New Research Shows Class of 2018’s Career Expectations & Job Search Misconceptions

College graduates from the Class of 2018 expect to earn an average of $54,010 in their first job, a rise of almost $8,000 from the salary expectations of the Class of 2016, according to a new report from Holmdel-based iCIMS Inc.

The third annual report explores the professional aspirations of the class of 2018 including industry, role and salary expectations along with grad school ambitions.

“This year’s graduates are confident in their ability to find the job they want after graduation, and a well-paying one at that,” said Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS. “For employers, even with an abundance of educated candidates, nearly 80 percent of recruiters are finding filling entry-level positions more challenging than they did three years ago. In response, recruiters have upped their game by offering better salaries and benefits (41 percent), increased training and development (40 percent), and enhancing their employee referral programs (33 percent).”

In addition to the survey of college seniors and recruiters, the report also includes data points from iCIMS’ platform, which is drawn from a database of more than 61 million applications and 3 million jobs posted per year by more than 3,500 customers. Key data points include:

  • STEM hires: Outside of Silicon Valley and New York City, the top U.S. metro areas where the highest percentage of hires were STEM majors included Seattle, WA, Tampa, FL and Baltimore, MD.
  • Hiring timing: College seniors should expect the jobs they are applying for to be filled within 43 days of the posting date.
  • Grad school: Based on the percent of recent hires who earned a master’s degree, the top majors in which it is important to go to grad school include HR, healthcare administration and technology, education, software engineering, and public health and health policy.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Salary expectations: While new grads expect an average salary of $54,010, recruiters estimate they will pay entry-level employees $56,532, on average — a substantial jump of more than $10,000 since last year when their estimate was $45,361, on average.
  • Gender pay gap: The women of the class of 2018 are far less confident in earning higher wages than men. On average men surveyed expect a salary of approximately $65,558 while women expect $49,002 on average.
  • Gig economy: Even with salary expectations rising, 64 percent of college seniors said they are likely to get a job in the “gig economy” to supplement their main income.
  • Application timing: While 70 percent of college seniors say they plan to start applying to jobs before graduation, nearly two in five students (39 percent) don’t start their job search process until less than a month before they graduate.
  • STEM degrees: While only 24 percent of college seniors surveyed will be graduating with a degree in STEM, these students are in high demand – 52 percent of recruiters say they are most interested in hiring majors in these fields.
  • In-demand roles: Employers may have trouble filling their most in-demand entry-level role needs (human resources and information technology) as only 16 percent of seniors want to work in HR roles and 14 percent want to work in IT roles.
  • Grad school plans: More than half of surveyed companies have seen an increase in the number of applicants with a master’s degree for entry-level positions, but 72 percent feel applicants with a master’s degree are overqualified for an entry-level position.

To compile the report, iCIMS conducted a survey of 400 U.S. college seniors and 400 U.S. HR recruiting professionals.

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