Let's not beat around the bush: Graduating from college in 2020 isn't easy. COVID-19's impacts on our economy have added an additional challenge to finding your first job out of school, but that doesn't mean finding a good job for recent graduates has to be impossible.
What even constitutes a "good job"? While the criteria should change based on your personal preferences, a good first job aligns with your interests, sets you up well for your future career, builds important professional skills and allows a salary that provides your needs and expectations. Those are the criteria we used to compile the list of the best jobs for recent college grads below, most of which don't require a specific degree to get started.
1. Sales Representative
Median salary in the U.S.: $40,032
Starting off your career as a Sales Representative is the perfect way to build skills that transfer to any industry, from deep listening to dealing with rejection. Sales Representatives do exactly what you'd expect: They sell products, depending on their organization, to clients, whether they're individuals or enterprise businesses. Sales is an interesting field to work in because there is so much variance — you can go from selling software to selling medical equipment. It tends to be best for individualists who enjoy structured work targets, as many Sales Reps are working towards specific number goals (and often compensated on a commission).
Median salary in the U.S.: $38,617
Teaching is another job that contains a multitude of entry points and career trajectories. You can start in a subject you love and go on to teach it for years, move into another segment of the education industry like administration to curriculum creation to policy, or take the valuable skills you learn while teaching to another industry. While many teaching roles require a degree in education, some do not — especially if you are teaching through a college grad program like Teach For America.
3. Project Coordinator
Median salary in the U.S.: $49, 121
If you're detail-oriented, task-driven and interested in helping others achieve their goals, being a Project Coordinator is a great job you can get right out of school. Project coordinators help projects run smoothly by shoring up communication between teams, removing barriers like unorganized documentation and organizing tasks. Working in project management allows you to learn valuable lessons about operations, risk management and how things work in the professional world more generally. While people in project management have a variety of backgrounds, earning a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification can be helpful.
4. Financial Analyst
Median salary in the U.S.: $61,971
Financial Analysts help organizations from banks to insurance companies to financial services firms analyze data, draft reports and respond to clients' needs. Each Financial Analyst job looks different, making it a diverse and interesting role to take on. While being good with numbers is an obvious leg up, Analysts can have a range of college backgrounds. What's really important is having a mind for what's critical information, how to find it and how to tell the story of the data. Financial Analysts move into a variety of roles, from Managers and Partners at their firms to jobs across financial services.
5. Recruiting Assistant
Median salary in the U.S.: $43,803
Recruiting assistants help facilitate the hiring process, whether within a company or at a recruiting firm. They tend to manage the daily administrative duties of their team — from scheduling interviews to conducting the initial screens of applicants. While the role may not seem exciting at first glance, it provides the opportunity to meet many people and see the recruiting process from the inside-out, a helpful experience for any industry. If you enjoy the work, it is also a great way to work your way to becoming something like an Executive Recruiter, who have a median salary of $97,000 in the U.S. There's no specific major necessary to be a Recruiting Assistant.
6. Account Manager
Median salary in the U.S.: $62,262
Account Managers work to deliver excellent customer service to a company's clients. Account Managers tend to be great collaborators and natural relationship builders who are talented at identifying and solving problems. Account managers go on to pursue strong careers in Marketing, Sales and Business Development with a foundational knowledge in how to make a product work for a customer again and again. There's no right path for pursuing a career in Account management and you shouldn't be shy to apply no matter your college major.
7. Administrative Assistant
Median salary in the U.S.: $42, 185
Administrative Assistants are great communicators who are cool under pressure, highly organized and generally have a grasp on how to manage multiple projects flawlessly at the same time. They manage everything from travel plans to office orders, giving Administrative Assistance a bird's-eye view of the roles of the people around them. As a result, this role is a great way to check out an industry you're hoping to work in and a path to being close to the work of big time people in your field — from executives to directors to attorneys. Being an Administrative Assistant can both open doors for you to transfer your newly learned skills to a different role or become a stellar career path with a high salary at the top.
8. Research Assistant
Median salary in the U.S.: $35,230
The responsibilities of Research Assistants vary depending on where they're working. For instance, a Research Assistant at a hospital is likely doing much different work than a Research Assistant working for a speechwriter. However, all Research Assistant jobs have some things in common: They are generally tasked with contributing to a research project by collecting and analyzing data, doing clerical work and otherwise completing tasks for the project coordinators. Anyone who is detail oriented, enjoys systematic work and likes working to uncover data should consider applying to these roles. Being a Research Assistant builds important task management, research, data and communication skills that can be transferred to any industry. Finding a project you'd be genuinely interested in and working with people who share your passion can also open the door to finding your dream career.
9. Social Media Manager
Median salary in the U.S.: $50,473
Social Media Managers tend to graduate with a degree in Communications, Public Relations or Journalism, allowing them to manage the social platforms of an organization with insight into what makes a follower click the "like" button. However, anyone with a knack for digital storytelling and a versatile set of skills can be great in this role. Social Media Managers can be tasked with everything from managing social platform calendars and planning social media campaigns to purchasing paid ads and creating graphics. Many Social Managers go on to continue working in Marketing, Advertising or other Communications fields, although working on a Social team within your dream industry can be a great way to grow a deeper understanding of it.
10. Case Manager
Median salary in the U.S.: $40,698
Case managers help clients get the care they need by reviewing their records and applications, assessing their treatment needs and assisting them in starting their treatments. They can work at hospitals, insurance companies and in other community settings. While many people who take case management jobs may graduate with a degree focused on mental health — psychology, nursing or social work — anyone who is a strong communicator with a passion for creating relationships and setting up systems that help people succeed can apply.
11. Data Analyst
Median salary in the U.S.: $62,453
Data Analysts exist across industries and help interpret data and turn it into information that can inform and improve business practices. They generally collect data and interpret patterns and trends using a variety of analytics approaches and tools. This work can range from determining the time of day when people your company's products sell the best to determining the best search tool to use on a website. A background in mathematics and statistics is helpful for this kind of role, even on entry level, however intensive trainings are often offered to incoming data analysts. Much like applying for a Financial Analyst role, the best applicants are good at zeroing in on what information is important and are able to tell compelling stories with data points. It sets you up for a compelling career in data, but also on the business side of things — business development, marketing and more.
12. Marketing Coordinator
Median salary in the U.S.: $48,982
Like many roles, the Marketing Coordinator title means something different at each organization. However, these individuals are generally tasked with scheduling and implementing marketing and advertising campaigns, then tracking the success of said campaigns. It is a great introduction to the work of marketing for anyone interested in the field who is skilled in task management and has a strong creative skillset. It's the perfect stepping stone for a career in marketing, advertising or other business functions, like operations, sales and business development.
13. Operations Associate
Median salary in the U.S.: $49, 953
Interested in making things run smoother? Operations associates help higher-level operations professionals remove barriers to efficient work, from rethinking documentation processes to making hiring processes more efficient. Operations is a great function for individuals who like fast-paced, flexible and ever-changing work. The best candidates for this role are quick-minded, strong communicators, good at handling pressure and interested in helping others. Working as an Operations Associate can lead to a meaningful career in operations or a series of other business functions, including human resources, project or product management, account management and more.
14. Customer Service Representative
Median salary in the U.S.: $27,834
Customer Service Representatives manage client inquiries, respond to complaints and provide helpful information to customers. This can involve managing customer orientation or training programs as much as it can involve answering phone calls and emails, depending on what organization you are applying to. Customer Service work is best for people who enjoy collaboration, problem solving and managing people. The skills you develop — from time management and crisis management to instruction skills and persuasion skills — can naturally help in a variety of future roles, from supervisory positions to sales positions.
15. Legal Assistant
Median salary in the U.S.: $50,758
Legal assistants support lawyers and legal teams with a variety of tasks, from general administrative work to drafting research documents. These jobs tend to ask the person in the role to be a jack-of-all trades and are best for people who are both methodic and looking for work that's a little bit different every day. Working as a legal assistant doesn't require a pre-law degree and backgrounds of all sorts are accepted. These positions can be a strong bridge to graduate school or provide a springboard into legal support, risk management, compliance, financial services or several other lines of work.
16. Human Resources Coordinator
Median salary in the U.S.: $43,745
Beginning your career as a Human Resources Coordinator means attending to the administrative duties of an HR team — maintaining employee documents, assisting with payroll, answering employee questions and more. It provides great insights into what work in Human Resources looks like, but it also provides special insight into what the professional sphere looks like more generally. As a result, these roles are a great start to several career paths.
Median salary in the U.S.: $51,433
Copywriters, you guessed it, write copy. They come up with the words, slogans and scripts that go in advertisements, embellish companies' websites or go on packaging. Copywriting roles are the perfect fit for graduates who are interested in marketing, advertising, business development or the "creative" industry more generally. You will learn what makes a reader tick, what makes a great advertisement or product, and how to fit your voice to a brand or organization. Plus, you get to tap into your creativity and wordsmithing skills.
18. Software Engineer
Median salary in the U.S.: $92,046
Being a Software Engineer means some combination of writing, debugging, maintaining and testing software, depending on where you are hired. Software Engineers are natural problem solvers who tend to be methodical, detail-oriented and creative. While you do need a background in coding to be a Software Engineer, many organizations are no longer requiring a Bachelor's in Computer Science. Instead, coding bootcamps can be strong, quick alternatives to getting the coding chops you need to land a Software Engineering role. Being a Software Engineer sets you up to continue into a variety of technical roles, whether as an individual contributor or as a team leader.
19. Visual Designer
Median salary in the U.S.: $70,397
Visual Designers create artwork for a variety of projects based on creative briefs or client asks. They may design graphics for anything from a website banner to a t-shirt, depending on where they work. Visual designers may benefit from a college degree in graphic design or art, but anyone with a portfolio of creative projects stand a chance applying to these in-demand roles. Being a Visual Designer helps build your creative portfolio and arms you with a variety of skills that are important in careers in design, creative direction and advertising.
20. Public Relations Associate
Median salary in the U.S.: $43,829
Public Relations professionals help build and maintain an organization's public image. Generally, assistants and associates do this by providing administrative support, monitoring media coverage, helping with press releases and public outreach and similar tasks. Anyone who is interested in storytelling, branding and building connections, or who is interesting in writing, is a great candidate for a public relations role. Generally, a major in Public Relations, Journalism or another Communications field can be helpful in landing this job.