Survey Ranks the Top 10 Entry-Level Jobs for Graduates

For today’s graduates, ‘engineering’ is the new 'plastics’

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Apr 27, 2016
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In the classic film “The Graduate,” young Ben is told to keep one word in mind when it comes to landing a lucrative job in the late 1960s: “plastics.” Judging from recent new-graduate pay surveys, the word Millennial grads should keep in mind is “engineering,” although, on the HR front, positions in employee relations and benefits administration also stand out as potentially profitable endeavors.

Looking at the employment landscape for Class of 2016 graduates, the personal finance website WalletHub compared 109 different types of entry-level positions based on 11 key metrics, including median starting salary, projected job growth by 2024 and median tenure with an employer. Based on its findings, the 10 best entry-level jobs based on multiple metrics were:

  1. Engineer.
  2. Systems engineer.
  3. Safety representative.
  4. Web applications developer.
  5. Environmental, health and safety engineer.
  6. Electrical engineer.
  7. Safety technician.
  8. Software engineer.
  9. Training specialist.
  10. Architect

Data used to create the rankings in WalletHub’s 2016’s Best & Worst Entry-Level Jobs report were collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the websites and, and other sources.

Drilling down on single metrics, analysts found that:

  • Tax attorneys have the highest median starting salary, at $92,148—six times higher than that of teaching assistants (college), the job with the lowest starting salary, at $15,792.
  • Employee relations specialists have the highest income growth potential in their position, at 6.1 times their entry salary—three times higher than the income growth potential of a bank teller, the job with the lowest, at 1.81 times their starting salary.
  • Benefits administrators have the highest median tenure with their employers, at 6.9 years—twice as long as industrial designers, interior designers, public relations specialists, technical writers and website writers, the jobs with the lowest tenure, at 3.4 years.
  • Certified occupational therapy assistants are expected to see the highest projected growth in new job openings through 2024, at 42.7 percent.
  • Web applications developers, website designers, software engineers, operations research analysts and programmers were among the best entry-level jobs, in or near the top 10. But computer operators face a grim outlook, with 19 percent of jobs in the field projected to be cut by 2024.

STEM Jobs Reap Rewards

In similar findings, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates are expected to receive the highest starting salaries for the Class of 2016, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

NACE’s Winter 2016 Salary Survey report, released last month and based on data from the organization’s employer members, found that more than half of the surveyed employers plan to hire 2016 graduates with bachelor’s degrees in the STEM fields, making these grads among the mostly highly sought in the class.

Average Salaries by Discipline—Bachelor’s Degree


2016 Average Salary (projected)



Computer science


Math and sciences




Agriculture and natural resources


Health care




Social sciences






Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

Engineering graduates are also projected to be the highest-paid at the master’s degree level for the Class of 2016.

Average Salaries by Discipline—Master’s Degree


2016 Average Salary (projected)



Computer science




Math and sciences




Social sciences


Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

Higher Pay for Business Majors

Among business majors, graduates with bachelor’s degrees in management information systems are projected to earn an average starting salary of $56,846, up from a year earlier, when their projected salaries averaged $55,843.

Also expected to surpass the $50,000 are graduates who majored in logistics/supply chain management, actuarial science, economics, finance, accounting, business administration/management and sales. In all cases except for sales, the projected salaries are up from those reported in NACE’s Winter 2015 Salary Survey.

In the table of business major salaries below, the mean is the mathematical average, while the median is the middle value after listing reported salary offers for the category in successive order. Outliers, or extreme values on either the high or low end, have the biggest effect on the mean and less effect on the median.

Mean and Median Salaries for Business Majors—Bachelor's Degree

Business Major

2016 Mean Salary (projected)

2016 Median Salary (projected)

Management information systems



Logistics/supply chain management



Actuarial science












Business administration/management






Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

New entrants to the job market “want the attractive combination of a high starting salary and high growth potential in terms of compensation as well as responsibility,” said WalletHub spokesman John Kiernan. “They also want stability while doing what they love.”

In that respect, new graduates don’t differ much from anyone else.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow me on Twitter.

Related SHRM Article:

Report Confirms Accelerated Growth in Wages, SHRM Online Compensation, April 2016

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