Computer science, electrical engineers top ASE pay study for recent grads

LIVONIA—The American Society of Employers (ASE), Michigan’s largest employer association, has released its “2020 Starting Salaries for Co-op Students and Recent College Graduates Survey.” The survey of 121 companies provides a comprehensive look at the current state of wages and benefits provided to co-op students and recent college graduates.

The top five in-state institutions the responding companies actively recruit from are: the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Lawrence Technological University, and Wayne State University.

The survey found the top three most popular technical bachelor’s degree disciplines hired in the past year were mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. The top three non-technical disciplines hired in the past year were supply chain management, business administration, and finance tied with human resources and labor relations.

Topping the pay list for those disciplines was computer science, at $71,581 a year for recent graduates, followed by electrical engineering, $70,236, mechanical engineering, $67,600, business administration, $65,597, supply chain management, $63,589, HR and labor relations, $59,975, and finance, $59,142.

Pay rates for high school and college co-ops and interns were separated by technical and non-technical roles; the average hourly rate for a college senior in a technical field is $18.38 an hour and $16.75 for a non-technical field; the average hourly rate for a college junior in a technical field is $17.11 an hour and $15.75 for a non-technical field.

“The number of employers hiring or planning to hire new college grads has reached its highest level since 2016,” said Mary E. Corrado, president and CEO of ASE. “However, while this job outlook looks promising for new college graduates, some challenges may exist. Our data is suggesting that employers may be slowing the pace of their hiring or that we have reached a plateau. New grads will need to work harder to distinguish themselves and compete for what might be few opportunities. Our data suggests that prior work experience and internships play a significant role in employer decision making. Students should consider internships as a steppingstone to their career.”

In the survey, 77 percent of respondents said their company has hired, or plans to hire, a recent college graduate in 2020, three percentage points higher than in 2019. However, just 19 percent of companies say they plan on increasing their hiring efforts this year, down 11 percentage points from a year ago.

Most survey respondents were small businesses, with 76 percent having less than 500 employees. Just over 80 percent are in the metro Detroit region, with 59 percent classified as automotive suppliers.

The top three knowledge factors and skills that organizations consider when making hiring decisions, in order, are coursework related to the work required on the job, computer skills, and internship or work experience. The top three perceived shortcomings of recent college graduates are career expectations, compensation expectations, and adaptation to work environment. All were cited by just over half of employers.

This survey is available free of charge to ASE members and for $525 to non-members.  Contact Kevin Marrs at for more information.

ASE is a non-profit membership organization offering HR professionals member benefits and discounted services spanning recruitment, engagement, development, and retention while minimizing compliance risk. Learn more about ASE at

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