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Jobs for College Students, Average Job Salaries?


In an earlier post, we looked at some of the college graduate starting salaries awaiting students once they get out of college, but what about wages while they’re in school?  Jobs for college students and pay are a hot topic at UCLA, where student workers are trying to join a union, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees). Since 2002, the union has represented close to 5,000 non-student workers at UCLA, from custodial engineers to food workers. As a result, average job salaries tend to be higher for non-student workers than for students.

When it comes to jobs for college students, UCLA students say that they earn $1.39 less, in starting wages, than non-student workers. Students also reportedly receive up to $2.50 per day for a meal, but non-student workers are given a free meal. Most UCLA food employees have a starting wage of $8.75, but some students claim they start at an hourly wage of $8.25. If we look at a food service worker in Los Angeles (off-campus), with less than a year of experience, their average wage is $9.34 per hour.  This may be a growing trend, as the battle over college jobs extends to many universities.

How does your profession compare to jobs for college students?  Find out with our salary calculator.

Job Descriptions Salaries at Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley was rife with protests in the 1960’s and it appears that activism has taken hold again, this time over salaries. As chronicled on, over 300 janitors are protesting for a higher wage rate and they have some big names on their side: 2008 Presidential candidate John Edwards spoke at one of their rallies and compared their struggle to the civil rights battles of the 1960’s. Former presidential candidate Howard Dean also refused to cross the janitor’s picket line during commencement ceremonies.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Curiously, the custodians are not protesting for a new contract, they already have one, but they’re not happy with it. The custodians union’s new contract increases their pay rate to $13 an hour, but union leaders say that’s still $2 below the average wage for the industry. They claim that they are underpaid in comparison to janitors who work at community colleges and state universities in the area.

Let’s compare their $13 per hour pay to a custodian, working off-campus, in the city of Berkeley. A custodian janitor, with 5-9 years of experience, earns an average wage of $14.83; that number is pretty close to the $2 pay hike the janitors want. In fact, the high-end wage is a whopping $17.79 per hour.

Do not tell the unions, or there might be more overflowing toilets than on a Jet Blu flight. 😉

Wages Salary Hourly Rates at Vanderbilt

As mentioned on, another stop on the John Edwards campaign/living wage trail was Vanderbilt University, where several labor unions, activists, churches and actor Danny Glover have been pushing the administration to raise the hourly wage for campus workers. In 2005, Vanderbilt raised its minimum pay for workers to $7.55, this included janitors and food service workers, but workers wanted a minimum of $10.18 per hour.

According to the New York Times, “The (Laborers’ International Union of North America) commissioned a study comparing Vanderbilt’s wage rates with local, state, and national wages from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study found that higher-paid positions like painters, electricians and mechanics earned wages comparable to average wages nationally. But about half the employees in lower-paid positions earned less than average and, in some cases, far less. For example, many assistant gardeners at Vanderbilt earned $7.79 an hour, almost $3 less than the average wage nationally, the study found.”

Negotiations finally reached an agreement this March, when workers got a 30% increase in wages. The new contract increases the minimum hourly wage (for more than 20,000 employees) from $7.55 to $8.50, immediately. Per the new contract, minimum pay for workers will be raised to $9.25 an hour in November of 2007, and to $10.00 in November of 2008. The pay raise to $8.50 was made retroactive, back to when the contract expired in November 2006, so workers will get a big bonus in their March paychecks.

How would your salary look with a 30% increase? Find out with our salary calculator.


Dr. Al Lee

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