What Is an Entry-Level Job?
- An entry-level job is an introductory role for those just entering the workforce.
- Job experience may not be required, but internships can give you an advantage.
- Entry-level salary varies, but you should earn more than minimum wage.
- Research your ideal career path to discover the entry-level jobs you should pursue.
When entering the workforce for the first time, you're likely searching for an entry-level job. It's usually a lead-in to the workplace and will provide you with the skills and knowledge to progress within your field.
Entry-level jobs often don't require work experience, though internships and college activities can give you a leg up when applying. Take advantage of on-campus resources and career fairs to learn more about the opportunities available to you.
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What Is an Entry-Level Job Exactly?
An entry-level job is a starting place for many careers. These types of jobs allow students just graduating to enter the workforce for the first time. These jobs require little to no professional experience. An entry-level job will introduce you to a field and help you build basic skills and knowledge.
This job level often acts as an apprenticeship for roles with more responsibilities. For example, you'd need to spend a few years learning the publishing industry as an assistant editor before becoming an editor, or begin in a role like associate architect before advancing to architect.
Do You Need Experience for an Entry-Level Job?
Many entry-level jobs don't require previous professional experience. They're often designed for recent grads and people just entering a career field.
However, having some professional experience may increase your chances of landing a job. Some job postings may ask for 1-3 years of experience and still be considered entry level. In those cases, any experience you have from internships or university organizations can count. For example, maybe you wrote for your university's newspaper, led the student body planning committee, or ran your college's radio station.
Even if you have several internships under your belt, you won't be able to skip the entry-level role in most career paths. Full-time professional responsibilities carry a different weight than internships and will be taken more seriously by future employers.
How Much Does an Entry-Level Job Pay?
Entry-level jobs typically refer to full-time careers, not to be confused with hourly or minimum-wage jobs. The minimum wage in your state may serve as a reference point for developing entry-level salaries but would be considered low for a professional salary. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, which would be about $15,000 per year.
An entry-level salary is a base pay for those just starting in a career field, increasing as your experience and responsibilities grow. In its 2020 Salary Survey report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that the average starting salary for 2019 graduates was $53,890.
Starting salaries vary widely by industry. The NACE Salary Survey found that the average starting salary for computer science majors was over $25,000 higher than the average starting salary for social sciences majors. When developing a starting salary, employers will consider the cost of living in your region, the market value of your position, and the experience you bring to the job.
How to Find Entry-Level Jobs
Entry-level jobs are available in nearly every industry if you know where to look. Here are some tips to help guide you on your job hunt:
Use On-Campus Resources
Many schools regularly host job fairs where you can meet potential employers and explore career paths. Your university's career center can also be an excellent resource for polishing up your resume, strengthening your networking and interview skills, and finding local job opportunities. The same goes for the alumni network, which will also host networking events.
Research Potential Career Paths
Do some good ol' Googling in the field you're interested in. You can also research specific companies you admire and map out how their employees progress. This can help you identify those first-step roles and the skills you need to land them.
Familiarize Yourself With Entry-Level Terms
When searching for jobs, employers use a few different terms to indicate an entry-level position. Those terms may be industry-specific, but you can start by searching with words like entry-level, associate, junior, and assistant.
Steer Clear of Sketchy Opportunities
Be wary of "too good to be true" gigs, especially ones that advertise heavily to students on your campus. Unfortunately, some businesses prey on the ambition of freshly graduated students. Job titles like "brand ambassador" or "campus representative" and sales situations where they say you'll be building your own business may be red flags.
Remember You're Interviewing the Company, Too
When job hunting, remember that the company should be trying to impress you, too. Look for places that are a good cultural fit and where there's potential to grow out of that entry-level position.
Frequently Asked Questions About Entry-Level Jobs
Do entry-level jobs require a degree?
Not every entry-level job will require a degree, though it depends on the industry. You can search for jobs with terms like "degree not required" when looking for opportunities in your field. Usually this will include administrative positions or learn-on-the-job roles in factory settings, technician departments, and sales.
Can you negotiate an entry-level salary?
Negotiating an entry-level offer may feel a bit taboo, but it can't hurt to ask. If you have more experience than the average entry-level applicant, or if market research about similar roles in your city proves you should earn more, it's certainly worth a conversation.
If a salary increase isn't on the table, you can also negotiate for better benefits like vacation time, hybrid work options, transportation stipend, relocation expenses, or a signing bonus.
Should I apply for a job with no previous experience?
In most cases, it's worth applying to any job you're excited about. You may be able to make up for a lack of professional experience with technical skills and coachability. Employers are generally more willing to forgo work experience requirements for an entry-level job than for positions at more advanced levels.
Sarah Holliday, MS, GCDF
Sarah Holliday is a higher education administrator with over seven years of experience working with nontraditional and traditional-aged students in various areas related to career development, professional development, and personal enrichment. In addition to coaching students, Holliday works as an adjunct, teaching English, career development, and business courses in asynchronous, hybrid, and synchronous formats. Holliday holds a BA from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in English communication and technology and a master's from Walden University in instructional design and technology (training and performance improvement). She is currently pursuing her doctor of science in information and interaction design from the University of Baltimore. Holliday also possesses her Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) certificate from the Center for Credentialing and Education. She is passionate about education and technology and hopes to strengthen online learning for adult learners.
Sarah Holliday is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
Feature Image: Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images
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