Report: College Graduates Place Career Growth, Positive Work Environment Above Salary

College graduates look for more in a job than high compensation, according to the 2019 Starting Salaries for Co-op Students and Recent College Graduates Survey, released by the American Society of Employers.
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collaborative work environment
Recent college graduates place a lot of importance on work environment when looking for a job, according to a report by the American Society of Employers. // Stock photo

College graduates look for more in a job than high compensation, according to the 2019 Starting Salaries for Co-op Students and Recent College Graduates Survey, released by the American Society of Employers.

The annual survey looks at the current state of wages and benefits provided to co-op students and recent college graduates. It also offers a snapshot of the recruitment and retentions trends associated with these entrants.

“The data shows that college graduates have higher expectations for career growth and work environment than they do for compensation,” says Mary E. Corrado, president and CEO of the organization. “Employers must realize that it takes more than fair and competitive compensation to create an engaging employee experience and retain these new workers.”

The majority (76 percent) of the 115 companies that responded to the survey have fewer than 500 employees. A little more than 80 percent are located in metro Detroit, and 51.3 percent of them are classified as automotive suppliers.

Nearly three out of four respondents said their company has hired or plans to hire a recent college graduate this year, similar to last year’s number. About 30 percent of the companies have increased their hiring efforts for this demographic compared to last year, an increase of 7 percent year-over-year.

The data suggests the top five in-state institutions Michigan organizations actively recruit from are the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Lawrence Technological University, and Kettering University.

The three most popular technical bachelor’s degree disciplines hired in the past year were mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. The three most popular non-technical ones were human relations/labor relations, finance, and accounting.

Of these six disciplines, the starting salaries were $68,330 for electrical engineering, $66,305 for mechanical engineering, $53,981 for finance, $53,445 for computer science, $49,144 for human relations/labor relations, and $44,646 for accounting.

The top three skill factors organizations considered when making hiring decisions were, in order, related coursework, computer skills, and internship/work experience.

The top three perceived shortcomings of recent college graduates were, in order, career expectations, adaption to work environments, and compensation expectations.

Pay rates for high school and college co-ops and interns were separated by technical and nontechnical roles. The average rate for a college senior in a technical field was $17.84 an hour and $16.20 an hour for a nontechnical field. These numbers for a college junior were $16.72 an hour and $15.17 an hour, respectively.

The survey is available free to members of the American Society of Employers and is $525 for nonmembers.

The American Society of Employers is a not-for-profit trade association providing people management skills and information services to Michigan employers. It was founded in 1902.

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