While the mainstream economy continues to face a downturn, technology may be driving its comeback — a trend is highlighted by the rising salaries of School of Engineering and Applied Science graduates.
According to Career Service’s annual Career Plans Survey, the average salary for 2011 Engineering graduates was $68,814 — a 12-percent increase over their 2010 peers.
SEAS Dean Eduardo Glandt said he is “glad, but not shocked” by the news, since the increase in salary of Engineering students is a national trend.
“Indeed, anything that is technology-driven is hot,” Glandt said. “I go to New York, and I hear the market is still coming back. But I go to Palo Alto, and I see that people there have never heard of recession.”
Among 341 Engineering students — which marked a 95-percent response rate — who responded to the survey, 94 students said they have received an average of $8,900 as sign-on bonuses, in addition to their base salaries. About 83 students responded that they expect an estimate average of $20,701 in annual bonuses, as well.
Upon graduation, most Engineering students reported receiving an average of two job offers.
“In general, engineers have more options,” Director of Career Services Patricia Rose said. “Our Engineering students can choose to work [either] in their engineering discipline, [or] in consulting or financial services, both of which are looking for strong quantitative skills.”
She added that the overall demand for engineers has increased, with the growing interests in joining technology and start-up firms.
In addition to the increase in overall demand, Glandt attributed the rise in salary to an enhanced quality of students at the Engineering School.
“There has been at least a 30-percent increase in the number of applications to the Engineering School at least three years in a row,” he said. “The applicant pool is getting deeper and deeper, meaning that the quality of the students we take is getting better every year.”
Glandt believes this application increase points to a trend in which students are relying more on basic skills — such as knowledge about engineering — that will enable them to survive in the job market when things are unsettled.
Engineering and Wharton senior Nop Jiarathanakul believes the rising salary among 2011 graduates came as a direct result of the boom of the technology industry.
“There is something called ‘Zynga Effect,’ in which Zynga pays high salary to attract many engineers,” Jiarathanakul said. “Because of that, other companies start to raise salaries as well.”
Engineering senior Christine Li, who is still considering her options after graduation, was surprised by the result, but felt relieved at the same time.
“It was surprising to me because I did not know there was such a big increase in the salary,” Li said. “But it does give me reassurance about on how useful my major is. It also helps me to become positive about what my career path will look like.”