What Are Your Chances of Making $100K After Graduation?

By Joyce Huber

Getting paid $100,000.00 a year in any job is still a pretty big deal. Is it possible? Actually, the chances of getting a salary this high are pretty good --  if you know how to plan ahead. There are many factors to consider if your goal is to make a big, fat salary in a short period of time.

With the right education and carefully planning your career field, many graduates could be there in ten years or less. In addition, some graduates could earn a salary of $100K or more in their first job if they are in the right field.

With this said, there are two big factors that directly influence your chances of making $100K a year: education and career field. A third factor is experience. Internships can represent to potential employers the experience needed to get that new job.


Never underestimate the importance and power of a good education. Take the time to get an advanced degree if you can; it will pay off in bigger dividends in the long run. Investing in an advanced makes a difference in your career and your earning potential. An advanced degree empowers graduates with a deeper knowledge base in their area of interest and is evidence of persistence and determination, according to U.S. News and World Report.

In addition, the United States Census Bureau reports that many companies will start new hires who have advanced degrees at a higher pay than those with a bachelors degree only. How much more? Up to 30 percent or more. This automatically puts graduates with advanced degrees at a financial advantage over graduates with a bachelor's degree only.


Jobs that are greatly in demand will generally offer bigger salaries than other fields. So, where your interest lies will greatly affect how much earning potential you will have during your career and how much you can expect to be paid on your first job.

Earning an MBA or other master's degree in business can greatly increase your starting salary. Master's degrees in accounting, finance, marketing and other business-related areas can result in bigger starting salaries. For example, the average starting salary for MBA graduates of The University of Washington (Foster) was more than $111,000 in 2016.

Other hot career fields that get you more at the get-go with an advanced degree, according to Monster, include:
Petroleum Engineering - starting pay of  $108,000
Computer Engineering - starting pay of $68,100 (reaching $100K in 7-9 years)
Chemical Engineering - starting salary of $70,600 (reaching $100K in 10-12 years)

Technology jobs continue to lead the pack in terms of high starting salaries, some beginning over $100K. According to an article in Forbes, these 6 entry-level tech jobs pay between $90-$100K:

Data scientist  - $110,850
Product manager - $105,000
Mobile developer - $98,000
Developer - $96,000
Sales engineer - $93,000
DevOps engineer - $90,000

In fact, jobs in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) all earn, on average, 29 percent more than other non-STEM field jobs. Unfortunately, according to Forbes, jobs in other areas pay far less in comparison. An English major can expect to earn about $34,000 a year, and degrees in the arts, education, history, journalism, foreign languages, religion and public policy can expect to start in the low-to-mid $30s.


Internships are extremely valuable in many career fields. They are often viewed by employers as counting toward experience, and experience makes new graduate job seekers more valuable. Adam Blumberg, vice president for key accounts at Korn Ferry's Futurestep, which handles recruitment services, explains "It may be nine months before the graduate is ready to start, but this practice keeps the really talented new professionals out of the interview process and committed to the company for which they interned."

According to a study by employment site Glassdoor, internships not only give college students hands-on experience in their field but often turn into year-round roles. Internships in the STEM fields generally pay the highest intern wages. Companies like Yahoo, Yelp, Bloomberg LP, Apple, Amazon, Salesforce, ExxonMobil, Microsoft and Facebook pay the highest intern salaries up to $8,000 a month for Facebook. 

College students who work at internship jobs will have a 60 percent greater chance of getting a job at that company, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). In addition, if these interns have completed their internship in one of the highest-paying companies, they are much more likely to reach their $100K salary sooner than those who have no internship experience.


It's not unusual any more for students to start their own businesses, and many are doing this while they are still in college. More companies are outsourcing work like web site development, content writing, and graphic design. If you have strong skill sets in an area that is in demand by many businesses, why not consider doing this work on the side? It would take some hustle and good planning, but the extra money would go a long way in helping to pay off student loans. Who knows; it could also turn into a business of your very own!

So, plan your career carefully. Every step, including an advanced degree in the right field, plus one or more internships, are all positive steps that will greatly increase your changes of making $100K after graduation.

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