Getting your first job out of college is more than a milestone: It's an opportunity to set out on a career path that will have a potentially huge impact on your future earnings and success.
Not every entry-level job is created equal, of course. Some may offer high starting salaries but happen to be in fields that are at high risk for being automated. Other fields may have little growth potential over the next few years, which could limit a worker's professional opportunities.
The best entry-level jobs are those that combine good marks in several categories, ranging from highest starting salary to fastest projected job growth, according to a new study from WalletHub. On the other hand, the worst entry-level jobs include those with few new hires, such as geophysicists, and with slowest projected job growth, such as records clerks. (The lowest starting salary of the 109 professions WalletHub analyzed is college teaching assistant, by the way.)
Aside from college graduates, high school seniors who are about to enter college may want to study the list as they consider which field to major in, said Jill Gonzalez, spokeswoman for WalletHub.
"Jobs in the tech field, like network engineers, tend to be higher up the list. Clerical and manufacturing jobs are near the bottom," she said. Workers who are currently working in professions that score poorly may want to think about gaining new job skills, especially in occupations that are prone to automation, such as some manufacturing jobs and data entry and processing, she added.
While the best entry-level jobs provide better-than-average earnings, they might not represent the highest-paying jobs available for recent grads, given that the study incorporated other measures into its analysis. They do, however, generally pay considerably more than the country's overall worst entry-level job, floor assembler, which has a starting salary of $26,634 annually.
The starting salary for an entry-level financial analyst is $51,848, although the median pay for all workers in this field is about $76,950 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A bachelor's degree in business, finance or related field is required, which means young workers aspiring to this profession should start planning while in college. Financial analysts can work in-house for companies, helping to assess financial decisions for their employer, or for asset managers that are overseeing investments for their clients.
The starting salary for an entry-level information security analyst is $55,310, although the median pay in 2012 was $86,170, according to the BLS.
These workers are increasingly in demand, given their job of protecting a company's computer networks and systems. With hackers mounting their attacks on corporations, American businesses are ramping up their efforts to protect their systems and their clients' information.
Hiring in this field is projected to grow 37 percent from 2012 to 2022, a much faster rate than the average for all American occupations, the BLS notes.
The starting salary for Web designers is $53,041. According to the BLS, the median annual pay for a Web developer is $62,500.
Web designers need to know both programming and graphic design, although an associate's degree is often enough to get hired in the field. About one-quarter of Web developers were self-employed in 2012, according to the BLS, which forecasts that employment in this field will grow 20 percent through 2022, or faster than the average for all occupations.
Software engineers can earn a starting salary of $62,522, although experienced workers in this field can earn quite a bit more. The average annual pay across the country is $90,374, according to employment site Glassdoor.com.
Like most of the jobs on this list, becoming a software engineer generally requires a specialized education, such as a bachelor's degree in computer science. While the jobs in this field are plentiful, thanks to growing demand, there is a downside: Careers in the field may be short-lived. Most software developers have left the profession by the time they're 40, according to Bloomberg News. That's because employers may consider younger engineers to be more up-to-date with the latest trends and therefore more desirable.
The starting salary for an environmental engineer is $57,266, although the mean annual pay for workers in this field is $86,340, according to the BLS.
A bachelor's degree in environmental engineering or a related field, such as civil engineering, is necessary to find a job in this profession. Environmental engineers work on improving processes such as recycling and water quality, while also looking at how to repair damaged environments.
Job opportunities are expected to grow 15 percent through 2022, or faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.
Fledgling lawyers make $83,907 annually, although the mean annual wage is $133,470, according to the BLS.
Aside from a bachelor's degree, attorneys need to have earned a law degree and pass a state's written bar exam in order to practice. While the pay is high, the competition for spots at top law firms is stiff, especially given the number of law students graduating each year. Employment is projected to grow 10 percent through 2022, or about as fast as the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.
Starting out, network engineers earn a median salary of $61,744, although senior employees earn an average of $91,982, according to employment site Payscale.com.
Network engineers, who typically have degrees in computer science or related fields, help companies fix problems with their networks and sometimes design the computer networks for their employers. Network and computer systems administrators will see employment growth of 12 percent through 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.
Entry-level employees in this field make a median annual salary of $54,586, while the average Web application developer earns about $59,000, according to Payscale.com.
These employees typically know developer languages such as PHP and HTML, and work on planning and building applications for use on the Web. Experience in the field or a degree in Web design will help aspiring Web applications designers find jobs in the field, which Payscale notes is a very competitive market.
The median annual salary for an entry-level training specialist is $47,621, although the median annual pay is $55,930, according to the BLS.
While the income for this profession isn't as high as those in the tech fields or attorneys, this job rises to the top because of the number of job openings and growth potential for the field, according to WalletHub. There are more job openings for training specialists than all but three other professions, the analysis found. The job typically requires a college degree, as well as strong communication skills given that they work on training employees and leading training activities.
Employment for training specialists is expected to grow 15 percent through 2022, faster than average for all occupations, the BLS notes.
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