What Is an Entry-Level Job?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An entry-level job can look different depending on your industry, but generally they're meant to help employees develop experience and skills.

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The meaning of “entry-level” varies by industry, but typically refers to one of two things: either a role that requires no experience or related education, or an entry point to a career that requires minimum education and experience in order to qualify. In either instance, companies generally consider entry-level jobs to be the lowest-ranked, compared to mid-level, senior-level, or managerial-level roles, because they’re meant to help employees develop experience and skills.  

What makes a job ‘entry-level'? 

An entry-level job is typically one you can perform without any prior education or experience because you will likely receive some amount of on-the-job training in order to be successful. Entry-level jobs can be either part-time or full-time. For some people, this may be their first job. 

However, an entry-level job can also be the first major role you undertake as you begin your career. You can still expect some amount of training, but especially in fields like cybersecurity or data analysis, your employer will likely expect you to have some knowledge of the work as well as the qualifications to do it. 

Do entry-level jobs require experience and education?

A growing number of entry-level jobs require experience, according to an analysis from LinkedIn. As of 2021, 38.4 percent of entry-level job postings required at least three years of experience [1]. That’s especially true for many corporate careers, such as UX design, web development, information security, social media marketing, and product management. On average, it’s common to see 1 to 3 years of experience required, as well as a bachelor’s degree in a related field.  

Still, it’s worth noting that more companies have been dropping degree requirements in recent years [2]. In fact, LinkedIn announced that the number of job postings that didn't require a degree grew by almost 40 percent between 2019 and 2020 [3].

Don't have a degree? Don't worry. Search for lists of the latest companies that have dropped educational requirements. If any interest you, look at their “Career” page for roles that sound like a potential or interesting fit.

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High-paying entry-level roles

The median hourly wage for all occupations in the US was $20.17 an hour as of May 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [4]. Measured for full-time work, that amounts to $41,953 per year. You can find entry-level work that exceeds the median wage in a number of industries, though many such roles require either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree

Job titleDegree requiredSalary
Health education specialistBachelor’s$48,140
Event plannerBachelor’s$51,560
ParalegalAssociate$52,920
Graphic designerBachelor’s$53,380
Human resource specialistBachelor’s$63,490
WritesBachelor’s$67,120
Dental hygienistAssociate$74,070
Budget analystBachelor’s$79,970
Radiation therapistAssociate$80,570
Computer programmerBachelor’s$89,190
Computer systems analystBachelor’s$93,730

*All data from the BLS

While the BLS states that the roles detailed above do not require any experience, you may find that job listings state a different preference. Postings tend to serve as a company wishlist. In fact, a 2018 survey found that applicants who could meet at least 50 percent of a posting’s requirements were just as likely to get an interview as applicants who met 90 percent of a posting’s requirements [5]. You should apply for jobs where you may not meet all the qualifications, but it’s a good idea to highlight the job skills you do have that might help you succeed in the role.  

Learn more: 15+ High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree

How to find entry-level jobs

With no education or experience: Thanks to the robust nature of internet search algorithms, you can conduct a search for phrases like “jobs no experience” or “jobs without degree” and come across a number of job search sites that display relevant listings. While these listings may not be location-specific, they can provide helpful insight into the titles you may want to search for in your area—or the types of work you can explore. 

With education and experience: If you have an associate or bachelor’s degree in a specific area and would like to work in that industry, it’s a good idea to research relevant entry-level roles. Common entry-level job titles include designations like “assistant,” “coordinator,” and “specialist,” though these can vary by industry and company. Use job search sites to look for similar titles in your area, or conduct broader searches to find out more about career options with your specific degree.  

Learn more: How to Choose a Career: 7 Ways to Narrow Your Options

How to find the best entry-level job for you 

It’s important to understand what you’re hoping to achieve with an entry-level job, whether that’s experience, connections, skills development, or a certain minimum salary. These are just a few examples—and you don’t need to have only one in mind. Create a list of your priorities, ordering them from most to least important, so you can vet the entry-level job postings you come across based on your criteria. The best entry-level job will be the one that helps you achieve the priorities you’ve outlined.  

Let’s go over a few reasons why people take entry-level roles and why focusing on these factors may be helpful.  

Growth potential: Experts recommend staying at least one year in an entry-level job, a timeframe that will help you gain the necessary experience before moving on. But some companies invest resources into fostering talent and promoting internally. Finding a job at a company with that kind of culture could turn your entry-level job into an opportunity with greater longevity. 

Skills development: You can bolster your technical, transferable, and even workplace skills through the work you perform. Finding a role that will involve working with something new—be it software, workflows, or tasks—can help you augment the skills you’ll need to keep advancing in your career.  

Networking: Who you meet at your company—or through the work you perform at your company—can be a helpful asset as you seek advancement. Consider the opportunities you might have to network in your entry-level job, and take advantage of employee groups that are meant to foster connections within a company.  

4 ways to strengthen your entry-level job application 

It’s common to see entry-level job posting ask for several years of experience. But even with limited experience, you may be an excellent fit. No matter what a job posting says, you can (and should!) apply for jobs even when you don’t meet the minimum requirements. Often, job postings function like a company wishlist, rather than expectations you have to meet in order to qualify for an interview. If you meet some, but not all, of the stipulations, go ahead and apply. 

In fact, that maxim is especially important for women. Studies have found that men apply to jobs when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications but women tend to apply for jobs only when they meet 100 percent of the qualifications [6]. 

If you’ve been applying and you haven’t found your ideal entry-level job yet, here are some tips to help you strengthen your application: 

1. Build skills 

As you come across job listings, pay close attention to the skills important to do the job and see if there’s a theme. For example, if you see that several project coordinator positions list a specific database management system, it might be a good idea to acquire some experience with that system if you don’t yet have any. 

2. Find an internship 

Internships count toward experience, and they can also help you network with people who work in the industry that most interests you. Whether you’re still in college, recently graduated, or trying to build up important industry-specific experience, see if there are internships, assistantships, or other (ideally paid) opportunities that can help you develop professionally. In some cases, these might even come with an hourly wage. 

Internships can also lead to a job offer. A 2019 study by the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) found that over 70 percent of internships led to a job offer [7]. Internships have also been shown to improve critical thinking, leadership, communication, and teamwork—all important workplace skills [8]. 

3. Earn a professional certificate or certification

A professional certificate may be a good option if you’re looking for a way to bolster your resume with additional credentials and develop job-ready skills. Whether you have a college degree or not, a professional certificate is designed to help you develop specific skills in a number of professions. Plus, when you graduate from the program, you can list your certificate on your resume. 

In certain careers, like cybersecurity, IT, data analysis, earning a certification—or verification that you have acquired industry-approved knowledge or skills—can be a boon to your resume, and show potential employers you’re qualified to do the work.  

4. Network 

Connecting with someone who either works at a company you’re interested in or who performs a similar kind of work you’d like to do can be immensely helpful as you apply for entry-level roles. As you seek more information about the types of work you’re interested in doing, you can also ask for informational interviews to find out more.  

Explore further  

Strengthen your resume with a Professional Certificate from an industry leader such as Google, IBM, Meta, and Salesforce. Develop job-ready skills for a new career in cybersecurity, social media marketing, bookkeeping, and more. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

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Article sources

1. LinkedIn. “Hiring’s New Red Line, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hirings-new-red-line-why-newcomers-cant-land-35-jobs-george-anders/.” Accessed February 2, 2022. 

2. Glassdoor. “15 More Companes That No Longer Require a Degree, https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/no-degree-required/.” Accessed February 2, 2022. 

3. Harvard Business Review. “You Need a Skill-Based Approach Hiring and Developing Talent, https://hbr.org/2021/06/you-need-a-skills-based-approach-to-hiring-and-developing-talent.” Accessed February 3, 2022. 

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “May 2020 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#00-0000.” Accessed February 11, 2022. 

5. CNBS. “Matching Half of a Job’s Requirements Might Be as Good as Matching All of Them, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/12/matching-half-of-a-jobs-requirements-might-still-get-you-an-interview.html.” Accessed Febrruary 11, 2022. 

6. LinkedIn. “Men Apply For A Job When They Meet Only 60% of The Qualifications, But Women Apply Only If They Meet 100% of Them. Here's Why, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/men-apply-job-when-meet-only-60-qualifications-women-100-mei-ibrahim/.” Accessed February 3, 2022. 

7. NACE. “2019 Internship and Co-Op Survey Report, https://www.naceweb.org/uploadedfiles/files/2019/publication/executive-summary/2019-nace-internship-and-co-op-survey-executive-summary.pdf.” Accessed February 3, 2022. 

8. NACE. “The 2020 Student Survey Report, https://www.naceweb.org/uploadedfiles/files/2021/publication/executive-summary/2020-nace-student-survey-four-year-executive-summary.pdf.” Accessed February 3, 2022.

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