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Jobs for recent college graduates: Man holds grad cap

Top 5 Jobs for Recent College Graduates Plus Tips for Applying

by | Jun 24, 2020 | Student Life

You’ve put in all the hard work and finally reached the finish line — your college graduation. Congratulations! After you take some time to celebrate your accomplishment, it’s time to start looking ahead and planning your next moves. For most of you, the next step is landing a position that’ll help you launch your career. Looking for the best jobs for recent college graduates? Here, we’ll outline five of the top entry-level jobs for college grads that are making their entrance into the job market.

We’ll show you what hiring managers and recruiters look for in recent graduates. We’ll also give you tips on how to structure your resume and cover letter to capture the attention of recruiters and land your dream gig.

The 5 Best Types of Jobs for Recent College Graduates

Jobs for recent college graduates: Woman holds diploma

Finding the best job really depends on what you studied and what you enjoy doing. The job market and current trends also have an impact on job availability as well as pay rates. There isn’t one perfect career path for everyone. For some, the goal is to land a full-time position that is challenging and takes them to new heights. Others simply want a part-time gig that can help them find their footing and test their passions. Whatever your career goals, here are the top five types of jobs for recent college graduates.

1. Teacher

Teaching is a challenging but rewarding career. While this job involves demanding reporting deadlines, sometimes rowdy classrooms, and frequent budget limitations, it’s also a career that allows you to make a difference. Working as a teacher enables you to work closely with students on fundamentals from writing and math to science and computers.

According to Business Insider, the average teacher’s starting salary in the United States is around $60,000. Pay increases in some states such as New York where teachers earn more than $80,000 per year. In other places like Mississippi, teachers can expect to earn less — $43,000 on average.

2. Project Manager

Project managers are essential employees that help to streamline processes and make business more efficient. You can find project manager roles in most industries, whether you studied history, science, or the humanities. Project managers use communication skills and tools to identify obstacles or areas where the company can improve efficiency. As a project manager, you’ll work across teams to make sure everyone is on the same page and use negotiation skills to manage risk and avoid crises.

Most project manager positions require some previous job experience. Working as an administrative assistant or project assistant can help you get the skills and expertise you need to land a project manager job. Experienced project managers can make between $90,000 and $135,000, though entry-level position pay typically starts around $50,000.

3. Software Engineer or Developer

It’s no secret that technology-driven jobs are a great choice for recent college graduates. As the world increasingly moves work online, these positions are essential to most businesses. Tech companies like Google and Apple are consistently at the top of the list for recent grads and they also hire more people than most other companies.

Software engineers and developers create tech solutions by using coding to meet user needs. In this position, you’ll use computer science skills to create apps, websites, and tech tools that make life easier for customers. Expect to earn anywhere from $80,000 to $130,000 as a software engineer.

4. Administrative Assistant

If you’re a detail-oriented person, have great communication skills, and love organizing everything in your life, you may enjoy being an administrative assistant. As an assistant, you’ll ensure nothing falls through the cracks and help to support other team members in running an organization smoothly.

Entry-level salaries are typically on the lower end — around $40,000 per year — but if you can land an assistant position supporting C-level executives, the pay can be significantly higher. It also enables you to network so you can make money while planning out your next career move.

5. Registered Nurse

Like teaching, working in healthcare as a nurse is an incredibly rewarding job. It’s also an industry that is experiencing dramatic shortages in the number of workers available. That means you’ll have less competition when applying to these jobs. Plus, you’ll have a better chance of landing a position that pays well.

Nursing jobs offer flexibility as well. ER nursing jobs require you to work odd hours and long shifts, but you can also work a normal schedule by applying for nursing jobs at family practices that are only open during the day. Want a little more adventure? Apply for travel nurse positions where you can take your skills on the road and offer patient support where it’s needed most. The average income for a registered nurse in the United States is $77,000 per year.

What Employers Look for in New College Grads

Woman in grad cap and gown

Applying for college graduate jobs — especially if it’s your first job — can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know what hiring managers are looking for and even harder to stand out from the thousands of other applicants. From information technology and data analyst to graphic designer and sales representative job openings, the desired criteria can vary dramatically.

Start by checking the job description in the job posting for information. Most hiring managers will list desired skills and requirements — such as a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree — right in the job listing. Here are a few skills most human resource managers look for in college graduate applicants.

Team Mentality

People want to work with people they like, admire, or find engaging. Having a team mentality means you’ll be able to work with other team members to get the job done. Hiring managers look for people who have a positive attitude and who are skilled at working with others. You should be ready to answer interview questions on your ability to work as a team member and offer examples of times when your skills helped the team accomplish a goal.

GPA and Other Success Metrics

Once you have several years of work experience, your GPA becomes less important. But at the beginning of your career and when you’re applying for entry-level jobs, your GPA is one of the best metrics of your skills and ability. Most recruiters will look at both your high school GPA and your college degree GPA when hiring for entry-level positions.

Hiring managers will typically only advance candidates that have a GPA of 3.0 or 3.5 and higher. Some highly skilled positions may require a higher GPA depending on the industry. You can also offer other success metrics such as grades on certification tests and any awards you may have received from industry-relevant agencies.

Leadership Skills

We get it. How are you supposed to show work leadership if you’re applying for entry-level jobs? This conundrum can make applying for jobs right out of college a particularly frustrating experience. Fortunately, hiring managers aren’t just looking for past work experience leadership.

Instead, highlight your leadership skills as a college student. You can use examples from when you were a team captain, in the military service, or when you led a team of research assistants in a lab project. Hiring managers want to see your ability to lead, offer guidance, and develop creative ideas or solutions.

Problem-Solving Skills

If you’ve ever interviewed for a job, you were probably asked something along the lines of “tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle at work.” Hiring managers want to know that you are able to use critical thinking skills to identify problems and can come up with creative solutions.

Your answer to this question should demonstrate your ability to come up with innovative ideas and use a proactive approach to solving problems. Hiring managers want to know that you can think through a problem and offer solutions that minimize risk and protect the company. Before going to an interview, have a scenario in mind that you can use to show off your problem-solving abilities.


One thing that can help you stand out from the crowd is your passion for a job position. Many new graduates simply apply for whatever is out there. Oftentimes, they don’t put much effort into their applications or cover letters. Hiring managers can pick up on that when reading your resume or during interviews.

Set yourself apart from other applicants by showing your passion for the work you’re applying for. Take the time to draft a thoughtful cover letter and craft your resume to reflect your interest in the position. During an interview, use examples and past experiences to show the interviewer why you are so interested in the position and what your passion can do for the company.

Resume Formatting Tips

Jobs for recent college graduates: Woman holds resume up to camera

When it comes to your resume, proper formatting can make the difference between looking professional and detail-oriented or like a sloppy and disinterested job seeker. While there isn’t one perfect resume format, there are several things to keep in mind when designing your resume.

First, keep things simple and concise. Limit your resume to one page and include only important information in the form of bullet points and short, descriptive sentences. Avoid using colored fonts or graphics on a standard resume. This can make you appear childish or unserious. Instead, stick to simple fonts like Times New Roman or Arial in a 10- or 12-point font size. Set the margins to at least half an inch and use bold text, italics, and underlining to highlight important information.

When it comes to resume content, keep things focused and consistent. Most hiring managers skim through resumes so you want to make it easy for them to see the important points instead of losing them in frivolous details. Use the past tense to talk about previous jobs and the present tense to talk about your current position. Use punctuation consistently throughout the document — especially if you’re putting periods at the end of each bullet point.

Change your resume for each job you are applying to. Update the work experience and skills to include those that are most relevant to the desired position. This should go without saying, but don’t lie on your resume. Lying and exaggerating may land you an interview, but you’ll be quickly eliminated if you can’t back up your claims.

Have a trusted friend, professor, or mentor read over your resume. They can help you tweak the wording or give you ideas for additional information to include. Proofread your resume well before submitting it to a hiring manager. For some career opportunities, you may be able to use LinkedIn to send your resume. Make sure it’s up-to-date and make adjustments to fit the desired job.

How to Structure a Cover Letter

Man signs a document

Aside from your resume, a cover letter is essential in showing hiring managers why you’re the best fit for the position. From business development and social media marketing to financial services and administrative support for executive positions, cover letters enable you to show off your skills and personality. Here are some tips on how to format a great cover letter.

Start your cover letter with your contact information in the top left-hand corner. Include your full name, phone number, email, and address. Underneath your information, add in the contact information for the company.

Next, add a salutation and introduce yourself in two to three sentences. Treat this intro as you would a hook for a story or research paper. You want to draw the hiring manager in and encourage them to keep reading about you. Use numbers to highlight achievements or take this time to share an accomplishment you’re proud of or express your passion for the company. Don’t be over the top. Instead, let your experiences speak for themselves and explain in two powerful sentences what you’re all about.

After the hook, include one to two paragraphs explaining your work history, educational background, and why you’re the best fit for the job. Keep things concise and informative. Use hard metrics to show your success on past projects, don’t just describe them in general or floral language.

After these paragraphs, write a final call to action asking to set up an interview or phone call to discuss the position in further detail. Be persuasive, but not pushy. Avoid phrases like “I’d love the chance” and “give me a shot,” which sound desperate. Instead, use phrases like “can we schedule a call” and leave the hiring manager wanting more by showing what skills you have and what you can provide the company.

Land a Great Job as a Recent College Grad

Jobs for recent college graduates: Woman in grad cap looks at sunset

Graduating from college is one of the most exciting times in life. You’re free to spread your wings, explore the world, and create a career path that won’t just help you pay off your student loans, but will also fulfill you professionally. If you’re just starting to look at your next move, these five jobs for recent college graduates are a great place to start.

Whether you want to be a software developer, financial analyst, or an administrative assistant, success in your job search is all about showing off your skills. With these resume and cover letter tips, you’re sure to wow the hiring manager.

Looking for access to great internships, training programs, and entry-level jobs? Check out our Scholars app for students. You can create a profile where employers can search for and find you based on desired skills and experience. It’s another way you can increase your chance of finding that dream job right out of college.

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.