Entry-Level Careers With High Earning Potential

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Find out what it takes to land a potentially high-paying position right after college.

By Chris Kyle

Think it's not possible to find a rewarding job straight out of college? Think again.

According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the class of 2010 enjoyed an average starting salary offer of $48,661.

"We hear that schools are seeing an increase in the number of employers recruiting on campus," says Andrea Koncz, an employment information manager with the NACE.

"Generally speaking, that's a very good sign for this year's graduating class," adds Koncz.

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Check out this list of rewarding entry-level careers:

  • Market Researcher
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Accountant
  • Paralegal
  • Registered Nurse

Keep reading to see what it takes to prepare for one of these jobs.

#1 - Market Researcher

The rebounding economy will lead to more data and analysis by companies looking for new market share opportunities. Not surprisingly, the need for market researchers is expected to explode through 2018, according to the Department of Labor, which forecasts a 28 percent surge in job openings.

What it takes: According to the Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree is usually needed for an entry-level position as a market or survey researcher. Undergraduate business courses are a great way to prep for a career in marketing.

Average earnings: According to PayScale, the average salary for market research analysts with less than one year of experience is $35,271-$49,853.

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#2 - Computer Support Specialist

Looking for a career you can prepare for...fast? Working in technology support could be your best bet, says Keith Ordan, a partner with The Intersect Group, a staffing and consulting firm in Atlanta and Chicago. "We're seeing a very robust increase in demand for IT professionals across the board," Ordan says. "This includes entry-level positions on help desks, offering trouble-shooting and technology support."

What it takes: Employers need to know that you have the basic computer skills necessary to work on a help desk. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an associate's degree is often enough to qualify for entry-level support positions. Certificate programs in technology support can also help get you started.

Average earnings: According to PayScale, the average salary for computer technical support specialists with less than one year of experience is $29,624-$48,664.

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#3 - Accountant

Taking a backseat only to the high-tech industry is job growth in the accounting and finance fields, according to Ordan. Clerking in accounts payable and collections departments are typical opportunities, Ordan says. "These positions would allow you to move into a more senior accounting role down the line," he adds.

What it takes: Accounting services firms extended more job offers to the class of 2010 than any other industry, according to NACE, and accounting majors received the bulk of those opportunities. While a bachelor's degree is best, a shorter associate's degree program could provide quick entry into the field.

Average earnings: College grads with a bachelor's degree in accounting have an average starting salary of $44,600, according to PayScale's 2010-11 College Salary Report. The average for accountants and auditors is $67,430, according to the Department of Labor.

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#4 - Paralegal

When looking at earning potential and job growth opportunities, staffing firm Robert Half International pegged paralegals as one of its hottest careers for 2011.

What it takes: According to the Department of Labor, employers prefer paralegals with an associate's or bachelor's degree so enrolling in a paralegal studies program is an excellent start. If you already have a degree in an unrelated area, consider getting a paralegal certificate, which can usually be completed in less than one year.

Average earnings: Paralegals with no prior work experience have a starting salary between $28,862 and $38,761, according to PayScale. Average pay for paralegals is $50,080, according to the Department of Labor.

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#5 - Registered Nurse

Health care reform is expected to add 44 million Americans to the list of the insured, adding to the demand for registered nurses. According to the Department of Labor, nearly 600,000 new job openings are expected for registered nurses between 2008 and 2018.

What it takes: While an associate's degree in nursing could be enough to land a job out of college, the Department of Labor stresses that registered nurses with a bachelor's degree enjoy more employment opportunities.

Average earnings: College grads with a bachelor's degree in nursing have an average starting pay of $52,700, according to PayScale. Registered nurses have an average salary of $66,530, according to 2009 Department of Labor figures.

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*Unless otherwise noted, all salary data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, using 2009 information.

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