College should give you a solid grounding from which to launch a career, but you do not have to commit to a career that aligns with your major at this early stage. There are many industries and sectors to choose from, and some are more lucrative than others.
Whatever your leanings as far as a job title is concerned, this article lists entry-level jobs that are popular and in high demand. This article also addresses how and when a soon-to-be college grad should start to look for employment (hint—before you graduate) and what they should be aware of in their early search for a recent college graduate job.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for college grads is around $34,000 per year, with a range from $24,000 to $52,000. You probably would like to be at the top end of that range when you find a full-time job, or even higher, but you also have to consider what job type will give you satisfaction.
Many recent college graduates will find that their bachelor's degree qualifies them for a wide range of careers. Many jobs do not require a specific college degree while others prefer that a candidate follow a specific major.
So, what are the best industries for recent college grads to target? Indeed, the employment website, lists 20 of the best jobs for college grads. They range from customer service representatives, who earn around $14 per hour, to software engineers, who earn around $117,000 per year. Click on the salary in the listings below to get the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed.
National average salary: $14.00 per hour
Customer service representatives assist customers, educate them on products, and help them place their orders. Customer service representatives work in all sectors, including retail, restaurant, technology, and hospitality. College graduates should have top-notch communication and problem-solving skills to manage the customer relationship.
National average salary: $17.00 per hour
The administrative assistant takes care of administrative tasks for an organization. Their tasks include answering phones, assisting customers, filing documents, and entering data into a computer database. They may oversee other staff if they are in a supervisory role. Administrative assistants should have good communication and project management skills.
National average salary: $17.00 per hour
Computer technicians install systems and troubleshoot customer computer problems. This is a good start for someone who wants a career in IT. The more IT courses and certifications a college graduate has, the more valuable they will be to an organization..
National average salary: $17.00 per hour
Research assistants research subjects and collect data for projects. Most college grads will develop the necessary investigative skills after completing research projects as part of their coursework.
National average salary: $15.00 per hour
Substitute teachers don’t necessarily need a college degree, but it helps. Depending on the level of education, an advanced degree may be required for teaching.
National average salary: $25.00 per hour
Tutors assist school-age or college-level students who need help in specific subjects. Tutors will meet with them and provide assistance with coursework and homework assignments. College grads usually tutor in specific subjects where they excelled; for example, math or English.
National average salary: $46.00 per year
Marketing coordinators oversee marketing campaigns for companies and their clients. They may be involved in creative strategies, analytics, or digital or print advertising. Marketing is a sector with broad opportunities, and it is a growing one.
National average salary: $50,000 per year
Human resource representatives recruit and hire candidates for an organization. They also manage employee records and handle employee complaints and conflicts. They may be involved in HR policy management, performance programs, staff development programs, and other inter-organizational initiatives regarding staffing. College grads need good interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
National average salary: $55,000 per year
Account managers manage client accounts within an organization. Customers or clients contact an account manager if they have any questions or concerns about their account. Account managers should have strong interpersonal skills and a good basic knowledge of sales and finance.
National average salary: $60,000 per year
Recruiters can be independent or work for an organization or an agency. They evaluate an organization's skills needs and then do the work necessary to find employees to fill those needs. Recruiters require experience interviewing candidates and strong interpersonal skills for effective networking and to find potential candidates.
National average salary: $64,000 per year
An auditor reviews and audits a company’s accounts and financial documents to identify any errors. They may also evaluate an organization's payroll and taxes to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. Auditors need strong mathematical and analytical skills and knowledge of accounting and finance.
National average salary: $65,000 per year
Sales representatives promote products and services and educate customers to encourage them to buy those products. Sales representatives have natural interpersonal and customer service skills to develop working relationships with potential clients.
National average salary: $66,000 per year
Pharmaceutical sales representatives educate medical providers and customers to sell pharmaceutical products. They require a background in chemistry and science to understand the use of different pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical representatives also need strong interpersonal skills to build professional relationships with medical providers to sell products.
National average salary: $68,000 per year
A business operations manager oversees all business operations within an organization, including managing inventory, supply chain and logistics, operating systems, even training programs for staff. The business operations manager evaluates operational practices and makes recommendations for improvements.
National average salary: $74,000 per year
Project managers evaluate project goals and then manage teams to complete the goal. They are responsible for meeting deadlines, setting and meeting budgets, and coordinating among the different parties involved in the project: owners, contractors, and employees. Project managers need strong organizational and planning skills as well as delegating skills to assign employees to individual tasks.
National average salary: $82,000 per year
IT security administrators implement security systems within an organization to protect against cyber threats. IT security administrators must keep up to date on the latest solutions to protect an organization's confidential client data. IT and cybersecurity is a hot industry with huge demand for people with technical security experience and skills.
National average salary: $85,000 per year
IT managers are responsible for updating hardware/software programs, making decisions on new IT infrastructure and installing systems,, troubleshooting IT problems, and organizing training for IT staff and all organizational staff if new systems are implemented.
National average salary: $87,000 per year
Database administrators organize and maintain data for an organization. At a more senior level, they design and manage databases critical for an organization’s functioning.
National average salary: $101,000 per year
Financial managers monitor the finances for a business and ensure that operations run smoothly without funding problems, that cash flow is healthy, and that an entity has enough capital to operate its business plan. Financial managers evaluate past financial documents and use that information to determine future financial goals and provide financial services.
National average salary: $118,000 per year
A software engineer applies mathematical and analytical skills to develop software programs. A software engineer will be literate in various coding languages. Software engineers may troubleshoot current programs and explore updates to existing engineering programs and products.
As college wraps up, and the pressure of finals abates, the pressure of finding a job intensifies. Most students will graduate in May, and it is a good plan to start your job search at least one or two months before you’ll be ready to work. That means applying for jobs in March or April.
Many students might hesitate to apply for jobs before they graduate, but most employers will be willing to onboard you beforehand, particularly if your expertise is in demand.
A good plan is to start researching job openings at the start of your senior year. Decide what is important to you when it comes to work. For example, do you want to work for a big company or a small company? Where do you want to live? What type of work culture attracts you? Do you want to work for a company that honors work-life balance?
Consult with a career counselor for ideas on what companies or industries to target. Also, start networking. Identify people who can act as references, and chat to people who work in the industries you’re interested in to gain insights.
When you are half-way through your senior year, consider applying for an internship to gain exposure in the field you’re hoping to start a career in. That will help you to confirm whether you want to work in that sector.
To find out more about applying for internships, read "How to Write a Killer Internship Resume"
Put together a resume and a cover letter that you can use as a template, and tailor it for each job you apply to. Have a career advisor look them over for you and provide pointers. Look at jobs on platforms like Linkedin and Handshake to see if any jobs appeal to you.
Create a better resume; read "Resume Do’s and Don’ts."
Continue to network throughout the year because a contact might be able to introduce you to a hiring manager at a company you’re interested in. A Jobvite article found that referred applicants are 15 times more likely to be hired than applicants who apply via a job board. Use social media like LinkedIn to find possible contacts and employment opportunities.
To read more about networking, read "Building Your Professional Network to Land a Job"
The spring semester is the time to send out applications. Use your connections and apply on job boards. Sign up for job alerts. Also, take advantage of on-campus career days at your school where companies visit to recruit. Prepare for these days and have your resume at the ready and an elevator pitch rehearsed.
There are some things job seekers should keep in mind when it comes to a job search. Although recruiters hire year-round, fall and winter are busier for job opportunities for new college grads while the summer is slower. So, college students stand the best chance of landing a job if they apply to job postings as early as possible. On-campus recruiting tends to occur during the spring and fall semesters, and companies aim to have hires set by early June.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember for recent grads is that an entry-level position is just the start of a professional career. It is valuable work experience. So, choose a new job that you will enjoy. Later, you can decide whether to try a graduate program or continue on your current path.