Apr 30, 2024

Question of the Day: By how much do college students overestimate what their starting salary will be?

To say there's a gap between expectation and reality might be a bit of an understatement.

Answer: Around $30,000

  • Expectation: $85,000
  • Actual Average: $56,000

A one dollar bill standing up on its edge on a white countertop.


  1. Did you have an estimate of how much you thought you’d make before you read these answers? If so, how did it compare to college students’ expectations and the actual average?
  2. When it comes to starting salaries, why do you think the expectations of college students and the actual average are so far apart?
  3. What are some potential consequences you can think of when a college graduate’s salary expectations aren’t in-line with reality?
  4. What can you do to make sure you prepare for how much money you will make when you start your first job after graduating?


Here are the ready-to-go slides for this Question of the Day that you can use in your classroom.


Behind the numbers (CNBC):

"New college graduates negotiating their first salary may be in for a rude awakening.

In the midst of a historically strong job market, characterized by low unemployment, rising wages and a high degree of job-seeker confidence, those armed with a degree are feeling relatively good about their earning potential.

In fact, today’s undergraduates expect to make about $84,855 one year after graduation, according to a survey of college students by Real Estate Witch, part of real estate site Clever, in March.

Yet, the average starting salary for recent graduates is just shy of $56,000, Real Estate Witch found, a difference of nearly $30,000."


For more resources related to career planning, check out NGPF's Career unit.


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About the Author

Ryan Wood

Ryan grew up with and maintains a love for learning. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a degree in Business Administration and worked in sports marketing for a number of years. After living in Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, and Minnesota, the call of education eventually brought Ryan back to his home state of Wisconsin where he was a Business and Marketing teacher for three years. In his free time he likes to spend time with his wife and daughter, play basketball, read, and go fishing. Now with NGPF, Ryan is excited to help teachers lead the most important course their students will ever take.

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