Young workers highly educated, making $40,000 at small firms, report says

Seattle is considered the best place for Gen Y workers, a report says.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Where should you work if you’re 18 to 30 years old? Try small companies, preferably technology ones, especially in Seattle.

So says a new report from compensation data company PayScale and research group Millennial Branding. Gen Y – also known as the Millennial generation – is the youngest age group entering the full-time workforce. But the differences with their predecessors are significant.

They’re mostly not looking for lifetime jobs with behemoth companies. Instead, 47% of young workers are employed at operations with fewer than 100 workers. Less than a quarter are at businesses where headcount exceeds 1,500.

While baby boomers spend a median of seven years with each employer, and Gen X spends five, Millennials jump ship after two years.


Millennials earn $39,700 a year on average. They start out with salaries of $21,000 between ages 18 to 20, but are earning $48,000 by the time they reach 30.

As in previous generations, the gender gap remains wide. Gen Y men earn $44,600 to the $35,400 their female counterparts pull in each year. Where popular job titles for young men include software developer and mechanical engineers, many Millennial women are serving as nurses and administrative assistants.

And with the recession, which hit young workers disproportionately hard, many are now much more likely than older employees to be laying out merchandise at retail stores, selling cellphones or performing other low-skill jobs.

That’s despite the generation’s high level of education. Some 63% have a bachelor’s degree, 12.8% have a master’s and 1.7% have a Ph.D. Only 0.2% are working with no high school degree.

Many majored in fields such as neuroscience, bioengineering, entrepreneurial studies, sport management and Chinese. But the most lucrative majors for young employees are in the various engineering disciplines, such as petroleum, chemical and computer.

The best companies for the generation, however, are all technology firms. Ranked by factors such as Gen Y pay, percentage of young employees and schedule flexibility, Qualcomm came out on top, followed by Google, Medtronic, Intel and Microsoft.

The cities with the largest percentage of young employees are Washington, D.C.(all those interns!), New York and Boston – where Millennials make up a quarter or more of the total workforce.

But Seattle, with its 4.4% wage growth in the past three years, $44,000 median Gen Y salary and hotbed of tech firms, is considered the best place to land for young workers.


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