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The 20 Best Entry-Level Jobs for College Graduates

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You finally graduated! Congrats! Now it’s time to enter the labor force, perhaps in one of these best entry-level jobs for college graduates.

College graduates from the class 2018 are now entering the job market. Wages for college graduates were relatively stagnant for years after the 2008-2009 Recession, but they have began to pick up in the last couple of years. PayScale found that the median starting salary for 2018 college graduates is $47,000, which is $1,600 more than the median starting salary from a year ago.

In this season of graduations, we decided to discover the best entry-level jobs for college graduates. We surveyed nearly 200,000 recent graduates (people with a bachelor’s degree and less than two years in the workforce) between June 2016 and May 2018 to determine which jobs were the best.

We evaluated 6,789 job titles and picked the best ones based on three criteria: how satisfied new grads are with their job, how much they earn, and how common the job is in the market. This list represents the top jobs when we consider satisfaction, pay and availability.

For this piece, we’ve picked five jobs based on the demand we’re seeing for these positions. We’ll take a quick look at the core responsibilities for these jobs, what’s driving employers to ramp up hiring, and what it takes to get these desirable positions.

  1. Software Developer

Web Developer
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Seventy-three percent of software developers who have taken PayScale’s salary survey said they are highly satisfied in their job. The median pay for a software engineer with two years of experience or less is $68,800.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.    

A software developer develops computer applications for users. They may also develop or customize existing systems that run devices or control networks. A typical software developer will test and document software for client applications. They will write code to create single-threaded, multi-threaded or user-interface-event-driven applications, either stand alone and those which access servers or services. They will write, modify and debug software for client applications.

A bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science, information technology or other relevant majors is often required. They are also required to have relevant job experience. Yet, because there are more job openings for software developers than applicants with computer science degrees, many employers will consider those who did not major in computer science/engineering or IT.  

At this point, there are multiple coding bootcamps / academies that are teaching students the requisite knowledge to land entry-level software developer roles. These bootcamps talk to employers to figure out what they’re looking for, and they tend to focus their curriculum on practical problem-solving and the latest tools and languages. Some employers (especially small companies) have said they actually prefer bootcamp graduates for some jobs because they tend to have more practical and up-to-date knowledge.

One of the fastest-growing fields within computer science is Cyber Security. In PayScale’s salary survey, we saw the job title cyber security analyst in our database grow by 97 percent from 2017 to 2018. In an age where technology is becoming more deeply integrated into our lives, where data breaches are becoming an increasing threat, it makes sense that cybersecurity analysts are in-demand. 

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Cyber security analysts use knowledge of computers and electronics to monitor and analyze data from various security systems. They communicate security information to fellow analysts and customers. They use technical skills to help respond to threats and emergency security incidents in a timely manner, and help develop solutions or improvements to prevent malicious activity.

Another fast-growing specialist role within software development is that of Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer. PayScale saw this job title in our database grow by 70 percent from 2017 to 2018. DevOps engineers are responsible for the production and ongoing maintenance of a website platform. They also manage cloud infrastructure and systems administration and work with teams to identify and repair issues on an as-needed basis.  

To find popular employers that hire software developers (and other technical roles) and to see how well these employers pay, check out PayScale’s report Top Tech Companies Compared.

  1. Mechanical Engineer  

Seventy percent of Mechanical Engineers in PayScale’s salary survey said they are highly satisfied with their job. The median pay for a mechanical engineer with two years of experience or less is $61,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026, as fast as the average for all occupations. Emerging fields like biotechnology, materials science, and nano-technology are expected to create new job opportunities for mechanical engineers.

Mechanical engineers participate in the planning and manufacturing of new products by performing engineering duties and developing, designing and testing mechanical devices. The mechanical engineering field is incredibly diverse, requiring education and skills that span a broad range of technical, social, environmental and economic problems. A ME might work on electric generators, combustion engines, steam and gas turbines or power-generating machines. She might also work machines such as refrigeration and air-condition equipment or power tools.

The job requires at least a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, or a related field. The EIT exam, membership in a professional society and specific industry-related certifications may also be encouraged or required.

To find popular employers that hire mechanical engineers, check out PayScale’s Career Center.

  1. Registered Nurse

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Sixty-nine percent of registered nurses (RNs) in PayScale’s salary survey said they are highly satisfied with their job. The median pay for a registered nurse with two years of experience or less is $56,500. Unlike many other professionals, RNs receive overtime pay, and those who take on certain shifts command higher wages.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average of all occupations. This is due to a number of factors, including an increased emphasis on preventative care, growing rates of chronic conditions in the U.S. population (e.g. diabetes), and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population.

Registered nurses (RNs) typically work for hospitals or medical clinics. They may also work for other organizations, such as outpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers or senior centers. Their main job is to assess patient health problems and needs, develop and implement nursing care plans, and maintain medical records. They also advise patients on health maintenance and disease prevention or provide case management.

To become a RN, you must have an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Some employers require candidates to have prior experience as an RN. They must have a license from their state’s board of nursing. In order to administer medications, some states require that RNs pass a medication administration exam.

To find popular employers that hire RNs, check out PayScale’s Career Center.

  1. Financial Analyst

Seventy percent of Financial Analysts in our database said they are highly satisfied in their job. The median pay for a Financial Analyst with two years of experience or less is $55,500. With that said, employees in the finance industry tend to earn big bonuses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for financial analysts is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

A financial analyst carefully studies marketplace trends, demographics and microeconomic factors to help their company make sound investment decisions. The financial analyst may also provide advice to companies on issuing their own bonds, splitting stocks and other areas of concern. Financial analysts, also called securities analysts and investment analysts, work for banks, insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, securities firms and other businesses.   

One of the most important roles for a financial analyst is to fully understand how and where a company has invested its resources, as well as how secure and viable that financial outlay will be going forward. An analyst needs to not only understand how current investments affect the company, but also how those investments and future financial interactions will impact short- and long-term growth. The analyst is expected to provide information on the company’s current financial position and make recommendations to company decision-makers. For instance, the analyst may inform an executive board about whether expansion may be high risk or help the company decide on issuing bonds to cover capital improvements. The analyst may also provide advice and analysis on protecting a company’s wealth in the short term during economic downturns.

While many firms prefer graduates who studied Finance, Economics, Statistics or another quantitative field, you don’t necessarily need one of these degrees in order to land a job as a financial analyst. Taking courses online, participating in a finance bootcamp, and getting internships will help you gain the experience you need.

To find popular employers that hire financial analysts, check out PayScale’s Career Research Center.

  1. Marketing Coordinator

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Sixty-eight percent of Marketing Coordinators in PayScale’s salary survey said they are highly satisfied with their job. The median pay for a Marketing Coordinator with two years of experience or less is $39,700.

Growth for digital marketing coordinators and digital marketing specialists was incredibly high from 2017 going into 2018. In PayScale’s salary survey, we saw that the number of digital marketing coordinators grew by 69 percent and the digital marketing specialists grew by 62 percent. According to new research from Mckinley, 69 percent of marketing leaders anticipate growing their team and hiring more marketers (up from 44 percent from last year). Demand for marketers has grown by 79 percent since last year, coming in as the third most hired for specialty in 2018.

Marketing coordinators develop and coordinate marketing campaigns for their companies. These campaigns may involve social media, website, digital, print, television or a combination of these. They are often tasked with brainstorming ideas which align with the company’s vision and devising plans to execute these ideas. They may manage the company’s website and work with other marketers and employees, such as graphic designers and website developers, to bring marketing ideas to reality. They may also work with sales representatives to ensure a smooth sales process.

You can come from just about any background before landing a role as a Marketing Coordinator / Specialist (though it helps to have a degree in Marketing or Communication). Strong research skills are important to understand evolving trend swithin the market. Business acumen, strong communication skills (verbal and written) and data analysis skills also matter. With that said, much of the knowledge marketers need to do their work can be learned on the job. We’ve seen successful marketers come up from all kinds of backgrounds, including those with a business degree, people who studied creative writing, and even people who are former engineers!   

Getting into the marketing field is fairly manageable as long as you’re willing to hustle. Because the technology used to market is changing so quickly, marketers have to be willing to constantly learn and keep up with the latest technology and consumer-driven changes.There’s a lot of quality resources online on How to get into Marketing. Most marketing technology vendors also provide content to help marketers get up to speed on key skills and popular tools. A few resources we like include: Hubspot Inbound Academy, KissMetrics, CopyBlogger and Moz.

To see popular employers that hire marketing coordinators and specialists, check out PayScale’s career research center.

Tell us what you think

What do you think are the best jobs for recent grads right now? Why? Share your thoughts with us below or on Twitter.

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