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Top Choice Entry-Level Jobs for College Graduates

written by: Erik Hinrichsen•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/8/2011

Different people may have different ideas about what constitutes the best entry level job for college graduates. Some may say starting pay is the most important factor, while for others benefits reign supreme; still others focus on location.

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    In these days of economic malaise and stagnating wages, getting a good job straight out of college is no longer a guarantee. Where many jobs used to require simply a degree - any degree - today's employers are increasingly discerning in their hiring practices. And they can afford to do so, with such a large market of job-seekers. Securing the best entry level jobs for college grads can be extremely competitive, and doing so usually requires a specialized degree.

    In addition, consider that location matters. Some of the top paying jobs are more prevalent in specific areas of the country; aerospace engineering jobs are less plentiful in Wyoming than in California, for example. However, cost of living can vary across the country, so some jobs may appear to pay more than they really do.

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    Top Entry Level Employers

    The best jobs for college graduates may not pay the most - at least, not at first. The best jobs offer good chances of promotion, which can help graduates avoid becoming stuck in dead-end jobs. These jobs may also offer employees valuable training, or even pay for graduate school. That being said, the following is a list of the ten best entry level jobs for college graduates, organized by field.

    1. Engineer. With a median starting pay of $53,400, engineers make good money to start. They are always in demand in hundreds of industries, from aerospace to biomedical to civil. Engineering jobs generally require engineering degrees, the schoolwork for which is notoriously difficult.
    2. Construction and Trades. Management positions in construction and trade fields pay well, with a median starting salary of $51,100, and usually require a bachelors degree. Inspectors for buildings and construction can also expect many job openings in the coming decade.
    3. Energy, Oil, and Gas. These fields have an insatiable demand for science majors, engineers, and others with a strong background in the hard sciences. The median starting pay is $50,800; however, pay is substantially higher in some of the more dangerous positions. Work on drilling platforms, for instance, pays very well.
    4. Information technology and Telecommunications. Median starting salary: $46,000. Growing positions include systems analysts, software engineers, and support specialists.
    5. Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Industry. This field is exploding, with strong demand for scientists, technicians, and researchers. Median salary for entry level hires: $43,900. Advancement in this field often requires a Masters or Doctorate degree.
    6. Manufacturing managers. Factories hire many college graduates to work as line managers, plant managers, and project managers. Growth in this field may slow in the future, as factories become increasingly automated. Median starting salary: $42,700.
    7. Insurance Industry. New college graduates can find many positions in the insurance industry, such as claims adjusters, auditors, and underwriters. Median starting salary is $40,800.
    8. Government/Civil/Military positions. Positions in these fields often require college degrees. Though median starting pay is only $40,300, the job benefits are great and layoffs are unlikely.
    9. Finance. Finance positions often pay very well, but may require heavy work hours. Accountants, analysts, and financial advisors are all expected to experience fast growth in the coming decade; median starting salary is $40,200
    10. Logistics and Warehouse positions. Management positions in warehouses and logistics positions pay well, at $39,600 per year for new hires. With the rise of online stores, the number of warehouses in the United States is exploding.
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    The prevalence of these jobs may be localized. Finance positions, for instance, are concentrated in major cities, with New York housing many of the largest finance firms. Oil and gas firms operate mostly around areas with a wealth of untapped fuels, like the Gulf Coast. Engineering and construction positions are required all over, though, and grads should be able to find positions in every moderately sized city.

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