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The 10 Most Popular Jobs for College Graduates

image for ESB Professional / Shutterstock
ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Millions of college students graduate each year, with the expectation of landing their dream job and entering the workforce. While this may be the case for some, very few college grads start their journey near the top of the corporate ladder. Graduates should apply for entry-level jobs that can be steppingstones in their career paths.

According to staffing experts, college graduates have the potential to earn more than those who don't attend college, but it doesn't always work out that way. Brandi Britton, district president at staffing and recruiting firm Robert Half, said that although a college degree indicates specialized knowledge in a particular subject and can result in greater earnings or a leg up on the competition, the earning potential depends on the role, industry and demand.

Of the many good jobs available to college graduates, the ones with the highest average salaries primarily fall within STEM fields. However, since a bachelor's or master's degree does not guarantee a high starting salary, college grads need to have a well-rounded resume.

"Job prospects are strong for new college graduates, especially those with some experience, whether through internships, volunteering or campus leadership activities," Britton told Business News Daily. "Demonstrating enthusiasm and willingness to learn can help get a hiring manager's attention."

To give new college grads a feel for the positions they have the best chances of landing, LinkedIn assembled the Grad's Guide to Getting Hired, which includes a list of the jobs college graduates are most likely to get after leaving school.

These are this year's most popular jobs for college graduates, the estimated number of entry-level job openings and their average salaries:

  1. Software engineer
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 40,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $83,000
  1. Registered nurse (RN)
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 9,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $62,400
  1. Salesperson
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 7,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $31,100
  1. Teacher
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 8,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $40,000
  1. Accountant
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 2,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $48,000
  1. Project manager
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 22,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $57,500
  1. Administrative assistant
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 17,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $35,400
  1. Account executive
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 10,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $55,000
  1. Financial analyst
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 4,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $59,300
  1. Account manager
  • Number of entry-level roles available in the U.S.: 8,000
  • Median entry-level salary: $52,900

While knowing which positions to apply for is one hurdle to clear for new graduates, an even tougher challenge is getting hired for one. To help those just starting their professional careers, we spoke with experts to compile the best advice for getting a job right out of college.

According to Harry Sivanesan, director of sales and business development at staffing firm ExecuSource, students should begin working on their resumes by their junior year of college. You can do this by compiling any relevant work experience, projects and research you've conducted over the years. He also recommends showcasing your professional efforts on a LinkedIn profile.

"On your profile, including your resume and a professional headshot will spur interest from recruiters and hiring managers," said Sivanesan. "Plus, this will give students great intel into the current hiring market by showing which companies are hiring."

The job you get after graduation will likely be the first of many. It is just the beginning of your career, so don't be deterred if you don't get a job with the employer of your dreams right out of school. Be open to new job opportunities that will help you grow professionally, even if they don't pay as high a salary as you ultimately want to make.

"You may not have your dream job right out of college, but if it's an environment where you can learn and grow your skills, it will set you up for future success," said Britton.

Britton said that even college sophomores and juniors should be setting the foundation for their careers by getting experience in their chosen fields, whether that be through a paid or unpaid internship, temporary work, or volunteer assignments.

Dave Owens, director of recruiting at staffing agency Addison Group, also emphasized the importance of internships for career growth. In addition to looking great on resumes, he said, they prepare soon-to-be college graduates for the real world.

Whether you keep in touch with previous colleagues on social media or by attending local business events, you should always be networking. Since networking is an ongoing process, you need to nurture your relationships over time. Be open to new conversations and connections.

"You never know where a conversation will lead you," said Sivanesan. "Whether it's instantly or takes a few years, networking and knowing certain people is incredibly valuable. The common saying 'who you know is more important than what you know' is becoming more and more accurate. Managers are more likely to take risks on people they know, rather than hiring someone they don't."

If you are a college student or new graduate, you have several resources available to you that can be a big help in landing a job. Britton listed a few of these resources that can be especially helpful with your job search.

"Take advantage of on-campus resources like college career centers, which help students and new grads with job searches," she said. "Alumni can also provide advice and help make connections at their companies. Ask your alma mater's alumni relations department to make introductions."  

As you venture into the world of job applications, staffing executives can be a big help in your search. Britton said that recruiters have their eyes and ears on the job market and may be able to help you locate temporary, part-time or full-time work. She said that they can also offer additional resources like interview coaching and resume feedback.

Every student and new graduate should have a mentor in their field of study, whether that be a family friend, teacher, business associate or new connection. Britton said a mentor who works in your field of study can introduce you to other industry professionals, share information about trends and best practices in the field, and offer advice. This individual can make a world of difference when it comes to learning about your anticipated career path and connecting with the industry.  

Although applying for jobs can be a tedious process, it is important to treat each application with care. Owens said to read each job description thoroughly and tailor your resume to fit the job.

"This is probably the No. 1 mistake I see – a college graduate applies to 100 jobs at once with the same resume," he said. "Take the time to make your resume specific to the job description. If the job description references project management in multiple places, make sure your resume clearly illustrates your related capabilities."

If you don't meet all the requirements listed in a job description, it doesn't mean you shouldn't apply. If you properly tailor your experience and skills to match the description, you may still have a chance of landing the job. [Read related article: The Only Resume Cheat Sheet You'll Ever Need]

There is strength in numbers, and job applications are no exception. Since it is unlikely that you will land the first job you apply for, apply to every job you feel is relevant to your desired career path. Owens suggested job seekers set a daily goal to apply for a certain number of jobs, and he said that you shouldn't be discouraged if you don't get the job you want.

Britton also said that your first position doesn't need to be your dream job and can even be in the form of temporary work.

"Focus on building experience, meeting new people and learning everything you can," she said. "Temporary work is an excellent place to start, since you'll gain a better understanding of the type and size of company you prefer to work at and may discover a specialization that you're passionate about."

Skye Schooley

Skye Schooley is an Arizona native, based in New York City. She received a business communication degree from Arizona State University and spent a few years traveling internationally, before finally settling down in the greater New York City area. She currently writes for business.com and Business News Daily, primarily contributing articles about business technology and the workplace, and reviewing categories such as remote PC access software, collection agencies, background check services, web hosting, reputation management services, cloud storage, and website design software and services.