College seniors graduating this spring are more optimistic than ever … but should they be?
According to Accenture’s 2014 College Graduate Employment Survey, a full 84% of the class of 2014 believes they will land a job in their chosen field. This group of seniors is hopeful despite the fact that only 67% of 2013 grads have found a position in the area they expected to work in.
At the same time, more than 82% of this season’s grads anticipate raking in at least $25,000 a year in their first jobs. Reality check: Over 40% of recent grads are actually making less than that, the survey found. And by as late as this March, just 11% of the class of 2014 had actually secured a post-college job.
To add to the struggle, not only will these newly minted grads likely be earning salaries below their expectations, but many will be juggling significant student loans as well: one-quarter of college grads will walk off campus with at least $30,000 in debt, the survey found.
Still, this is the most optimistic class in recent years, Katherine Lavelle, a managing directer at Accenture who oversaw the study, told Fortune. One theory? Improving job numbers could be an encouraging sign to college seniors.
There’s nothing wrong with being positive about the future, of course—as long as you have a plan in place to help you get there. If you’re a 20-something on a tight budget, learn the key strategies for using your small salary smartly, and discover how to balance paying off student loans with your other financial priorities.