Millions of seniors will be graduating from college and entering the workforce in the coming weeks. These graduates may look forward to leaving college life behind and moving on to lucrative careers.

But many of these graduates are in for a rude awakening. A recent survey found that most college students overestimate their earning potential by 88%. And this is despite a record number of job openings and employers pulling out all the stops to recruit qualified candidates.

College students overestimate their earning potential

Real Estate Witch surveyed 1,000 undergraduate students across a variety of majors and universities. The results showed that most college students expect to earn $103,880 in their first job after graduation. But the average starting salary after college is $55,260.

In particular, college students majoring in journalism, psychology, and liberal arts were the most likely to overestimate their future salaries. For instance, most journalism students expect to earn $107,040, while the actual average salary is $44,800.

The survey also found that most college students overestimate what their future earnings will look like as well. After 10 years in the workforce, most college students expect to earn $200,270, but the average mid-career salary is $132,497.

The reason behind the discrepancy

According to some experts, expecting to earn over $100,000 right out of college may not be as crazy as it sounds. Danetha Doe, an economist for Clever Real Estate, explains that most college graduates expect a six-figure salary because that’s what it takes to keep up with the risk cost of living.

Wages have remained largely stagnant over the past five years as the cost of living has dramatically gone up. For example, the median home price in the U.S. is $400,000, which the average American would not qualify for.

And that’s why the survey also found that one in three college students don’t think they’ll earn enough money to live comfortably after graduation. This may be compounded by the fact that 43% of college students will graduate with at least $30,000 worth of student loan debt. And 29% will graduate with more than $50,000 in student loan debt.

Reasons to be hopeful for the job market

Despite the survey results, there are many reasons for graduates to be hopeful about the job market. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that employers plan to hire over 30% more graduates than in 2021.

And most industries saw an increase in wages across the board, with the most notable gains made in math, science, agriculture, and natural resources. And computer science majors earn the most money, with an average starting salary of $75,900 after graduation.

If you’re a college senior, here are a few ways you can increase your salary after graduation:

  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate for higher pay — job candidates have never had more of an advantage than they do now.
  • Pursue additional skills after college that can help you advance in your career.
  • Make it a priority to network and build relationships with people in other industries — leveraging these relationships could be instrumental to your career growth.