor.

It’s clear something has caused college students’ expectations for their first salaries to grow uncontrollably — but what?

A Hot Job Market Has Overheated Expectations

Part of the explanation could be the ease with which many college graduates are getting jobs. As they enter a job market with many openings, recruiters have been forced to compete for candidates, often sweetening offers with enhanced benefits or salary bumps.

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