The average starting salary for college graduates is $55,000, but current college students think they’ll earn nearly double that amount from their first job out of school.
The students said they expect to make almost $104,000, according to a recent survey of 1,000 undergrads by real estate data company Clever.
The lofty expectations are a fairly new development. The class of 2019, for example, had expected to earn nearly $50,000 less, Danetha Doe, an economist at Clever, tells Fortune. “They’re asking for more, so they can enjoy the financial comfort other generations have been able to afford,” she says, though most students clearly are having to settle for far less.
Over the years, inflation has far outpaced salary growth, Doe adds, but wages are generally rising, though only modestly. Since December 2020, they’ve increased 4.5%, the largest gain since 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For recent grads, starting salaries have jumped 8% in the past five years, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
“From my perspective, the class of 2022 expecting six figures is really just them catching up,” Doe says.
Students with all majors expect to earn more than the average. But journalism students overshot the most by expecting $107,000, 139% more than the median journalist’s salary.
The most realistic students were computer science majors. But even they overestimated their starting salaries, which average $75,100, by 27%.
Despite the class of 2022’s overoptimism about wages, nearly a third of them (31%) don’t believe they’ll make enough money to live comfortably once they graduate. And despite the relatively hot job market, just 15% of seniors said they had already accepted a job offer, and among those, just half (51%) are satisfied with their starting salaries.
Even so, 44% of graduating students said their job search has been easier than they anticipated. The majority of those without jobs lined up remain confident in their prospects, and expect to find a job within three months of graduating.