College students have unrealistic salary expectations after graduation, survey reveals

College students are in for a wake-up call when they enter the workforce after graduation.

A survey conducted by Clever Real Estate revealed Gen Z college students have “seriously unrealistic expectations” when it comes to how much they will earn in their job a year out of school and 10 years into their careers.

“Students tend to overestimate how much they’ll make right out of college. The average undergraduate expects to make $57,964 one year into their career, while the national median salary is $47,000 for bachelor degree holders with zero to five years of experience,” the survey showed.

The survey found that college students had unrealistic expectations across all majors except the computer science field. Those who studied computer science estimated to make about $59,300 when the medium early career salary is $68,800.

Gen Z undergraduates also overestimated their mid-career salaries by about $15,000.

When it comes to employee benefits, Gen Zers prioritized competitive salaries and great insurance plans more than fun work environment flex time and paid time off — perks that millennials cared more about.


“Students expect college to be a career game changer from the get-go, but the truth is that building a career takes time, hard work, and practical experience. Meanwhile, the margins on getting a college degree are slimmer than ever,” the survey’s report stated.

Women also had lower salary expectations compared to their male counterparts. Female college graduates said they expected to earn about $4,300 less than men in their post-graduate job.