Nursing graduates and other health workers just out of college enjoyed the biggest boost in salary offers, while engineers gained slightly and starting pay for journalists fell, a survey found.

The "Salary Survey," released Friday by College Placement Council Inc., was based on offers extended to students graduating between Sept. 1, 1989, and Aug. 31, 1990. The information was gathered from 428 career service offices at U.S. colleges and universities.The cost of living rose 5.6 percent during the period, according to the U.S. Labor Department's Consumer Price Index.

A continued shortage of nursing graduates drove their starting salary offers up 13.5 percent to an average of $28,270. Similarly, a heavy demand for other health-field graduates boosted their average offer to $27,436, a 12.4 percent rise.

Journalism was one of the few fields in which offers declined. The average offer was $19,488, a 3 percent drop from the previous year.

Engineers fared better. Offers to petroleum engineers rose by 7.4 percent to an average of $35,202. Chemical engineers received offers up 6.6 percent, to an average of $35,122. Aerospace engineers received offers up 3.7 percent to an average of $30,509.

Starting salary offers to mechanical, electrical and civil engineers also rose, but not so much, the report said.

Offers to computer science graduates rose 4 percent to an average of $29,804.

Cutbacks by financial institutions tightened the job market for economics and finance graduates, who saw salary offers rise only 1.9 percent to average $25,184.