12 Careers With Great Entry-Level Positions
When you start a new career, you want there to be a decent starting salary and good prospects for future growth. So which career fields can deliver that?
Are you graduating from college and looking to start a new career? What if you’re stuck in a career you hate and want to make a change? Either way, you’re probably looking for a solid entry-level position. One that comes with decent starting pay and solid career prospects down the line. The only question now is … which one you should choose?
Well, okay, there are a couple more questions than that. But if you’re wondering what kind of careers come with good positions on the ground level, then you’ve come to the right place. We reached out to a whole host of industry professionals and career experts to get their recommendations. Here’s what they had to say …
If you don’t know what an actuary is, you’re not alone. The job primarily consists of using data and statistics to determine risk and help set insurance premiums. And so long as you don’t have a phobia of test-taking, it can make for a great career—even at an entry-level!
Frank Huang is a consulting actuary with Merlinos & Associates. Here was how he described the day-to-day work life and career prospects for an entry-level actuary:
“An entry-level actuary’s life is split up into two parts—at work, and outside of work. At work, the entry-level actuary may receive some formal training but most learning is done on-the-job. Senior actuaries will provide the entry-level actuary work, and teach the concepts and skills necessary to complete the work as they go. Almost all of this work will be in front of a computer, likely on Microsoft Excel, Word, Access or some other computational software. This represents probably seven hours out of a traditional eight-hour workday.
“The remaining one hour at work is spent in the same way an entry-level actuary’s outside-of-work time will be spent—studying to pass actuarial exams. Employers will pay entry-level actuaries to study for that one hour a day, but the diligent entry-level actuary will spend a few hours every day outside of work also studying. In general, an actuary needs to study around 400 hours to pass a four-hour exam. Exams are usually administered twice a year, so an entry-level actuary will work his/her eight-hour day and then study a few hours outside of the office for roughly eight months out of the year. The average actuary will do this for seven years before completing all the exams.
“Although the tunnel is long, the light at the end is a bright one. Per industry salary surveys, a newly credentialed actuary can make between $100,000 and $200,000 in total compensation, while still working relatively stable 40-50 hour work weeks. Salaries also increase significantly over time, as a credentialed actuary with 10-15 years can earn up to $150,000 to $350,000 annually. Because of the excellent compensation and favorable work-life balance, the actuarial profession is consistently ranked as the top or one of the top careers in the world.”
Like many jobs that come with good salaries, a career as an actuary is going to mean buckling down and working hard. If that sounds like something you’re up for, then you should check it out!
So long as companies make products or provide services, they’re going to need employees to market them to other people. It’s a thriving industry with a clear career path and some pretty decent starting salaries. Plus, it’s pretty ideal if you’re looking to make a career change.
Here’s what Matt Dodgson, Director at the U.K. company Market Recruitment had to say:
“Marketing is a great industry in which to jumpstart or make a new change in your career path. I say this for several reasons. Marketing is industry-agnostic. Every company has a product or service that will require marketing in some form. Some examples include consumer research, developing and implementing promotions, and PR in general.
“There is a clear career trajectory. Marketing has a well-traveled and known development path. Careers tend to start in the project coordinator position, then graduate into a manager position, which finally evolves into a Vice President or even Chief Marketing Officer position. Over the course of 20 years, a person can start out with a salary of $35,000/year and end in CMO/VP position that makes north of $160,000/year.
“You don’t have to be a recent graduate to start. I have worked with people 10+ years in a different industry break into marketing. For example, I recently worked with someone retiring from the military to find an entry-level marketing job that still offered a comparable and compelling salary. There are so many online courses people can access to help make them more marketable as a viable candidate.”
Dodgson also offered a handful of entry-level marketing positions, including social media coordinator, PR coordinator, event marketing coordinator.
Ketan Kapoor is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mettl, and HR technology company. He recommended copywriting as a good career that comes with high demand and solid entry-level prospects.
“Companies put in a lot of efforts to develop a standalone product, but in the age of marketing influencing purchasing decisions, just the product specifications aren’t sufficient,” he said. “The products need to be promoted through catchy and attractive words that seem to provide instant solutions to the customer’s problems. That’s the role of a copywriter.”
“The best part about being a copywriter is that it’s not necessary to have highly specialized and specific skills to be good at words,” he continued. “It comes naturally to you if you are inherently adept in saying effective things with minimal words to make the products stand out. They write client-facing literature like brochures, website taglines, company vision, their brand story, leaflets, and other printing material.”
“As you go on practicing your craft with different clients and companies, you only become better,” he added. “And the icing on the cake? It’s one area hitherto untouched by advancing technologies like AI. AI can still not write effective short copies to represent what a brand stands for.”
4. Web designer
Kapoor also recommended a career in Web Design:
“With many organizations, SMBs, and physical stores making swift leaps to be available on the digital space, web designing and maintenance has come to occupy a major share of business investments for companies.
“The visual story that a website says goes far beyond what’s visible—the colors say a lot about industry and market a company is catering to, the easy user interface, and the placement of important click-to-action buttons for greater business revenues. It’s all a part of how a website is developed. And that’s why web design promises a rewarding career and a good salary with little efforts on your part—maybe a certification available either free or at nominal prices which helps you gain a basic understanding of web designing.
“Moreover, in later part of your career, you can go on to improve and be proficient in the web designing aspect which, apart from working with organizations, can help you take up some projects independently and earn yourself a handsome paycheck and good working experience.”
5. The oil and gas industry.
Jason Lavis is a partner & webmaster at drillers.com, a resource and careers site for the oil and gas industry. He made a compelling case for why folks should look to the industry for entry-level opportunities. Here were his three main reasons why oil and gas is a great place to start in a new career:
“Firstly, due to the cyclical nature of the industry, when business is going well, there are always worker shortages. This means that securing a position is much easier than in more stable industries. Getting an entry-level oil and gas job is relatively easy.
“Second, many of the titans of the energy industry worked their way up from the bottom. Roughly half of the high-level jobs in the industry are held by those with a degree, half are not. This is close to being a meritocracy in comparison to so many careers that have an educational glass ceiling.
“Lastly, salaries are really good, even at low-level roles. Workers can be properly rewarded for the hard work that they put in, unlike in apprenticeships or dead-end jobs.”
This is probably not a career you expected to see on this list. Frankly, neither did we! But when Jeffrey Naftal, Director of Human Resources for Prince George’s County Memorial Library System reached out to us with his thoughts on the industry, we couldn’t deny that it sounded promising.
“I would argue that working in a library is a great place to start a career,” he said. “Our entry-level circulation positions do not even require a college degree and our entry-level information staff require a simple bachelors degree. Of course, to be a full librarian (at least in MD) you need a Master of Library Science (MLS), but we have many staff who are content to stay at the entry level for their entire career.”
“Aside from solid pay,” he continued, “libraries offer good benefits and a career path on both the circulation and information side as well as non-branch positions in materials management and programming. I highly recommend public libraries for those just starting out on a career.”
And now so do we!
7. B2B sales
As the way we live and work continues to evolve with the digital times, it might seem like a traditional career as a consumer-facing salesman is becoming obsolete. But when it comes to salesmen who sell from one business to another, the career prospects (not to mention the potential paydays) are far stronger.
“Sales in the B2B market is a highly promising career and one with colossal possibilities where you can go on to head the entire sales teams of the organization,” said Kapoor. “Selling, highly conjectured as an art, is truly a science.
“If you come to understand the nuances of it and your learning momentum increases with time, you can come to master sales to a T. Sales skills are highly relevant and popular in the industry and you can think of a long-term career in this profile.”
8. 3D Printing, robotics, and more.
Author and FabLab Hub Founder Sarah Boisvert is an expert on the changing nature of work. In a world where machines and computer programs are rapidly overtaking jobs traditionally performed by humans, things are evolving faster than ever.
And while these technological advances are rending some old jobs obsolete, they’re also creating entirely new career fields.
“New technologies such as 3D Printing, robotics, CAD design, and AI are offering entry-level jobs in manufacturing which has a desperate need for operators and technicians for these New Collar jobs,” said Boisvert.
“Many of these jobs don’t require a degree, and paid on-the-job training is available in some industries. IBM reports that as many as one-third of their manufacturing staff do not have a college degree.”
Boisvert writes extensively about these issues in her book, The New Collar Workforce.
9. Customer service
If you’re looking for a career with low barriers to entry, good prospects for advancement, and decent pay, you could also look into becoming a customer service representative. According to Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, these positions make for great entry-level jobs:
“It’s the kind of position that allows you to grow upwards in a business and bring a lot of skills to the table,” she said. “You learn how to interact with all types of individuals, help solve problems, and can educate yourself on the company you’re working for and its offerings.”
10. Software developer
Kapoor had one last career to recommend, one that comes good pay and sunny prospects for entry-level workers.
“There’s been a massive boom in the number of mobile apps and software applications that makes our lives easier in a few touch and swipes. With that, there’s a huge demand for software developers in a lot of industries which also pay well and offer a lucrative career opportunity,” he said.
“With a basic degree in engineering and little to no specialization in any industry, you could end up becoming a top-earning software development professional in different dimensions like maintenance, development, research, and testing.”
“The best entry-level job for you depends mostly on the career path you are looking to take,” said HR Consultant Steve Pritchard with Cuuver.com. “The key is to get a job where you can learn the key skills that will help you eventually land your dream job,”
That’s why Pritchard didn’t recommend a specific career field. Instead, he recommended a specific position: assistants.
“Assistant positions generally make the best entry-level jobs,” he said. “This gives you hands-on experience in the area you’re interested in, while continually learning about what it takes to succeed in the profession.
He even offered some examples: “An aspiring digital marketer would benefit from a social media assistant role, an aspiring teacher would benefit from becoming a teaching assistant and someone interested in a career in healthcare could apply for a medical assistant role.”
“You will learn about how to deal with the admin of the role on a daily basis, and gradually begin to understand what it will take to deal with the more significant responsibilities from your manager, who will provide you with their expertise,” Pritchard continued.
“The nature of these positions means you will always have plenty of room for career progression; they also tend to provide respectable starting salaries for those looking to embark on their new career.”
This is another recommendation that speaks less to a specific type of career, and more the kind of environment wherein you choose to work. That having been said, we can’t really argue with the case made by Nina Krol, Outreach Manager at career site Zety for why startups a great place to launch a career.
“I see startups as a really good start off point for graduates and entry-level job seekers,” she said. “Hiring for a startup looks slightly different than filling the already known job positions. The activities we perform are very often infused with innovative solutions and ideas.
She mentioned a few entry level-positons that rely more on an individual’s drive and on-the-job learning than on previous work experience: SEO, research, junior IT positions, social media marketing.
“We like to create job positions that can evolve and change in time to adjust to the pace of a fast-growing company. Therefore we often choose to hire young, talented people, often graduates that bring their fresh ideas, creativity, and enthusiasm into the role.
Sarah Boisvert is the author of The New Collar Workforce, a book that reveals the skills manufacturers urgently need for workers to operate and service new technologies such as 3D Printers, robotics, and CAD design. It also suggests skill-specific alternative training programs that emphasize building problem-solving skills and innovative critical thinking. Sarah has worked in laser micromachining and contract manufacturing for 30 years and has developed a Digital Badge training program for New Collar job skills. Her company, FabLab Hub (@FabLabHub), is a part of the international Fab Lab Network of 1600 labs created at the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT.
Matt Dodgson is one of the founders of Market Recruitment (@Marketrec), a UK-based recruiting company focused exclusively on helping B2B and tech companies find marketers for their hard-to-fill roles. When not working, Matt loves competing in triathlons (he’s completed 3 Ironmans) and spending time with his wife and two daughters.
Frank Huang is a consulting actuary at Merlinos & Associates with 15 years of experience that has spanned insurance carriers, consulting firms, and private companies. His focus is on helping companies with material property/casualty insurance risks and operations run more efficiently and profitably, through more accurate risk quantification, more optimal and less costly insurance coverage, and tailored predictive analytics solutions. Mr. Huang is also one of the leaders of the firm’s workers’ compensation consulting practice.
Ketan Kapoor is the CEO and co-founder of Mettl, an HR technology company and leading talent measurement firm that enables businesses to make precise people decisions in Talent Recruitment, management, and training across industry verticals.
Nina Krol is the Community Manager at Zety (@zety_com), a startup company and one of the fastest-growing career advice sites in the World. Nina helps companies utilize targeted content to increase their online exposure through content management, marketing strategy, and community relationship management.
Jason Lavis worked in sales and marketing for over twenty years, and then switched to entrepreneurship for the last ten. Currently involved in three small companies involved in digital marketing for the energy industry, and recruitment & training. Partner at drillers.com (@drillersdotcom), Managing Director of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. and Marketing Director at Natural Resource Professionals Ltd. Personal strengths include copywriting, marketing strategy, and remote team building.
Jeffrey Naftal has spent his career in public service, working for cities, counties, and non-profits. A SHRM Senior Certified Professional, Jeff has experience in all areas of human resources from recruiting to benefits to training to managing HR technology. He has been with the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (@PGCMLs) for two and a half years.
Steve Pritchard is an experienced HR consultant who has worked in HR positions at a number of companies, including the insurance comparison site Cuuver.com (@cuuver). Steve has a strong knowledge of the HR profession, with expertise in recruitment, employee management, and performance analysis, and has provided advice on a number of complex HR issues and topics.
Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney) is the CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.
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