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A bump in average starting salaries for English majors?

To me, it’s news when English majors see their average starting salary increase. It’s not news when engineering grads see another bump in pay that’s sometimes double an English major’s. That story is getting kind of old, frankly.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers this week released its summer salary report for the Class of 2010. While the average starting salary for all liberal arts majors fell 3.9 percent to $34,747, the salary for English grads jumped 7.1 percent to $37,154.

Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor and the Professional Organization of English Majors probably should not write a celebratory script yet.

The news is in the eighth paragraph of a 10-paragraph press release. I kept looking for some kind of footnote that a small sample might skew results. Finding none, I checked with the NACE communications office.

Alas, it's premature to declare that salaries for English majors are outperforming those of liberal arts majors as a whole.

"Data for English majors is fairly limited at this time, and the increase is likely the result of just a few high salary offers," NACE spokeswoman Mimi Collins wrote in an email. "Most of the offers to English majors were for teaching jobs, which paid an average of $32,746. Therefore, I would not make anything of that increase. We will have more data and a better sense of the picture for English majors when we release the final report in September."

Another press release from NACE will bring liberal arts majors back down to Earth. It's a list of the degrees that attracted the top-five average starting salaries. No. 1 is petroleum engineering: $74,799.

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