Top Careers for Recent College Grads

Careers College Grads

Check out these growing entry-level careers that are ideal for recent college graduates.

By Deanna Ting

Are you a recent college grad wondering about your job prospects? Maybe you're thinking about going back to school to earn a degree, but want to first ensure that there are careers out there for you. Either way, you'll want to keep reading.

While there are no guarantees that a college degree will lead to a job, there are certain careers that are more catered to fresh college grads. Even better, these careers are also seeing an increase in jobs between 2010 and 2020.

Want to find out more? Read on for the best careers for recent graduates.

Career #1 - Accountant

An accountant's main objective is to prepare and examine financial records, and to make sure that an organization or individual's taxes are paid appropriately and punctually, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's a Hot Job for Recent Grads: Accountant positions are on the rise. The Department of Labor projects that demand for accountants will grow by 16 percent from 2010 to 2020.

And you'll want to look beyond the commonly held assumption that accountants are "just number crunchers." In fact, accountants could work in a variety of industries since they are needed at nearly every company or organization.

"There are always jobs for accountants," says executive coach and management consultant Roy J. Blitzer. "One client I had was an accountant working at a big high-tech firm and he was miserable. He used to be a former rock drummer, so we got him a job at Bill Graham Productions and he became a big financial executive there. He didn't change careers, just industries," adds Blitzer.

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Education Options: Thinking about going back to school to pursue this career? A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is needed for most accountant and auditor positions, according to the Department.

Median Annual Wage for Accountants: $62,850*
Average for workers in the 90th percentile: $109,870*
Average for workers in the 10th percentile: $39,640*


Career #2 - Human Resources Specialist

Forget what you think you know about human resources from television shows like "The Office." Today's human resources specialists don't just recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They're also becoming more involved in the business operations of the organizations who hire them, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's a Hot Job for Recent Grads: Human resources specialists are in demand, with the Department of Labor projecting human resources specialist positions to grow 21 percent between 2010 and 2020.

"It's a wonderful career but today's grads need to know that human resources people need to be effective business people, too," says Blitzer. "They need to be sensitive to return on investment and how businesses operate. It's no longer just enough to be good with people."

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Education Options: Most positions require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree, says the Department, which adds that employers prefer human resources generalists to have a bachelor's in human resources, business, or a related field.

Median Annual Wage for Human Resources Specialists: $54,310*
Average for workers in the 90th percentile: $94,700*
Average for workers in the 10th percentile: $29,850*


Career #3 - Computer Programmer

Chances are that many of the things you use on a daily basis - your computer and your smartphone included - utilize software codes written by computer programmers. Computer programmers take the program designs that software developers and engineers dream up and turn them into commands that a computer can follow, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's a Hot Job for Recent Grads: "This is a good entry-level position because there's often a need for people who can write code and help find mistakes and debug any issues," says Blitzer.

In fact, computer programming positions are seeing an uptick in jobs, according to the Department of Labor, which notes a projected 12 percent growth from 2010 to 2020.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program for You.

Education Options: Have your sights on this career and want to go back to school to prep for it? Most programmers possess a bachelor's degree, but there are some companies that will also hire programmers with an associate's degree. Look into computer science or a related major.

Median Annual Wage for Computer Programmers: $72,630*
Average for workers in the 90th percentile: $115,610*
Average for workers in the 10th percentile: $41,710*


Career #4 - Elementary School Teacher

Being a teacher to young children and forming the foundation for their lifelong pursuit of education could be a rewarding career option for recent grads. Another plus? It's a growing career, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Why it's a Hot Job for Recent Grads: Employment of elementary school teachers are projected to experience 17 percent job growth from 2010 to 2020, says the Department of Labor.

Keep in mind, though, that where you teach can have an impact on your chances of being employed as a teacher, notes Blitzer.

"High-risk areas like the inner city and more rural regions are always looking for people who want to teach," he says. "It's a good career option because you get the experience of seeing how you deal with different environments and how you handle diversity. It can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding."

Click to Find the Right Education Program for You.

Education Option: Elementary school teachers in all states need to have at least a bachelor's degree in elementary education, says the Department. Some states may also require elementary school teachers to major in a particular field of study, such as math or science, while others may require teachers to have a master's degree. All states require certification.

Median Annual Wage for Elementary School Teachers: $52,840*
Average for workers in the 90th percentile: $81,230*
Average for workers in the 10th percentile: $34,910*


Career #5 - Registered Nurse

Registered nurses are the backbone of many health care organizations, from hospitals and urgent care centers to doctors' offices and schools. They provide and organize patient care and, most importantly, they often offer guidance and emotional support to both patients and their family members, the U.S. Department of Labor notes.

Why it's a Hot Job for Recent Grads: According to the Department of Labor, of all careers, registered nurses will see the most new jobs of any occupation from 2010 to 2020 with a projected number of 711,900 jobs to be added.

"It pays well and you very often feel like you're doing a lot of good in the world," says Blitzer. "You really have to like science and like helping people and you also have to be willing to work strange hours in the beginning."

 Click to Find the Right Nursing Program for You.

Education Options: Want to go back to school and prep to pursue this career? You'll probably find this information useful: Two paths to preparing to pursue a career as a registered nurse include an associate's degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program, says the Department. All states require registered nurses to be licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination.

Median Annual Wage for Registered Nurses: $65,950*
Average for workers in the 90th percentile: $96,630*
Average for workers in the 10th percentile: $44,970*


* All median average wage information is from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2011.


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