2015’s Best & Worst Entry-Level Jobs

by John S Kiernan

Wallet Hub 2014 Best Worst Entry Level JobsGraduation season is a time of big dreams and immense pressure for seniors across the country. It’s time to find a job, after all, and that is no small task with the youth unemployment rate at 13.9% and 34% of Millennials living with their parents in the face of sparse opportunities.

But with that being said, what we all ultimately want is a career – not just a job. We want the attractive combination of a high starting salary and growth potential in terms of compensation as well as responsibility. We want stability, and we want to do what we love. The question is how to go about obtaining such things in this uber-competitive job market.

In search of answers and actionable information for recent college and high school graduates, WalletHub decided to take stock of the entry-level job market. We did so by comparing 109 different types of entry-level jobs based on 11 key metrics, ranging from starting salaries to industry growth rate.

You can check out a complete breakdown of our findings as well as more information about the methodology we used to conduct this report below.

Main Findings

Best-Worst-Entry-Level-Jobs-Artwork-2
 

Detailed Findings by Job Type

 

Overall Rank Job Type Immediate Opportunity Rank Growth Potential Rank Hardship Rank
1 Training Specialist I 13 17 20
2 Web Applications Developer I 16 23 16
3 Network Engineer I 7 10 60
4 Attorney I 9 1 75
5 Environmental Engineer I 26 11 1
6 Software Engineer I 3 26 59
7 Designer I - Web 27 23 18
8 Information Security Analyst I 21 12 46
9 Financial Analyst I 5 17 80
10 Programmer I 22 43 16
11 Engineer I 4 38 47
12 Systems Administrator I 12 30 60
13 Market Research Analyst I 34 29 20
14 Chemical Engineer I 19 27 47
15 Database Administrator I 19 17 60
16 Systems Engineer I 1 47 47
17 Materials Engineer I 11 33 47
18 Electrical Engineer I 6 44 40
19 Electronics Engineer I 10 41 40
20 Logistics Analyst I 45 20 20
21 Employment Law Attorney I 30 1 75
22 Architect I 28 5 85
23 Operations Research Analyst I 30 5 79
24 Tax Attorney I 39 1 75
25 Mechanical Engineer I 7 35 74
26 Aerospace Engineer I 23 32 47
27 Civil Engineer I 24 15 87
28 Industrial Engineer I 15 47 47
29 Patent Attorney I 42 1 75
30 Network Planning Analyst I 35 25 60
31 Geophysicist I 56 13 1
32 Geotechnical Engineer I 53 8 47
33 Env., Health, and Safety Engineer I 44 20 47
34 Safety Representative I 2 61 88
35 Credit Analyst I 29 54 27
36 Mine Engineer I 59 8 47
37 Benefits Analyst I 24 82 20
38 Logistics Clerk 86 20 20
39 Benefits Administrator I 35 45 45
40 Hardware Engineer I 13 40 106
41 Accountant I 16 50 80
42 Biomedical Engineer I 68 16 47
43 Employee Relations Specialist I 51 63 20
44 Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant 40 62 39
45 Drilling Engineer I 92 7 1
46 Budget Analyst I 18 96 27
47 Financial Reporting Accountant I 30 50 80
48 Environmental Planner I 45 63 1
49 Secretary I 45 87 1
50 Technical Writer I 41 72 1
51 Geologist I 93 13 1
52 Consumer Loan Officer I 66 57 27
53 Interior Designer I 73 37 36
54 Public Relations Specialist I 65 46 35
55 Buyer I 37 70 69
56 Network Service Representative I 68 71 18
57 Consumer Credit Analyst I 70 54 27
58 Industrial Designer I 50 73 36
59 Tax Accountant I 43 50 80
60 Systems Engineering Technician I 38 77 64
61 Cost Accountant I 49 50 80
62 Safety Technician I 33 68 98
63 Chemist I 58 35 92
64 Writer I - Web 61 69 1
65 Landscape Architect I 79 31 85
66 Computer Operator I 54 99 12
67 Underwriter (Life) I 61 86 27
68 Certified Nursing Assistant - Nursing Home Salaries 99 33 34
69 Teaching Assistant (College) 78 77 26
70 Telecommunications Technician I 45 59 108
71 Installation & Maintenance Technician I 52 57 101
72 Environmental Engineering Technician I 82 47 70
73 Microbiologist I 95 27 89
74 Chemical Technician I 64 74 70
75 Technical Librarian I 85 81 38
76 Claims Adjuster I 59 91 42
77 General Maintenance Worker I 57 75 99
78 Industrial Engineering Technician I 72 77 64
79 Automotive Mechanic I 75 66 97
80 Biologist I 88 56 89
81 Carpenter I 76 59 105
82 Mechanical Engineering Technician I 71 84 70
83 Electrical Engineering Technician I 67 90 64
84 Accounting Clerk I 63 97 1
85 New Accounts Representative I 55 109 13
86 Records Clerk 83 106 13
87 Computer Numeric Control Machine Programmer I 91 67 94
88 Electrician I 101 42 104
89 Machinist I 81 83 91
90 Electric/Electronics Technician I 86 77 95
91 Civil Engineering Technician I 77 98 64
92 Aircraft Painter I 97 88 32
93 Mechanical Drafter I 89 92 64
94 Teller I 79 108 15
95 Plumber I 106 39 100
96 Emergency Dispatcher 94 88 1
97 Payroll Clerk 90 100 58
98 Tool and Die Maker I 84 102 1
99 Architectural Drafter I 96 93 70
100 Welder I 74 101 107
101 Building Inspector 103 75 102
102 Policy Processing Clerk 98 104 42
103 Electronics Assembler I 102 107 32
104 Boilermaker I 100 94 109
105 Claims Processing Clerk 104 104 42
106 Consumer Loan Servicing Clerk I 105 103 47
107 Refinery Operator I 107 94 93
108 Sheetmetal Mechanic I 109 65 96
109 Floor Assembler I 108 85 103

Ask the Experts

The job market can be a very confusing place for new entrants. In search of tips that will help young people make the best possible career decisions, we posed the following questions to a panel of leading career counselors and human resource experts. You can check out their bios and responses below.

  1. What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?
  2. How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?
  3. Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?
  4. What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?
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  • Meredith Tornabene Assistant Director of Career Counseling, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University
  • Maureen Dumas Vice President of Experiential Education & Career Services at Johnson & Wales University
  • John Kammeyer-Mueller Associate Professor of Work and Organizations at University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management
  • Alexandra Anderson Associate Director of Career Services at Southwestern University
  • Alana Albus Director of the Career Center at Muhlenberg College
  • Twyla Hough Director of Career Services at Trinity University
  • Jason C. Eckert Director of Career Services at University of Dayton
  • Stacy Moore Swearengen Coordinator of Career Services in the Center for Student Professional Development at Delaware Valley University
  • Sally Foster Director of the Graham Office of Career Management at University of Kentucky, Gatton College of Business and Economics
  • Lisa Gavigan Director, Career Services at the Filene Center for Academic Advising & Career Services
  • Dina Wulinsky Assistant Director of Career Education and Assessment in the Career Development Center at University of New Haven
  • Jon Neidy Executive Director of Smith Career Center at Bradley University
  • Kelly N. Harris Director of Career Services at Eureka College
  • Pat Joachim Kitzman Director of Career and Professional Development at Central College
  • Mary Spencer Director of Career Services at Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Rebecca Toporek Professor and Coordinator of the Career Counseling Specialization in the Department of Counseling at San Francisco State University
  • Michelle Tullier Executive Director of the Center for Career Discovery and Development at Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Michael Kulick Associate Director of the Career Center at The University of Akron
  • Becky Hall Director for Career Services at University of Minnesota, Office for Student Affairs

Meredith Tornabene

Assistant Director of Career Counseling, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University
Meredith Tornabene
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

It will depend on your industry but explore if companies offer rotational programs for the career you want. For example, there are rotational programs in information technology, human resources, finance, and management or throughout a combination of departments. These opportunities typically allow you to work on a number of different initiatives which gives you an opportunity to not only quickly build a diverse skillset but also be exposed to upper management throughout a company. Some of these programs also build in professional development through workshops or even paying for your master’s degree.

Beyond rotational programs, no matter what type of entry level job you get, you can position yourself for a successful career by demonstrating a strong work ethic, volunteering to help on projects – particularly ones that are cross-functional, and building strong, meaningful relationships with your co-workers since you will likely network your way into your second job.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

I think it’s important to not only consider the length of time you’ve been in your first job but also the amount of experience and skills you’ve gained. There are instances where it makes sense to stay longer in an entry-level job because you are continually given more responsibility, the opportunity to work on new projects, etc. However, if you feel like you’ve been doing the same basic things successfully for a long time then you should talk with your manager about wanting to take on more. If that conversation doesn’t result in change, then it might be time to look for new opportunities.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

This largely depends on the supply and demand for jobs of your particular industry. If you are going into a high-demand field (ex: software development) where companies sometimes struggle to find qualified talent, then you likely will not have to take an unpaid or low-paid opportunity. However, if you’re going into an industry that is considered glamorous like fashion or sports or an industry where there are many qualified grads coming out with related degrees such as communication, then you may have to consider taking a low-paid opportunity at first.

The other time you might need to consider low-paid opportunities is if you did not get any internship experience while you were in school. Companies may not be willing to gamble on someone that does not have work experience and want to see how you do in a post-grad internship before they offer you a full-time position. Connecting with people in your industry of choice is a great way to get an idea of what is a typical salary range for an entry-level person and if starting out in a low-paid opportunity is standard practice.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

I think advances in technology will continue to cause some job types to disappear but will also create new ones. I think it’s easy to say things like “newspapers are dying” but it’s more accurate to say “newspapers are changing.” If I have one bit of advice, it’s to try to build a technical skill while you’re in college (or after) because even if that particular technology changes, once you prove you can learn one thing then it’s easier to convince an employer you can learn whatever the next new thing might be.

Maureen Dumas

Vice President of Experiential Education & Career Services at Johnson & Wales University
Maureen Dumas
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Graduates should look for companies that have established training programs. Specifically, a manager in a training program or a structured career path for new graduates. Companies that invest the resources and time into training programs are typically established leaders and understand the importance of professional development for their employees.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

Every industry is different but if the graduate has done their research they should know the typical path of an entry level employee. If it is a great learning environment, they should stay with the company at least two years so they can benefit from as much training as possible. If they are part of a management training program they should know what the next step should be for their career at the completion of it. If they are successful, they may outpace their fellow classmates and move quickly through the career ladder.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

This is a very personal decision to make. It may be difficult for young graduates to choose a low paying position because they have student loans to pay back. They need to be fiscally responsible and have a clear understanding of what it will require financially to live as an adult. They should not pursue a low paying position if it will force them to acquire more debt, however if they can perhaps live with their parents for a year or two to get a great start in a competitive industry it might be worth the sacrifice. Of course, the sacrifice will come from the parents not the students!

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

I think we would all love to have the crystal ball and know what the future will look like for our nation’s workforce. I think U.S. companies will continue to be global and pursue more emerging markets from overseas. I think many of the services we have right now will change with increased technology. Healthcare, banking and accounting are a just a few fields that are already evolving and morphing into something different because of technology. It is important for young graduates to be flexible and to be able to adapt in this ever changing environment. Graduates who have these skills will quickly progress in their career.

John Kammeyer-Mueller

Associate Professor of Work and Organizations at University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management
John Kammeyer-Mueller
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

The term "successful career" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so my first piece of advice is to sit down and write out a set of targets for yourself. Planning a career should include ideas about what types of activities interest you the most, what types of skills you'd like to have, and what you'd like to do outside of your work. Then look to a job database source like O*Net and explore careers that match your interests. You'll be able to see what a typical career path for those jobs looks like, and see what the labor market outlook is for that field in the future. Once you've identified a field of interest, find people who have been successful in that area, or look for professional organizations that can tell you more about those careers.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

There are a lot of fields that have unpaid internships as a first step, but students need to be sure that the company they work for is actually going to teach them something, rather than just use them for grunt work.

Most university career centers will track how often an internship turns into a real job -- I'd strongly advise students to check into this information before accepting anything. Also, ask other people in the field if you can. A company with a good internship program should be able to tell you what skills you will develop, and also provide some historical information about hiring prospects. If they seem wary about sharing this information, be very cautious.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

The fields that seem to be showing the greatest decreases are those that are most readily automated or outsourced. As you'd expect, clerical jobs and manufacturing jobs have been in decline for quite some time. In the past, jobs that were ripe for automation were mostly very physical, but a lot of simple information processing tasks will be eliminated in the future, including some basic data entry and information processing jobs. Jobs that involve working through masses of documents will likely be eliminated or outsourced altogether as well.

Alexandra Anderson

Associate Director of Career Services at Southwestern University
Alexandra Anderson
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

There are probably few "entry-level" jobs that even exist today. Most employers would like to hire someone who's done that exact job before, so getting relevant experience is vital.

Ideally, that begins to happen during the college years, via internships, part-time work, volunteerism, leadership, etc. Often unpaid internships or volunteerism are necessary before someone will pay you to do the work. Many new grads cobble together a few different gigs - a retail or admin job to pay some bills and a volunteer or internship role related to their area of interest, especially if they have limited relevant experience from their college time.

In short, any experience that is relevant to work you would want to do in the future can help position you for success. If it's not relevant to future goals, no matter how good a position it is, it is less helpful.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

We've seen a lot more movement from role to role in the world of work than in years past. Some positions are designed to be shorter-term ("gap year"-type experiences, such as AmeriCorps service), usually in the neighborhood of a year. For other positions, at least six months to a year would be helpful.

You don't want to burn bridges with employers who invest time and effort into training you by leaving too early, since you will need references for future roles. On the other hand, if the perfect role comes along and you are not happy in your position, the cost-benefit analysis may work out that it's worth it to you to jump ship earlier to take advantage of the dream job.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

Since in-house training has mostly gone away, gaining experience via unpaid or low-paid work may be the only way to prove to a future employer that you can do the work, given that increased productivity and leaner workforces mean employers often want employees who can hit the ground running. Ideally, these unpaid or low-paid opportunities might take place during the college years, before students have looming loan debt to repay.

Of course, in a perfect world all work would be fairly compensated, but as long as there are individuals who have the luxury of working unpaid to gain the experience, there will be stiff competition for new grads who have not yet gained that experience. Opportunities that help you gain skills and marketable experience in a field of interest or ones that help you expand your network, regardless of field of interest, could be helpful. If you want to be a writer, volunteering to put together an animal shelter's newsletter could help you gain marketable skills. Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity may help you connect with a cross-section of professionals whose own networks may include people in your field of interest.

Alana Albus

Director of the Career Center at Muhlenberg College
Alana Albus
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

An entry level job that would position new graduates for a successful career would be one that offers challenges and opportunities for professional development. Many times, new graduates lack extensive professional experience so landing a position that offers them the opportunity to make a contribution, demonstrate the skills they've learned in the classroom and out of the classroom, and an opportunity to showcase creativity, critical thinking, and leadership will be a career boost.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

Typically, it takes about a year for a new hire to become familiar and comfortable in a new position. The same is for a new college graduate. A year can give them the opportunity to make a solid decision as to whether or not the job is a good fit. Everyone feels lost at the start of a new job but it's important not to job hop because the next employer may feel like the student would be a risky hire because of short-term employment experiences. Stick it out and you may be pleasantly surprised. Also, many people continue to look for jobs to stay in the market but the actual move should be after the 1 year point.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

In a competitive economy, experience is key. If a student is lacking relevant career experience, then a low-paid or unpaid opportunity may be a great way to gain experience. It's important to note that not all students are in a position to be able to work for free or very little and the Department of Labor has guidelines for employers with regards to unpaid internships under the Fair Labor Standards Act; which states that all "for -profit" private sector employers must pay interns.

Twyla Hough

Director of Career Services at Trinity University
Twyla Hough
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

'Successful career' is a relative concept shaped by differing views of success, e.g. prestige, income, job satisfaction, level of leadership, etc. Depending on the individual's interest s/he can find success in a number of positions. It is really contingent upon identified career interests, goals, personal ambition, and career networking connections. Many students launch successful careers in account management, consulting, analyst, coordinator, engineering, computer programming, finance, accounting, sales, marketing, teaching, and research positions.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

It is ideal for a student to stay in the job for 2 to 4 years but this is also contingent upon the position and the industry. For example, several employers offer management training programs or routine entry-level positions with the goal to move the new hire into a new position after 12-18 months. However, there are other positions where there is no upward mobility and the routine nature of the position after 12-18 months indicates it’s time to begin the search for a next level job. If the employee has been in the position for at least a year and is no longer being challenged and has discussed opportunities for advancement with his/her supervisor only to discover there are none within the organization, or s/he has shifted interest to another career field, it is likely a good time to begin exploring new opportunities.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

Yes, if financially possible, but in most cases these should be short-term, one year or less commitments and the young person should have a strategic plan for next steps after completing the opportunity. Clear options for next steps should be identified before accepting the unpaid or low-paid position. The young person should be actively seeking the next opportunity and making valuable career connections so the transition to the next position is as smooth as possible.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

Jobs in printing and publishing will be very different but I am not certain they will disappear completely. However, it is very likely such positions will continue to decrease and therefore become more competitive. It will also be interesting to see how the decreasing need for travel consultants and agents will impact travel professions. Aside from that, only time - and the introduction of new technologies - will tell.

Jason C. Eckert

Director of Career Services at University of Dayton
Jason C. Eckert
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Ideally, positions connected to a student's areas of interest and passion, as well as their field of study. I'm personally fond of management training positions which expose recent graduates to diverse opportunities and functions within an organization.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

I'm fairly traditional in advising new graduates to stay in a new position for a period of time before looking for new opportunities. This period of time could be from one to three years. Having said that, everyone should have their resume up to date and aware of the changing dynamics of their organization, industry, and geographic region.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

I encourage students to obtain professional experience and networking contacts at almost any cost. While employers should follow the Fair Labor Standards Act and compensate their employees and interns, the reality is that some industries continue to offer unpaid internships, while others offer low paying experiences. This situation is difficult for college students, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. To the extent that students can make ends meet, I encourage them to consider unpaid or low-paid opportunities in order to increase their long-term options and employment prospects.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

I'm not sure which specific positions or industries will disappear in the next two decades. I am confident that positions which may be easily replaced by technology, including advances in robotics, are in danger of elimination and/or position reduction.

Stacy Moore Swearengen

Coordinator of Career Services in the Center for Student Professional Development at Delaware Valley University
Stacy Moore Swearengen
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook survey, the top five skills that employers seek are:
  1. Ability to make decisions and solve problems;
  2. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization;
  3. Ability to obtain and process information;
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work;
  5. Ability to analyze quantitative data.
Generally speaking, this means entry level jobs that help new graduates either gain or develop these abilities will be valuable. Nevertheless, working at a university with majors that span from sustainable agriculture to media and communication, I often advise that while overall trends are important to consider, they do not replace knowing and possessing the industry-specific skills of the graduate's chosen field. To find out the types of skills that are important in a chosen industry/career, and therefore the best jobs to obtain in order to develop these skills, new graduates can use resources like Onet Online and CareerOneStop. Additionally, conducting informational interviews with individuals presently working in the chosen career can be invaluable in determining -- in real time -- the skills new graduates need to develop a successful career.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

A new graduate can and should always look for new opportunities; however, this does not mean they should necessarily leave the current position. Looking at options is one way of staying current on what is happening in the field in terms of opportunities, salary and growth opportunity -- and this is a strategy that is valuable at all stages of the career journey.

The less definitive answer is when a new graduate should actually leave an entry level job, and the answer to this question will depend largely on the individual and the industry. Some careers have shorter entry-level tenure due to the nature of the typical position, while others require long stays in order to garner necessary skills for promotion.

While a shorter stay at a first job isn't uncommon, job hopping to a new job every year can start to look like a lack of commitment or limited sense of direction. The key is always knowing what is standard in your specific field. Look at what the most successful people in your field do or have done. Ask questions of those people when possible and try to emulate their behaviors in addition to listening to their advice.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

The answer to this question will depend largely on the needs and expectations of the individual person, in addition to the chosen industry.

Current students should find out if their school provides credit for work or internship experience. At Delaware Valley University, for instance, all students obtain hands-on, experiential learning experience through the E360 program, and students also have options as to the types of experiences they can apply for credit. I encourage students to explore their university's policies and consider them when weighing their options.

Though relevant for all job seekers, I additionally advise recent graduates and soon-to-graduate students who are nervous about their career paths to look at multiple job descriptions for the "dream job" they are aspiring to achieve. After reviewing the qualifications, themes regarding important skills and experiences should emerge. If there are very easily identified gaps in skills or experiences between the job seeker and the dream job, then it becomes necessary to find opportunities that will help to bridge that gap. This may (but does not always) mean volunteer work, internships or entry level jobs with lower or no pay.

Regardless of the pay level, young people must be aware of their "non-negotiables," which are the important factors and needs that all individuals should consider prior to starting a career or accepting a job. Every job seeker has non-negotiables, but most are not deliberate in considering them -- especially in instances of limited or no previous experience. If a young person has very specific financial responsibilities that demand a certain salary or hourly wage, every job should be weighed against this factor. In such cases, it may be worth considering the option of volunteering or working part-time instead of full-time in the lower-paying career-related job in order to free up time to take on a position with higher pay but that may not necessarily be related directly to the desired career path.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

This can be a difficult thing to predict, but the best way to investigate declining (as well as growing) industries is to use research tools such as OnetOnline.org. O-net is a personal favorite of mine because it allows you to search specific job titles and view projected growth over the next 10 years.

Additional research can be done using the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is another tool I like to use to advise students on growing and declining industries. According to a December 2013 article published on the BLS website, the most rapidly declining sectors tend to be in the manufacturing arena, which could indicate very significant changes in what the sector will evolve into in the future.

Sally Foster

Director of the Graham Office of Career Management at University of Kentucky, Gatton College of Business and Economics
Sally Foster
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

In my work with soon-to-be university graduates, I sometimes hear the sentiment that any job with benefits is the end game. Not only is conducting a job search with such a broad goal exhausting, it is counterproductive. It is true that graduates in this day and age do not typically remain with their first employer for the long haul. However, that first job sets a candidate on a trajectory. Being thoughtful, strategic, and patient pays off while waiting for the right opportunity to start one’s career. My advice includes accepting an opportunity that is a stepping stone to the next level on the journey towards the longer-term goal. Candidates benefit from getting a foot in the door within a related job function, industry, or specific company. It may not be the ideal job, but it will pay off in achieving career satisfaction more directly.

Often, entry level candidates struggle with the appropriate titles to use in their searching. Titles that include the terms analyst, assistant, or coordinator can alert entry-level job seekers to realistic opportunities.

Another key type of position to focus on includes terminology similar to “management trainee” or “emerging leader”. Corporate America uses these types of positions and training programs to move recent graduates into management roles more quickly. These types of programs offer extensive training and support among a cohort of new hires. New hires are given an opportunity to learn about a company from the ground up (from the most entry level roles to the C suite) as well as cross-functionally (by rotating through multiple departments and locations). At the conclusion of the training period, new hires are placed in roles that fit their skills set and interests, as well as give them upwardly mobile potential on a specific career path within the company. There is some confusion by many new graduates about the benefits of a management trainee role, but these opportunities are among the best and most competitive. Companies will often make offers to May graduates for their management trainee programs in the fall, as they compete for the best and brightest of the graduating class across the country.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

The answer to this question can vary depending on each candidate’s personal situation and his or her chosen industry’s standards and expectations. Generally speaking, I would not recommend that a new graduate leave a company before two years on the job. Short term job stints are major red flags with recruiters. There is no magic number. New graduates should not move on simply because it seems normal. There can be great opportunities for growth within the same company and by working hard and staying positively connected with leadership, promotions can be on the horizon.

Some indicators that it may be time to move on include answering affirmatively to these questions about your job/employer: Have you reached the highest level of position within your career path at your current location? Do you feel typecasted or stuck in a role? Has your job changed in a way that makes you feel you are moving backwards? Do you dread going to work most days? Are you continually burned out by your job? If you answer yes to these questions, it may be time to consider a change, however don’t jump the gun and quit. Put a plan together with a specific job goal in mind and continue to work hard so you don’t burn bridges with a rocky exit.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

My first piece of advice is for students to take unpaid or low-paid positions while they are in school. Students should build as much related experience as they can. Demonstrating a proactive, motivated and strategic set of experiences to employers will make the full-time job search much more successful.

Upon graduation, some candidates choose to consider an internship or volunteer role. This is an honorable strategy, however I recommend making it a “Plan B” strategy. I find that some students take comfort and security in choosing to look for an internship/volunteer role because they are intimidated by the prospect of a full-time, professional job. Sometimes they just need a little encouragement to build their self-esteem so they can move forward with a full-time job search. Other times, out of necessity, candidates have to consider an alternative route. Some industries are extremely competitive. Some new graduates are restricted in the geographic scopes of their searches, so it can take longer to find the right job. In these scenarios, it can be savvy to consider an internship or under-employed situation. It is still very important that the opportunity be related to the long term goal, but getting a start is a start! By building related experience and developing a network of connections within their chosen field, new graduates can improve their long term career options.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

Clearly the marketplace will not look the same twenty years from now. Change is constant. The best thing new graduates can do is continue to learn and hone their skills to be ready when that change happens and to take advantage of new opportunities when they come. Graduates can continue their education through graduate degrees, certifications, and professional development conferences. Staying current with industry trends and developments is helpful for all levels of professionals to insure job stability and growth in the future.

Lisa Gavigan

Director, Career Services at the Filene Center for Academic Advising & Career Services
Lisa Gavigan
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

This is dependent upon the industry, but working in one's chosen industry is very important. For instance, if a grad wants to eventually go to law school, working in a law office or a legal aid society is a great choice, not only for the experience and the skill building opportunity, but being in that environment provides proximity to professionals who can provide invaluable advice and become part of the grad's professional network.

No one wants to "settle" for an admin position after four years in college, but in more competitive industries it provides a foot in the door - a chance to prove one's self in terms of work ethic, collaborative and creative abilities and styles and, something that is seen infrequently, but highly valued, grit - a willingness to start at the bottom, build upon what is learned each day and understanding what one must add to his/her 'portfolio' to be considered for promotion.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

Just a few years ago, I would have said a minimum of two years but from what I am seeing and hearing from our alums and many recruiters, some people are moving on just shy of that with little consequence. Again, the grad has to have an understanding of the industry in which they want to work. For more conservative industries, banking and finance for instance, I would still recommend two years for a variety of reasons: appearance of stability on the resume and LinkedIn, taking the time to learn and perform one's job well will garner a better reputation and future recommendations, building a network which could prepare/advise the grad for future career decisions. I've heard it said that short of a year suggests the employee didn't do well on his/her performance review.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

I would not encourage an unpaid position unless it is a summer internship. Many will take low or unpaid stints with the media industry to get a foot in the door. The grad has to be assured that the job they will be doing will be a learning opportunity. The arrangement must be mutually beneficial. The applicant should treat the position as a short-term internship with learning goals. The grad should also make the most of being in the work environment during this time: connect with other employees, do informational interviews, ask to shadow, with permission, take part in projects outside of his/her own job description - and, most importantly: know when it is time to move on. Don't let the employer take advantage but also don't be a hanger-on'er.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

I'm not qualified to answer this but I will say that many will disappear or morph with other positions/sectors, which is why a liberal arts education is so valuable. Young people who know how to communicate, to consider problems/issues from many different perspectives, knowing that there are many routes to a solution, who have the ability to self-assess and grow on a continual basis, will be well-positioned as year after year, industries and jobs change.

Dina Wulinsky

Assistant Director of Career Education and Assessment in the Career Development Center at University of New Haven
Dina Wulinsky
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

The types of entry level jobs that can position new graduates for a successful career is highly dependent on the industry the individual is pursuing. It is ideal for new graduates to be in a position where they can learn, grow and develop their skills as well as make significant contributions to the organization. For example, a student who may be interested in pursuing a career in counseling or social work may want to start with a Case Manager or Human Service Worker role in order to become knowledgeable within the field, gain experience and prepare for graduate school.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

There is no firm rule on the ideal length of remaining in an entry-level position, but a general suggestion would be at least one year. If a prospective candidate has multiple positions in a short amount of time listed on his or her resume, it may raise a red flag for future employers. The new graduate should also consider exploring opportunities for growth within the organization itself as positions with increased responsibility are seen in a positive manner.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

We do not recommend unpaid positions, but depending on the field, low-pay opportunities are sometimes the norm. For students pursuing careers in the non-profit sector, marketing, sports management or the arts, a lower paid position could fuel future growth and success in the field.

While a lower paid position is obviously not ideal, young individuals can have the opportunity to not only build experience, but can develop professional networks in his or her preferred industry. New graduates should consider the reputation of the organization, the depth and breadth of the job opportunity itself, company culture, and opportunities for professional growth and promotion.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest declining occupations are in textiles, data entry and manufacturing…most of which do not require a college degree. The sectors with the highest growth include health care, social services, technology, engineering, and some areas of business.

Jon Neidy

Executive Director of Smith Career Center at Bradley University
Jon Neidy
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

New graduates should consider jobs that:
  • include analysis, and more importantly, synthesis and communication of "big data";
  • are related (even tangentially) to long term career goals;
  • encourage them to work in a team;
  • allow them to demonstrate decision making and problem solving;
  • challenge them to prioritize and organize their work;
  • include some aspect of "selling" something.
How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

A new graduate should stay in an entry level job for 2-3 years, unless she or he is going to change industries, than she or he might need to consider a “restart” at the entry level.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

Yes, but they should consider:
  • if the industry has a history of hiring people from within who have accepted unpaid or low paid opportunities;
  • the financial means of the specific employer and if that employer is adhering to Department of Labor guidelines;
  • their personal financial situation.
What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

The jobs that may disappear are going to be the result of advances in technology.

A few examples may include; postal worker, insurance agent, farmer, data entry specialist, and travel agent.

Kelly N. Harris

Director of Career Services at Eureka College
Kelly N. Harris
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Any entry level job in the career field of interest will position new graduates for a successful career as long as they use their time wisely to learn from others and take advantage of all opportunities to gain and build upon their skills, abilities and knowledge needed to grow within their field and meet their long-term career and life goals.

Most entry level jobs will help new graduates further develop written and verbal communication skills, experience working in teams and expand problem-solving skills which are all needed to be successful in any position and in any career.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

This is a tough question as there are many factors to consider and every situation is unique. A new graduate should begin seeking new opportunities when they feel they are no longer being challenged or provided the opportunities to learn or expand on their skills and abilities...typically after 2 years but could be longer.

New career opportunities don't necessarily require you leave your current organization for a new opportunity, as there are often internal opportunities for advancement or opportunities to add additional responsibilities to your current position that will keep you challenged. It is important to keep an open and continuing dialogue with supervisors and co-workers in order to know what internal opportunities exist for advancement and how you can obtain the skills and abilities needed and required for new advancement opportunities.

If you must seek a new position externally, use your networks to help with your search and have a realistic knowledge of the skills, knowledge and abilities you possess that will help propel you into that next position in your career.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

Every situation is unique and depends on what current skills and experiences you possess that is expected and required in their preferred industry. Accepting an unpaid or low-paid opportunity may be necessary in order to gain the knowledge and experience you may be lacking to be considered for positions within that industry. Many organizations that promote from within their organizations often have all new hires start their careers in the lowest paid position within the organization in order to learn their business culture from the ground up.

Some factors to consider: What is the job outlook for positions within this industry? Are you able to obtain the skills and experience needed from other industries that would be transferable to your preferred industry? Are you financially able to accept an unpaid or low-paid position?

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

While some jobs types, sectors and industries will be dramatically different from what we know today, new employment opportunities will evolve with an increased use of technology. The evolution and increased use of digital communications will severely affect several industries, including the postal industry and other sectors/industries that involve printing from publications (books, magazines, newspapers) to print advertisements (catalogs, marketing materials).

With more online banking and bill paying as well as online marketing, advertisements and the overall use of technology in providing information, the decrease in printed materials will diminish the need for postal services due to less actual print mail being utilized.

Other sectors such as manufacturing, administrative support and retail will not disappear, but will be affected by an increased use of technology and automation. With many consumers today ordering everything from food to automobiles online, research shows there will be less of a need for physical stores and manufacturing will see an increased use of robotics.

Pat Joachim Kitzman

Director of Career and Professional Development at Central College
Pat Joachim Kitzman
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Depending on the career field, any job with Assistant in the title or Coordinator…so things like Marketing Assistant or Social Media Coordinator or Research Assistant…those are good entry-level positions.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

While many new graduates change jobs fairly frequently, it’s still advisable to contribute in a position 1-2 years before moving on to other opportunities. This gives an employee the chance to take on additional responsibilities, get a good overview of a given department, collaborate with colleagues, and stretch a bit in the job and in the career field.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

It’s naturally difficult to take an unpaid position, such as an unpaid internship, after graduation. However, if the position is very close or exactly in a field of interest or with a preferred company, and the graduate doesn’t mind holding off on his/her job search for the duration of this unpaid opportunity, it can be beneficial. It’s a great way to put oneself at the right place/right time should a paid, fulltime position develop. Candidates will not likely want to agree to an unpaid opportunity indefinitely, but rather, for 3-6 months after graduation.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

One comes quickly to mind, the position, “secretary” — it’s probably already gone! Instead, Administrative Assistants are team members who carry out so many tasks to advance an organization’s mission!

Mary Spencer

Director of Career Services at Milwaukee School of Engineering
Mary Spencer
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

This depends on the discipline and, of course, the career aspirations. Assuming that the graduate’s first job is not going to be their last, obtaining an entry level job in a small company can often prepare a new graduate to develop multiple skills, which can make them more marketable for the next step in their career. However, larger companies may have more opportunities for growth. If there is an opportunity for cross disciplinary training within a larger organization, marketability and the prospects for moving up the career ladder are great.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

The average stay for entry level positions is about 5 years (U.S. Labor Statistics - 4.6 years). If the new graduate is performing well, in order to get a real feel for the field, and in order for the employer to gain a return on his investment, they should plan to spend about 3 years in the first position. If they are growing within the same company that time may be shorten based on performance and opportunities. The employer may offer an incentive to progress from an entry level position in as little as 6 months to a year once training completed.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

I’m somewhat biased. My university focus is on engineering, business, and health sciences. My answer would be no! If you sell yourself short in the beginning you will have a very difficult time recovering, particularly when you try and move onto the next job which may partially base the salary offer on your previous employment.

What factors should they consider? Now, having made the previous statement, there are other factors to consider in addition to paid compensation, i.e., the opportunity for career advancement, tuition payment, flexible work hours, insurance coverage, etc. These factors may add just as much value to you and make-up the difference in a lower paying salary. Also, if this is a company you are absolutely dying to join, offer to work for a lower wage or free (keep in mind there are some legal constraints to this), with the understanding that you want to prove yourself as a viable candidate for regular employment.

Rebecca Toporek

Professor and Coordinator of the Career Counseling Specialization in the Department of Counseling at San Francisco State University
Rebecca Toporek
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Although specific recommendations for the types of entry level jobs that best position new graduates vary by industry, there are some factors the job seeker ought to consider. First, how close is this position or organization to the desired path? In other words, what is the potential of this position to allow the new graduate to demonstrate skills, knowledge and competencies, as well as develop new areas of expertise that will be valued as they look to move into more advanced positions?

Second, will this position foster relationships that will help the new graduate grow professionally in a positive way? Although it is quite true that one must "pay one's dues", an entry level job that is costly in terms of one's mental or physical health will make it very difficult for the employee to move in a positive direction. Working hard is great, burnout is terrible.

Third, there are some reality considerations in terms of paying off student loans, supporting one's family and other considerations. The new graduate is best positioned to find an entry level job that will pay the bills, while also providing great opportunities, by doing research and active engagement in the professional development and job search process even before graduation.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

It is important for professionals to enter the job market with the perspective that they are a dynamic and active asset whether they are satisfied and stable in their position or looking to move, employed, or even unemployed. This does not mean that they are always looking to leave their position, however, it does mean that they should constantly be paying attention to what is going on in their industry and their profession. It is important to make sure the work they do is visible through a professional network and constantly strive to update skills, knowledge, and professional connections. This is beneficial in making the professional adaptable, flexible, and prepared when a change is desired or needed, as well as making the professional even more valuable within their current position.

In terms of commitment to employment, this varies by industry and geographical region. A general rule of thumb for a new graduate who begins in an entry level or "stepping stone" job is to commit to a new entry level job for at least one year with the understanding that at about two years she or he should be considering actively evaluating their current job in light of their future plans and other opportunities.

Michelle Tullier

Executive Director of the Center for Career Discovery and Development at Georgia Institute of Technology
Michelle Tullier
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Successful careers grow out of entry-level jobs that are the right fit for the person doing the job and that serve a purpose in the employing organization or the world at large. What Aristotle said centuries ago is still true today: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; therein lies your vocation.” If you embark on a career path that plays to your strengths, holds your interest, and fits your values, while also fulfilling a need, you’re off to a successful start. For one person, that might mean being a physical therapist or a software developer. For another, it’s data mining. Yet another might find success as an elementary school teacher or a business ethicist. It's not the specific type of job that positions one for success, it's about fit.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

While there’s no magic number for length of time in an entry-level job, it might be time to look for a new opportunity when a recent graduate is no longer learning and being challenged. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing employers, however. Anyone feeling that they’re stagnating should first network internally, maybe even find a mentor within the organization, to identify opportunities before jumping ship to a new company.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

Unpaid opportunities are rarely a good idea, except in the case of internships with non-profits where working pro bono might be the only way to build up some experience with smaller organizations on a tight budget in that sector. For the most part, though, young people deserve to be paid a decent salary for their work, which is not always something they recognize. Graduates out of top colleges and universities or majoring in very in-demand fields don’t usually have a problem seeing themselves as valuable commodities. But other young people too often undersell themselves and assume they have to give their time and effort away in an unpaid or low-paid opportunity just to get a foot in the door. Instead, they should take stock of what they have to offer – even if their skills and knowledge are only acquired through class projects, being on a sports team, and lifeguarding over summers. Then they need to convey those assets clearly through their resumes and interview approach to prove that they aren’t just a proverbial quick learner who wants to (cliché alert) be given a chance, but someone who already brings value.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

I’ll leave that to the pessimists. Instead, I’m excited these days about emerging or established-but-growing fields, such as health informatics, cyber security, behavioral genetics, and more.

Michael Kulick

Associate Director of the Career Center at The University of Akron
Michael Kulick
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Just because you have a degree, don’t dismiss entry level jobs and apply only for management positions. Focus your search on entry level options such as an Analyst, Specialist, or Representative role. Entry level jobs within your chosen field and career path are ideal, but cast a wider net -- many positions in another field (i.e. “I want to write and can only find research jobs…”) can lead to a successful career if you look for opportunities at a company that values a degree and where you can take initiative to learn and grow within your interest areas.

How long should a new graduate stay in an entry level job before looking for new opportunities?

Rather than focusing on the length of time, evaluate whether or not you are continuing to bring value to the organization and growing professionally.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

It depends. If an opportunity is viable and can help you decide whether or not a career path is even right for you, it is worth exploring (“I think I want to be a journalist, but all I can find is a low-paying job for a neighborhood newspaper...”) If you think an opportunity can lead to long-term career success, it can also be valuable (i.e. “I want to plan corporate meetings but a local non-profit association is looking for an organizer for their fundraiser…”).

Becky Hall

Director for Career Services at University of Minnesota, Office for Student Affairs
Becky Hall
What types of entry level jobs can position new graduates for a successful career?

Really, any entry level job has the potential to position a new graduate for a successful career. What makes the difference between an entry level job being successful versus not successful has a great deal to do with the recent graduate’s focus on their own professional development. They need to look at each project and task with the lens of what skills they stand to gain or further develop as new professionals. They also need to approach their interactions with colleagues – both peers and supervisors - in a professional manner, being mindful of the need to grow and cultivate their professional network early.

Should young people take unpaid or low-paid opportunities in their preferred industry in order to improve their long term options? What factors should they consider?

This question does not have an easy “yes” vs. “no” answer. There are so many factors that need to be considered, with personal finances being near the top of the list for many new graduates. If they have student loan payments coming due, that unpaid, industry-related opportunity just may not be the most viable option. If an individual does not find a first opportunity in their preferred industry, they should look for ways to build their portfolio through industry-related experience in the “off” hours from their job through a part-time unpaid internship or volunteer experience.

What job types or sectors are likely to disappear in the next 20 years?

For new graduates who are looking to learn more about job market trends, there is a wealth of information on which sectors may likely disappear in the next 20 years that can be found through researching the US Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.

While not a specific sector, per se, a type of job that will change significantly (and already has) in the next 20 years is the “traditional” job. More and more people are working as freelancers, and more and more college graduates are gravitating toward defining their terms of employment through taking on projects as independent contractors.

Methodology

WalletHub began this report by assembling a list of 109 different types of entry-level jobs. We then identified 11 key metrics which speak to various aspects of the immediate opportunities, prospects for growth, and potential hazards associated with each type of job. This allowed us to ultimately construct a hierarchy for the entry-level job market that illustrates the types of jobs that should be most attractive to new labor market entrants – particularly recent graduates – in both the near and short term.

The specific metrics and corresponding weights that we used to construct these rankings can be found below. These metrics were grouped into three overall categories: Immediate Opportunities, Growth Prospects and Hardship.

Immediate Opportunities - Total Weight: 10

  • Median Starting Salary: Full Weight
  • Number of Job Openings: Full Weight
  • Unemployment - Rate: Full Weight

Growth Prospects - Total Weight: 10

  • Projected Job Growth by 2022: Full Weight
  • Income Growth Potential: Full Weight
  • Typical On-the-Job Training: Half Weight
  • Median Annual Salary: Full Weight
  • Median Tenure with Employer: Half Weight
  • Occupation Viability Score (Probability to be Computerized): Full Weight

Hardship - Total Weight: 5

  • Number of Fatal Occupational Injuries per 100.000 Employees: Full Weight
  • People Working Over 40 Hours per Week: Half Weight

 
Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, Indeed.com and Salary.com.

Author

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John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
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Discussion

 
By: Joeseark
Apr 22, 2015
Only about a quarter of millennials value high pay as an incentive in their careers. And Lukewarm to traditionally competitive benefits like the highest pay, the most vacation time and the best retirement plans, millennials want training opportunities and defined paths for advancement, according to a 2014 study in The Journal of International Management Studies
http://jobularity.com/blog/human-resources/snag-and-keep-millennials-bulldoze-your-cubicle-farm
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