Getting a Job

What Does Entry-Level Mean?

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The term ‘entry-level’ is commonly used in job descriptions, but it can mean different things to many people. Hiring managers often forget to elaborate on certain details of the job description or assume candidates will understand the terminology being used. This article explains the various meanings of entry-level jobs and provides some tips to help you understand how to identify the entry-level categories that employers commonly use. 

What does entry-level mean?

In general, entry-level jobs fall into one of these categories:

No degree required

Entry-level jobs that do not require a college degree are often associated with minimum wage and low pay. However, this is not always the case. Non-degree jobs can encompass a broad range of salary types. Depending on the job opportunity, these jobs can provide valuable on-the-job experience and may even pay quite well. Some jobs offer the chance to become certified in a specialized skill or field, which increases the chance of receiving higher pay in the future.

Beginning career

You may notice that some job descriptions advertise entry-level jobs as positions that require one to three years of full-time work experience. These jobs are ideal for those who have recently graduated from college or who may be returning back to work after a gap in employment. Beginning career entry-level jobs are very common. If you’re lacking in work-related experience, you may want to take inventory of your past achievements and activities.

Examples of ways you can gain experience without having on-the-job experience:

  • Internships
  • Volunteer work
  • Coursework
  • Membership in a college organization

Professional experience

Jobs that require applicants to have three or more years of professional experience may still be labeled as entry-level. While they may seem like mid-level jobs to you, these types of job postings are common among start-up companies and smaller businesses on a budget that are searching for talented employees. If you don’t meet all of the requirements, but a large majority of them, it’s worth applying anyway. More often than not, employers cannot find someone who meets all the requirements, so they instead choose to interview the most qualified candidates. 

The term ‘entry-level’ refers to jobs that require minimal experience or jobs in a junior-level position at a company. However, employers define this term in many ways. Depending on who you ask or which job description you’re reading, you’ll start to notice some inconsistencies in reference to entry-level jobs.

How many years of experience is entry-level?

The term ‘entry-level’ can mean a number of things, from no experience required to less than three years of experience required in a professional, full-time setting. It may even mean three years or more. It differs depending on the employer’s definition of the term.

What is entry-level pay?

Entry-level pay is generally the lowest pay available in the field of work you are seeking. However, a college graduate may apply to an entry-level job and make more than someone else in an entry-level job at the same company who has no degree.

How do you know if a job is entry-level?

You can identify entry-level jobs by looking for specific terms within the job description. Many job postings will say that they are entry-level, but not all listings are as descriptive. Locate the experience requirements or qualifications section of the job posting to see what the position entails. If you feel confident that you could do the job but are confused by the wording of the description, go ahead and apply anyway. 

What are some examples of entry-level jobs?

Here are some examples of entry-level jobs that can be categorized into different levels of experience:

No degree required

If you’ve decided that taking the college route is not for you, there are numerous jobs available that do not require a college degree, though in some cases a special certification or training beyond high school are required.

Examples:

  • Food server
  • Secretary
  • Farmer or rancher
  • Salesperson
  • Cashier
  • Nanny or caregiver
  • Custodian
  • Groundskeeper
  • Bookkeeper
  • Insurance agent
  • Immigration and customs inspector
  • IT support specialist
  • Concierge
  • Customer support agent
  • Real estate broker
  • Claims adjuster
  • Subway operator
  • Postmaster
  • Funeral service director
  • Elevator installers and inspectors
  • Plumber apprentice (and other trades)
  • School bus driver
  • Bank teller
  • Tax preparer
  • Firefighter
  • Diesel mechanic
  • Paramedic

Beginning career

Once you’ve earned your degree, you can expect a level up from opportunities you’ve had in the past. After all, you’ve taken the time and spent the money to attend higher education.

Examples:

  • Staff accountant
  • Marketing assistant
  • Event planner
  • Training specialist
  • Management trainee
  • Graphic designer
  • Social media specialist
  • Editorial assistant
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Research assistant
  • Teacher’s assistant
  • Special educator
  • Mathematics teacher
  • Junior engineer
  • Credit analyst
  • Journeyman plumber (and other trades)
  • Underwriter
  • Web designer
  • Web developer
  • Network engineer
  • IT analyst
  • Occupational therapist 
  • Staff writer
  • Sales assistant
  • Computer programmer
  • Copywriter
  • Paralegal
  • Dental hygienist
  • Massage therapist
  • Lab assistant

Professional experience

Though you’ve probably spent a few years on the job working in a position related to your degree, you might accept another position that is still considered entry-level. These types of jobs often require at least three years of professional experience depending on the employer.

Examples:

  • IT application developer II
  • Associate infrastructure engineer I
  • Junior project manager
  • IT technician
  • Environmental engineer
  • User experience designer
  • Lead teacher
  • Program coordinator
  • Caseworker
  • Technical writer
  • Controller
  • Finance manager
  • Junior accountant
  • Internal auditor
  • Marketing manager
  • Administrative officer
  • Probation officer
  • Financial analyst

Because entry-level jobs tend to fall under many categories, it takes a bit of work to find the ones you’re interested in and qualified for. You’ll want to spend some time researching your options to see what is available to you.