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Good time to learn accounting?

Posted by: Michael Mandel on September 15

Yesterday the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released their final salary report for the College Class of 2005, listing the average starting salary offers to new grads, by major.

Just for fun, I decided to compare these numbers with what new grads were getting in 2001, just as the bust was gathering speed. My source was the comparable NACE press release in fall of 2001 (located here).

And then I adjusted for inflation. Here’s what I found:

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Everything is negative of course. The biggest declines came in the computer-related majors—no surprise there. And the relatively strong performance of accounting (the bottom bar, somewhat obscured) is no surprise either.

But why should psychology have nose-dived so completely? And why is sociology doing relatively better? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Reader Comments


September 19, 2005 03:09 PM

This may even be optimistic as benefits continue to be reduced over time. As for psychology vs. sociology, the difference may be due to the employers, differences in absolute salary level, as may the different numbers in these fields.

Mike Reardon

September 21, 2005 03:05 PM

Add to this list the drop off in starting engineering salary, and also starting architect salary, this is directly related to competition from lower wage nations, who now offer these starting engineers, and architects at lower salary.

I feel your article shows, we are now starting to compete at their labor scale, even up into these advanced skills.


September 26, 2005 10:43 PM


I am very glad that you posted this information on your blog. At present I work for a wireless carrier but attend college for a degree in accounting. Why? beacuse with my technical backround I can work as a project manager or Hedge fund manager. Many of my friend went for there BS degree in electrical engineering only to work as project manager or software program. They are struggling to pay for there student loan beacuse the engineering job pays less than the student loan balance.


September 29, 2005 06:48 PM

We are on the up side of a valley in the economic cycle. In time wages will grow. I'm surprised to see those numbers nationally. I thought we had a local problem here in metro Detroit. I thought we were further along than this. A prediction; People will blame Republicans and Democrats will get voted in. The cycle will go the way it is going to go regardless of who is in office. People will give credit to the Democrats citing this as a reason to keep them in office. Economic cycles are so simple to see yet so complex that nobody can stop them. I find it funny that people always think there is some single cause like who’s in office, Indian labor, or foreign government subsidies of steal. Taking subsidized steal actually helps the economy. It is actually foreign tax revenue injected into our economy. On that note, we should stop subsidizing wheat. I don’t want to pay for Europe's lunch. That would help turn our economy faster.


November 7, 2005 04:12 PM

Even though the performance of accounting students is better, accounting firms are having a heck of a time finding qualified candidates out of college. With the current Sarbanes Oxley compliance efforts at full speed, firms will have to work their current auditors even harder, thus perpetuating the belief that life as an accountant/auditor is far from desirable. The accounting field has been dragging its feet when it comes to automation. The scarcity of new auditors may make the profession ripe for outsourcing. Because the work relies on implementing simple steps, the procedures are highly prone to computerization.


January 20, 2006 03:00 AM

Add to this list the drop off in starting engineering salary, and also starting architect salary, this is directly related to competition from lower wage nations, who now offer these starting engineers, and architects at lower salary.


January 20, 2006 08:35 AM

Sociology is doing relatively better because the understanding of various cultures (even our own) is one of the most critical issues - and biggest hurdles - in globalization. Sociology majors are en vogue for marketing departments, strategy teams, and global project teams. I think you would find a similar pay trend for anthropology majors which often land the same sorts of jobs.

Leon Hopkins

November 12, 2006 01:42 PM

All this evidence, and the Democrats in the Lame Duck session of Congress will seek to RAISE the H-1B and L-1 visa caps. All the while they decry the decrease in interest in technology and engineering education. Why should anybody spend the time and money to get an education in a particular dicipline when there's no way to make a living doing it?

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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