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8 Things You Need To Know About Business and STEM Students’ Salary Expectations

By Universum on 19/12/2019

The Cost of Talent Report 2019, conducted by Universum, reveals the latest salary expectations from business and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, including Bsc Engineering, IT, and Natural Sciences) students around the world. Investing in this valuable data enables your organization to develop and improve your Employer Branding strategy and meet your future talent’s needs and expectations.

The purpose of the Cost of Talent 2019 survey 

Now in its seventh year, the latest Cost of Talent 2019 survey collected feedback from 596,163 business and STEM students from 38 countries.  

Knowing and understanding the cost of talent continues to be invaluable for talent acquisition and particularly Employer Branding. One vital question was posed to all participants, which read “What salary do you expect to earn in your first job after graduation?” Please provide a before-tax salary, excluding commissions and bonuses 

The purpose?  

To assess the cost of talent in a wide variety of countries and provide valuable insights for the expectations of the most in-demand talent of the modern-day workplace. 

By investing in this research, your organisation can gain critical knowledge and understanding of how to meet potential game-changing employees’ expectations. 

Let’s jump into the key findings from the Cost of Talent 2019. 

The Brexit effect on UK students’ salary expectations

In 2015, one year before the referendum, UK business and STEM students had expectations of nearly $60,000 USD. In this year’s survey, the numbers for both sets of students have fallen quite drastically – well below the $40,000 USD mark. 

So, why is this? 

The uncertainty shrouding whether Britain will actually leave the European Union has caused many companies (tech companies in particular) to lose investment and attract overseas talent. 

This has a knock-on effect when it comes to hiring talent. With over 216,000 new businesses being registered in the Greater London area alone in 2018, affordable talent today often comes in the form of flexible workers and freelancers. This outlook could well be affecting the students’ salary expectations when it comes to entering the modern-day workplace. 

Regardless of the effects of Brexit, the UK is still in a healthy position in comparison with other global participants. 

Fluctuation amongst the emerging markets 

The five major emerging national economies, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (also known as BRICS) have shown a lot of fluctuation in recent years. South Africa has the highest salary expectations for both business and STEM students, with Russia’s business and STEM students recording the lowest figures in this year’s survey. 

Brazil’s STEM students’ salary expectations have taken a steep fall compared to their position in the Cost of Talent Report 2018. Brazil is a developing free-market economy and recently, local talent have shown an increasing preference for national employers over international companies. 

A mixed bag of expectations within Eastern Europe 

Russia may dominate the Eastern European landscape, but when it comes to the salary expectations of business and STEM students, they remain lower than the Czech Republic and Poland.  

Russian business and STEM students’ expectations have remained around the $10-11,000 USD mark in recent years and this year is no different. Czech Republic’s salary expectations, however, have seen a substantial increase since 2015, where expectations have risen by over $5,000 USD. 

Chile’s salary expectations remain stable despite recent unrest 

China has recorded its highest salary expectations in recent years, but they are still exceptionally low in comparison to China’s Asia-Pacific (APAC) counterparts. China’s business students gave a marginally higher figure that STEM students, but they were no match for the salary expectations of students in Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea, who all recorded figures of over $10,000 USD more than China. 

The US and Scandinavian countries in top 10% of highest salary expectations

The United States of America sits at the top of the pile with business and STEM students’ salary expectations exceeding $90,000 USD; a figure that dominates the global list of participants. The lowest salary expectations come from business and STEM students in Egypt, which records figures between $4,000-6,000 USD. 

Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland have all recorded annual figures between $40,000 and $65,000 USD, which highlights the successes of Nordic business models and the increasing rise of and investment in Scandinavian start-ups.  

Are STEM students beginning to realise their worth? 

In the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute skills gap and future of work study, it was revealed that the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028

STEM students’ salary expectations outweigh those of business students in the majority, with the exception of the UK, Russia, and China. This could well be a result of STEM students beginning to realise their value and worth in industries that have lacked and are forecast to continue to lack a female presence and specialist skills.  

How the Cost of Talent findings can help your organisation

The cost of talent remains and will forever be a crucial factor in employment considerations. Each organisation has a budget to meet and having a strong idea of salary expectations becomes a valuable enabler of aligning business costs with candidate expectations.  

Universum has this essential data and organisations can utilize it for to benefit their Employer Branding. 

Providing competitive salaries frequently appears on the job description pages and the Cost of Talent insights will help organisations to: 

  • achieve ongoing goals of attracting, engaging, and retaining the best talent 
  • better understand the career expectations of business and STEM workforce, regardless of industry 
  • align employer branding with the salary expectations of the country, market and the potential employee 
  • identify trends and plan to stay one step ahead of the competition 
  • help eradicate the gender pay gap  

Universum, part of the StepStone Group, is a global thought leader in Employer Branding. With over 30 years of valuable experience in the field of employer branding, we have established ourselves in 60 markets globally, and our diverse workforce is physically present in 20 countries. We are uniquely positioned through our talent surveys to deliver key insights to recruiters about what future talent is looking for in a company. Our data-led, human and meaningful output has attracted more than 1,700 clients, including many Fortune 500 companies, as well as global media partners that publish our annual rankings and trend reports. Find out more at


Using a data-led and human approach, coupled with our unique talent targeting method, Universum are able to support employers in developing and communicating relevant and engaging employer brand content.