A new study that followed the outcomes of Florida university students who earned bachelor's degrees in 2015 shows that more than 90 percent of students were working within one year of graduation, with full-time employees earning a median salary of $39,100.
The report, which will be reviewed by the state university system's Board of Governors next week, was able to match 60,333 graduates of the class of 2015 against employment and education databases, showing outcomes for 53,490 students, or 89 percent of the class.
The employment and education outcomes for the remaining 11 percent of the class, 6,843 graduates, could not be determined.
Of the 53,490 graduates, 70 percent were working, 23 percent were working and continuing their educations and 8 percent were attending school within one year of graduation.
Of the working graduates, 71 percent had full-time jobs and 29 percent had part-time employment.
“Pursuing a baccalaureate degree does increase life chances,” said Jan Ignash, the Board of Governors' vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. “That's why people go to school. And I think what this tells is the good news is that they get jobs and lot of them go on for further education.”
This is the third survey of Florida baccalaureate graduates, following a pilot report and an assessment of 2014 graduates. It has become an annual review helping the Board of Governors develop system-wide strategies based on the employment and education outcomes.
Christy England, the associate vice chancellor for academic policy and research who conducted the study, said the data is also aimed at individual universities and the students.
England said the salary data can help students “understand the value of that degree when they get their first job and they don't know if they are being offered a fair wage or not.”
“They could potentially use it for negotiating,” England said.
The most popular majors for the Class of 2015 included business and marketing,19 percent; health professions, 12 percent; social sciences, 9 percent; psychology, 8 percent; biological sciences, 7 percent; and engineering, 6 percent, the study showed.
Although the median salary for the 2015 graduates working full-time was $39,100, it ranged from $58,600 for engineering graduates to $29,500 for biological sciences graduates. Other salaries included: computer sciences, $53,200; business, $42,100; journalism, $34,100; agriculture, $33,500; and performing arts, $31,300.
Although the employment trends were positive, the new report showed significant racial and gender gaps for the 2015 graduates' salaries.
The median salary for African-American students working full-time was $35,600, $3,500 below the median for all students. The largest gap, $8,500, was for students employed in health professions, while African-American graduates earned $500 above the median in education jobs, the survey showed.
There was not a significant gap in overall salaries for Hispanic graduates.
But there was a $5,500 gap between salaries for women who earned a bachelor's degree and male graduates, who had a median salary of $42,500 and were working full-time. In the business professions, which attracted the largest number of female graduates in 2015, males earned $4,200 more than the median salary of the women, which was $40,000.
England said the Board of Governors will need more long-term data before drawing more solid conclusions on the trends.
“The gaps are pretty substantial, particularly for African-Americans compared to all other students,” she said. “But again, it's only two years of data, so we want to keep an eye on it.”
The wage gap between women and men may provide more incentive for women graduates to bargain harder for higher initial salaries, she said.
“This might be a way to empower them to go out and say, `I'm worth more gosh darn it and you should pay me more,' '' England said.
Comparing the 2014 baccalaureate graduates with the Class of 2015 showed the median salary for all graduates working full-time rose 8 percent from the prior year. The median salaries increased for all subgroups including African-Americans, 7 percent; Hispanics, 6 percent; and females, 7 percent.
But the median salaries for males increased 9 percent and the wage gap with females increased by $1,100 between the two years, the survey showed.
Ignash said the annual assessments of the baccalaureate graduates will be enhanced by surveys looking at the individual classes five years after graduation and nine years after graduation, providing more long-term data.
“In some of these majors, you don't expect students to be fully launched into their careers at a year out. They're on a path,” Ignash said. “In four or five years when we go back and look at this, I think the data is going to round out the story.”