#7: How much do fresh grads from top schools really earn in Manila?

Of the 195 questions my 34 students asked me about life after college, about 40 of them were about salary and generally how much money they can expect to earn in their first jobs. It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? You spend a couple of years in college, your parents spending an unholy amount of money on your education and now it’s time for you to make some money… but just how much are you going to make at the beginning? 

A quick Google search does reveal some interesting things worth reading. The most useful piece of information comes from the folks over at JobStreet, who have some great first-hand data to analyse. Their 2018 report is especially insightful. They averaged entry-level jobs across different industries and then ranked the industries by where you can expect to earn the most in your first roles.

I’m not going to look at benefits here – just gross salary. I didn’t adjust anything for taxes or anything else. I’ll cover tax in a different piece of content in the future. You can check out the visual summary below (I cropped the geographical location part of the image to make it fit here):

Original image from entrepreneur.com.ph.

Unfortunately, the report is pretty broad – and that’s the whole point. It’s an average of jobs across different industries across the whole country.

Also a cursory check into what kind of jobs are listed on JobStreet and you can conclude that some of the these numbers might be skewed.

What I wanted to look at more specifically is how much are people from my school going to earn when they graduate? Are those numbers from JobStreet realistic?

Does this apply to schools from all over the country, or only the top 10?

So I did what I do best: I started asking around in my network to understand how much fresh graduates are getting paid in their industries and companies.

While I’m not allowed to mention the company names, I can mention the types of industries and job roles my data comes from. Note: all numbers below are in Philippine Peso (PHP).

I was able to collect data points from my network for: FMCG (5), Banking (3), MNC Shared Service Centers (2), Tech Startups (3), Accounting Firms (1), Consulting Firms (2), Real Estate (1). Departments that were represented: Human Resources, Sales, Marketing, Finance. As you can see – I didn’t get much insight into how much engineers, artists or programmers get paid. I didn’t get much in terms of customer service type of work, but I’ll talk more about that later

Not a massive data set, of course, but it allowed me to confirm some of my suspicions and draw some interesting conclusions.

Here is a summarized version of the information I was able to collect. These are not official in any capacity – just what my network was able to tell me from their industry knowledge and personal XP.

IndustryTypeSalary Range (in PHP)
FMCGEntry Level – Anything20,000 +
FMCGManagement Trainee40,000 – 60,000+
BankingEntry Level – Anything17,000 – 25,000
BankingEntry Level – Finance
& Investment Banking
30,000 – 45,000
BPOEntry Level – HR
& Marketing
18,000 – 25,000
BPOEntry Level – Finance & Ops22,000 – 30,000
BPOManagement Trainee38,000 – 50,000+
Tech StartupEntry Level – Anything20,000 – 25,000
Real EstateEntry Level – Sales17,000 – 20,000
+ commission
Accounting FirmsEntry Level – CPA17,000 – 22,000
Consulting FirmsEntry Level – Sales
& Marketing
20,000 – 25,000

Insight #1: Entry level salaries in Metro Manila go as low as PHP 17,000/month, regardless of how big or small a company is – regardless of what type of school you’re from.
Whenever I generally asked around while I was still a student about how much entry level jobs would pay, the general answer always seemed to be “around 20k.” No one ever seemed to have much of a better idea, but that was to be expected. PHP 17,000 is the lowest I heard about from my network. Interestingly enough, JD didn’t seem to be a factor here: one company that hires fresh CPAs is paying 17k a month, as are some of big banks. 

This is actually lower than I thought it’d be – but it makes sense. There are thousands of people that graduate together with you from schools all around the country, so there’s a load of competition you’re up against. There’s a good chance that someone’s willing to take the job regardless of how low the pay is, and companies are aware of this. Fresh grads are expendable to most.

Note to self: make some content about developing competitive advantages while still in college. 😉

Insight #2: BPOs really do pay above average for fresh graduates.
A lot of fresh graduates get sucked into the BPO / Shared Service Centers – and with good reason too. A lot of them pay above average, with most numbers that I was told ranging from PHP 18,000 to PHP 28,000. That’s a 10k range, which is a lot, but most fresh graduates from top schools qualify for the type of job that’ll start at PHP 24,000 – PHP 28,000. Most of my friends that took their jobs at large shared service companies ended up in that range. 

I can really see why a lot young people get sucked into those companies. They pay well above what you’d make in other industries as someone with no proper work experience or specialized skills. They’ll promote you quickly and give you raises too, just so you stay for longer. You gain stability in exchange for career mobility… and you need to be comfortable doing work that not everyone’s cut out for.

Insight #3: The most money fresh graduates can make as employees is in Management Trainee programs.
Most large companies have Management Trainee programs (sometimes called Graduate Trainee Program or something similar). As the name implies, these are programs that you’re normally part of for a few years to get fast tracked into management. For most companies you get rotated through different departments over the course of 2-3 years, after which you take some sort of middle-level management role. 

A lot of people know of these programs – and if you’ve heard of them, you’ll probably know that they’re highly competitive to get into. The ones that I’ve heard about have a 5% acceptance rate or lower – so if 200 people apply, 10 people or less get into the program.

They do pay significantly more than regular entry-level roles. In fact, the lowest-paying MT program I heard about still paid more than the highest-paying entry-level role. Of course – if money is your main motivator then you’re unlikely to get into a MT program. Management isn’t for everyone, and the programs are demanding and many of the companies that have them enforce a bond, meaning you can’t leave until a certain amount of years has passed unless you pay a substantial amount of money. This is how companies ensure that they’re not training you just for you to leave as soon as you’re done to go work for a competitor.

The upper bounds of MT programs can make up to 60,000 a month. That’s an incredible starting salary for fresh graduates, but I’m willing to bet that even among the Management Trainees, fresh grads earning that are exceptional cases.

Insight #4: To earn more than entry level salary, you have to go into sales. Commission is where it’s at!
As a sales professional, I’m in a unique position to comment on this: base salary in sales is about the same as it is in many other roles, but commission is the differentiator. Many roles have annual bonuses or performance incentives. In sales you get a commission every month based on how well you’ve been doing your job – that’s your incentive, right there.

Most sales jobs pay shit in terms of salary, but that’s not the point. If you have the aptitude for it and kill it, your commission checks will greatly outweigh your “salary” anyway. Sales is everywhere – real estate and insurance sales are probably the easiest ones to get into as a fresh graduate. It’s a no-brainer for companies: they only have to pay you when you perform and the salary they pay you is a low-risk investment in your potential

Insight #5: The reason why our generation is so obsessed with side hustles, freelancing and “passive income” is because of how low starting salaries can be.
The numbers up there in the table are the reason why a lot of Millennials and Gen Z kids are heavily into entrepreneurship, side hustling and any other income streams they can think of. We’re earning developing-world salaries, yet real estate costs, health care expenses and whatnot are on par with many more developed countries.

Even though a 17k salary is significantly above minimum wage, it’s hardly a livable wage for most people in Metro Manila. It’s enough to survive on, sure, if you’re frugal and don’t have to worry about being the breadwinner for a large family. Much less if you have to pay rent, bills and everything else on top. Most people coming from “top schools” like me don’t have these problems. They have supportive families and support systems – plus a great education to boot. For them, they can afford to take a lower salary in a role that’ll develop them more – others have to go straight for whatever will pay the most, which is often a call-center job, an OFW role or something similar.

Food for thought, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading – I hope I managed to clear some things up for the college students that are about to graduate.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tim says:

    Very interesting how 17k is the lowest entry level salary you’ve heard from your network. Is this gross or basic? Because I got 17k basic from my first job (sad I know lol). I was expecting 20k when I left college too because I come from a top school. I know someone who was also from a top school, but they worked a high school teacher job and only got 14k as a salary.


    1. This is gross – unadjusted for SSS contributions, Pag-Ibig and the like, so that net number is gonna take a hit.

      Teacher salaries are notoriously low, which is a shame. None of my friends went into the academe (even the ones that took Education as their majors) so I didn’t get any information there unfortunately. If you go outside of Metro Manila you’ll see that 14k more and more frequently – even among engineers and other professions that require qualification exams.


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