A Job Hunter’s Guide to the Best Entry-Level Jobs

By Robert Half May 14, 2018 at 3:00pm

Everybody has to start their career somewhere, right? But knowing where and how to take that first step in your professional life can be daunting. The right entry-level job in your chosen field can help you develop vital work experience and launch a long-lasting professional journey. But the wrong entry-level job can lead you down blind alleys and slow your career and salary trajectory.

Planning your first steps is bound to bring up questions, most notably about salary potential. That’s just one area where the Robert Half Salary Guides can help.

Our guides — and the professional recruiters who contribute to them — are the most respected sources for starting salaries and hiring trends. They break down pay levels into percentiles, representing every stage of a professional’s career. The 25th percentile, or entry-level salary, fits most introductory positions, as these candidates are typically still developing their skills. Some candidates may reach closer to the 50th percentile, or midpoint salary, if they’re with larger companies.

Starting salary isn’t the only question when considering which entry-level position is best for you, of course. What basic knowledge, education or skills are required? Which roles are most in demand? Where can a particular role take your career? Each starting point presents different opportunities, but here are 15 of the most promising positions out there.

Read on to learn more about each job:

Web developer

From e-commerce giants to mom-and-pop storefronts, companies need web developers to support their online presence. This ever-present demand — coupled with a scarcity of candidates — makes web development one of the most lucrative fields for entry-level employees. Employment for web developers is projected to rise 15 percent by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Web developer jobs are abundant in tech hubs such as San Francisco; New York; Seattle; and Austin, Texas.

Web developers have in-depth knowledge of internet protocols and applications, as well as a solid understanding of digital business strategy. They also have experience with programming environments like AJAX, ColdFusion, JavaScript, Soap, HTML, DHTML and LAMP. Entry-level candidates earn an average salary of $82,500; the midpoint salary starts as high as $98,000.

Data analyst/report writer

Data analysts/report writers extract an organization’s technical data in a way that makes smart business decisions possible. They analyze complex data systems and document data elements, data flow, relationships and dependencies. Jobs in this field are plentiful, primarily due to the rising demand for smart, data-driven solutions. Organizations want analysts who efficiently read, interpret and translate customer insights to improve service and performance.

The most sought-after candidates have quantitative skills and thorough knowledge of relational database theory and practice. The 25th salary percentile for data analyst roles is $81,000, and the midpoint sits at $96,000.

Visual designer

These savvy creatives generate design concepts, artwork and layouts for websites, games, kiosks, wearables and other digital projects. While visual designers work with web designers, they typically do not code. They use design software such as InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator to create eye-catching interfaces that engage users and help them navigate a site or an application.

Visual designers are in very high demand, especially in Minneapolis and San Francisco. On average, candidates in the 25th percentile can earn $64,500; the midpoint salary is $81,000.

Check out the salary trends and skills required for a career as a visual designer.

Front-end web developer

Front-end web developers use code to develop appealing web- and mobile-based applications, employing markup languages to translate designs to the web and create intuitive functionality. They’re also responsible for website enhancements and routine maintenance.

Demand for front-end web developers is increasing faster than that for many other professions in the country. Factors driving this growth include an emphasis on user experience (UX) and the rise of mobile devices and e-commerce. Salaries for entry-level front-end web developers can range from $62,500 to the midpoint of $72,750.

Copywriter

Working at agencies and within creative departments, copywriters rely on exemplary writing skills to craft copy for websites, ads and marketing materials that conveys a client’s message and appeals to target markets. Their portfolios include work that is innovative; polished; and adheres to brand, voice and style guidelines.

Demand is especially high for these professionals as more companies invest in content marketing and need writers to create copy for various channels. Entry-level copywriters can earn anywhere from $55,000 to $66,500 a year, depending on the size and type of the organization.

Financial reporting analyst

If you’re interested in a career in technical accounting, this may be the job for you. Working in a fast-paced environment, you’ll develop essential skills by producing monthly financial reports, interacting with customers, closing reconciliations and more. Financial reporting analysts typically have a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting, Excel knowledge, and familiarity with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and reporting software like Hyperion. Some hiring managers favor candidates who have completed a relevant internship or have public accounting experience.

According to the BLS, almost half of businesses (47 percent) hire candidates with financial reporting skills, giving experienced financial reporting analysts many options as they advance in their careers. Candidates in the 25th percentile for this role typically earn a starting salary around $48,500 and could potentially earn a higher salary of $73,000 at a larger company.

Data analyst

Data analysts decipher information in a way that feeds a company’s bottom line. They analyze complex data systems before interpreting the results for management. Required skills include familiarity with the Microsoft .NET development system, Microsoft SQL servers, Oracle and IBM DB2.

As companies attempt to manage and assess a rising volume of available information, there’s an increasing need for data analysts, especially in industries such as healthcare and technology. Employers prioritize candidates with a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, accounting or economics. Data analysts in Austin; Orlando, Florida; and Philadelphia in particular have plenty of jobs from which to choose. Depending on the size of the firm, entry-level salaries range from $43,000 to $82,000.

Learn why now is a great time to be a data analyst.

Case clerk

This entry-level role supports lawyers and legal staff. Case clerks take on research, document review, data entry and case file management. Basic qualifications include excellent organizational skills and attention to detail and computer expertise. Candidates with knowledge of legal software and database programs are especially desirable.

Case clerks can gain deep insight into the legal support function, providing the basis for a future move into a higher position, such as paralegal or legal assistant. Entry-level salaries for case clerks range from $38,500 to $43,000, on average, depending on the market and size of the firm.

HR recruiting specialist/coordinator

This role is in high demand as companies focus on hiring and need entry-level HR staff to help find good job candidates. The HR recruiting specialist/coordinator posts jobs, evaluates applications and candidates, and prepares offer letters. Strong communication skills are required and can be further developed in this role, which are valuable in a wide range of more advanced positions.

Top candidates are confidential and discreet. They have excellent computer skills and interpersonal abilities. The 25th percentile salary for an HR recruiting specialist is $36,750, and the midpoint is $41,500.

Executive assistant

An executive assistant supports executives with tasks like fielding calls, managing calendars, making travel arrangements and preparing reports. Organizations look for candidates with strong communication skills, expertise in Microsoft Office and project coordination experience.

Executive assistants get a broad range of office experience that can be transferable to other positions, and they can also make lasting connections with people in other departments to help them make a move when the time is right. The entry-level salaries for executive assistants range from around $42,000 to $52,000.

Accountant

Assisting with audit fieldwork, both operational and financial, balancing ledger accounts and correcting account discrepancies make up the bulk of an accountant’s job. As these professionals move into more senior roles, they may also prepare financial statements and support month-end and year-end closes. Employers want accountants with Excel skills and strong time management, analytics and communication skills, and those with public accounting experience are highly marketable.

Accountants are consistently in demand at CPA firms. These roles sometimes start as temporary through tax season and turn into full-time positions later. The 25th percentile salary, on a national average, is $37,500, and starting salaries at larger firms may run as high as $68,500. Credentials like the CPA or advanced degrees like an MBA can push your resume to the top of the pile and net you a higher starting salary.

Read more about how to choose the right accounting career path for you.

Title closer

These professionals help to seal the real estate deal. They are responsible for preparing documentation required for property sales — think mortgage documents, deeds, tax records and insurance policies. They also review these documents for issues such as outstanding liens or taxes due. Duties may also include preparing title commitments, settlement statements, financial distributions and closing packages, all of which makes this a potential launching pad to a real estate or lease administration career.

Basic qualifications for this role include a notary license and some training in real estate transactions, contract preparation, title regulations, record keeping and research. The average entry-level salary for title closers is $32,250, but candidates may start as high as $40,500 at larger firms.

Document coder

This legal support position typically reports to a senior paralegal or project manager. Document coders take the information obtained in discovery and organize it by priority in case management systems. Their roles can also make eDiscovery and trial preparation more efficient. Being heavily involved in litigation support means you can learn a lot about fast-growing practice areas to take with you to your next legal job.

Skills required for this role include a general understanding of legal concepts and meticulous attention to detail. Average starting salaries range from $32,250 to $37,000, depending on the size of the firm and a candidate’s qualifications.

Help desk support

If you want to enter the tech space, help desk jobs are a good place to start. The role helps increase your knowledge of various technologies and hone communication skills by assisting customers or other employees with technical issues. As such, the role requires excellent problem-solving abilities, as well as patience, a friendly attitude and the ability to work as part of a team. A solid understanding of relevant hardware, software and network programs is key.

Computer support positions will likely increase by 11 percent over the next eight years, according to the BLS. The 25th percentile salary is $32,000, but large companies or firms may pay closer to the midpoint of $38,000.

Project assistant/coordinator

Companies rely on project assistants to help bring projects to completion in a timely fashion and ensure the budget is respected. These professionals work with internal and external teams to run major programs, coordinate schedules and track deadlines and progress — experience that employers look for in many roles you might seek as your career moves forward.

Required skills include excellent communication and an extensive knowledge of database and project management software. Entry-level salaries range from $30,500 to $37,000.

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