The 5 Most Popular Entry-Level Jobs for College Grads (and How to Get Them)

Get the scoop on some of the top entry-level jobs for college grads in 2018 and learn about the skills, experience, and credentials you need to snag one.


Originally Posted: Sep 5, 2018
Last Updated: Sep 5, 2018

Graduating from college can feel incredibly empowering. You’ve worked hard for four years, but once you’ve packed away your cap and gown, reality sets in.

The days of having homework and class lectures as your sole responsibilities are over. Even more devastating, your meal plan is a thing of the past, which means you’re going to have to put that diploma to use to feed yourself.

But don’t fret. Regardless of your degree, the economy is strong, jobs are plentiful, and some entry-level jobs pay incredibly well. But which jobs? And how do you write a résumé that will help you land one?

According to a recent LinkedIn blog post, which studied a sample of its members who graduated with a bachelor's degree from a US institution in 2017 and listed a new position on their profiles, the top five entry-level roles for recent college graduates are software engineer, administrative assistant, account executive, recruiter, and financial analyst.

Below we’ll look at the median salary for each job and the information recruiters look for on a résumé when hiring for these roles. Use these words and phrases word-for-word when crafting your résumé or as a guideline when writing your own application documents. (If you think you’ll need help writing a résumé, consider using a résumé builder and get step-by-step guidance with writing each section.)

Related: 9 Essential Job Search Resources for College Students

1. Software engineer

Median salary for entry level: $95,000

Credentials to highlight: Software developers are usually expected to have a bachelor’s degree, typically in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or a related field, so be sure to make your “Education” section prominent on your résumé to flaunt your new degree. For some roles, employers will want applicants to have a master’s degree, so study the job ad carefully before applying.

If you don’t have any direct work experience, focus your “Experience” section on skills you learned in your classes, such as software development. If you held an internship at a software company while in college, this would be a great addition.

Skills and experience to add:

  • Experience analyzing users’ needs and designing, testing, and developing software to satisfy those needs
  • Skilled at application and system design
  • Proficient in creating models and diagrams to map the software code needed for an application
  • Highly skilled in software maintenance and testing
  • Collaborated with programmers and other computer specialists to create optimum software

Related: The Top 10 Reasons to Major in Computer Science

2. Administrative assistant

Median salary for entry level: $38,600

Credentials to highlight: While some companies will hire high school graduates for administrative assistant roles, many prefer those with college degrees, especially in medical and legal offices. Most executive assistant positions require a bachelor’s degree.

Skills and experience to add:

  • Experience managing telephone systems, taking messages, and transferring calls
  • Skilled at scheduling appointments and calendar management
  • Proven ability to plan events such as staff meetings, lunches, and receptions
  • Strong written and verbal communication
  • Past customer service experience

3. Account executive 

Median salary for entry level: $75,000

Credentials to highlight: A bachelor’s degree is critical for most sales manager roles, so be sure to detail your educational credentials on your résumé. For those without work experience, highlighting courses in business law, finance, mathematics, management, economics, accounting, marketing, and statistics can make your résumé and skills pop.

Skills and experience to add:

  • Extensive course work in marketing, finance, and accounting
  • Experience with conflict management and resolving customer complaints
  • Skilled at preparing budgets and managing expenditures
  • Strong communication skills
  • Experience with cold calling, in-person product demonstrations, and other direct sales techniques

4. Recruiter

Median salary for entry level: $57,000

Credentials to highlight: A bachelor’s degree is sought after in applicants seeking positions as recruiters—someone who works for a company to identify and hire qualified applicants. Employers often look for those with degrees in Human Resources or Business.

If you don’t have direct work experience as a recruiter, focus your résumé on course work in subjects like business, psychology, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting, which are all useful in a recruiter role.

Also, if you’ve earned any certifications—for example, from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—be sure to add these, as they can set you apart from your competition.

Related: Where Can a Master’s in Human Resources Take You?

Skills and experience to add:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Experienced in identifying, screening, and interviewing applicants for job openings in an organization
  • Skilled at testing applicants, contacting references, and extending job offers
  • Experience consulting with employers to identify and meet employment needs
  • Proven ability to interview applicants about their experience, education, and skills to find the right match

5. Financial analyst

Median salary for entry level: $65,000

Credentials to highlight: Most positions in finance require a bachelor’s degree and licensing. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the main licensing organization for the securities industry, and the license is generally required to sell financial products. However, because most of the licenses require sponsorship by an employer, companies do not expect individuals to have these licenses before starting a job.

Employers often look for applicants with certifications such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute. If you have achieved the CFA, CPA, or any other designation, be sure to list this on your résumé.

If you don’t have direct work experience, you should highlight relevant course work or internships.

Skills and experience to add:

  • Extensive training in evaluating current and historical financial data
  • Experience recommending individual investments and portfolio investments
  • Intensive study of economic and business trends
  • Proficiency in preparing written reports for clients
  • Understanding of both buy-side and sell-side analytics

Find more job search advice in our Internships and Careers section.

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