Recently, I rounded up some "hidden gem" entry-level jobs recommended by the lovely members of the BuzzFeed Community. In the comments, people shared even more great suggestions!
So, here are 13 underrated entry-level jobs that come with good benefits, on-the-job training, or advancement opportunities:
1."Get into the optical field! Most states require a license to be an optician (like my state, NY). Typically you'd start maybe as front desk, doing prescreening for the doctor (including the dreaded 'air puff test'). all trained on the job. Apprenticeships for licensed opticians are offered at pretty much any chain optical (Visionworks, LensCrafters, etc.) and possibly smaller optical shops too. I started as a sales person in an optical, did the apprenticeship, became licensed, and am now a general manager/licensed optician making $90K a year."
"The apprenticeship is a two-year program and 100% funded by the company (in my experience). Depending on where you live and state requirements, a new licensed optician could make $25-$30/hour plus commission on sales. Not to mention very high in demand.
You can also go to a two-year school for this, but why when you can be paid to acquire the same credentials with no debt?”
2."I would definitely put 'the trades' way higher up on this list! I have a client right now who is 21 and was part of a court program that would erase a drug-related arrest after one of treatment and job training. He was hired by a trade union in my city — WITH ZERO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE — and is literally making more an hour than I do as his counselor who went to college."
"He has great union benefits, obvious union representation so he's never going to just be fired, etc. They're training him as he goes, and he said he's never bored 'cuz he's getting to do different stuff every day.
He loves it, and I seriously have never seen him happier in his life. He's on his way to saving up his down payment to buy a house next year, which is more than I can say for myself as an adult who went to college."
"Agree! My husband has been in the trades for years. You wouldn't know it to look at him — sometimes sweaty and dusty — but he makes a very, very good living. My dad, as well, was in the trades and in the union and learned on the job.
Lots of tradespeople retired during COVID, and there's a need for plumbers, electricians, carpenters, masonry workers, etc."
"The trades are definitely not going anywhere anytime soon, as there are always people in need of the services of plumbers, electricians, AC and heating people, etc., as well as carpenters, masons, etc.
It also pays good money, but make no mistake — the hours can be long, the work hard, and the bureaucratic red tape of licensing and inspections maddening.
But the rewards of honest work, pride in your craftsmanship, and knowing that you are helping people who may be at their wit's end is certainly gratifying."
3."HVAC starts at $20 an hour for a first year apprentice in my area. Good money, on the job training, and pretty much recession-proof."
4."My son is training to be a plumber, and he makes good money at only 19 years old. He's also eligible for health insurance through the union."
"And plumbers will never be replaced by AI or outsourced."
5."I work in correctional education in Texas as an education counselor. (I am a certified school counselor.) Look at the prisons near you for jobs other than correctional officer. You might be surprised at what you find. Pay isn't always the best, but it is a full-time job with benefits."
"Working in a prison isn't scary. If you're in an office, you're most likely not going to be around many inmates. If you're an educator who is burned out, consider working in correctional education. It's wonderful to hand a man his GED after he has worked very hard to get it. Imagine being in your 30s or 40s trying to learn concepts that you haven't used in a long time or never learned because you dropped out before it was taught.
I have worked in both private and state-run prisons. While my liberal brain doesn't like that a company makes money off men being in prison, I will say that doing something unique and creative is easier to do in the private prison, at least in education. Less red tape and bureaucracy."
6."I'm always amazed that air traffic control is never on these lists. All you need is a diploma, a cleanish record, and no major medical issues. Get in, get certified, and you're set for life. The pay is great, and it's a much better pension than most feds get."
"However, you get treated like you don't matter, the politics is wild, and the hours suck."
7."Working in a factory/manufacturing, especially if it is a union shop. Starting on the manufacturing floor, you learn about the different departments and functions. Many companies like to promote from within, and many offer tuition reimbursement."
"I had several family members who started as operators in a factory and took advantage of apprenticeships within the company. One became an electrician, and others became engineering technicians.
Also, manufacturing companies need maintenance, engineers, supply chain/procurement, IT, HR, project managers, contracts managers, etc. There are so many different career options related to manufacturing systems that pay pretty well."
8."Most companies have a need for executive/administrative assistants. If you're organized and smart and have some basic computer skills, it's a great way to get your foot in the door."
"I did that over 20 years ago and now manage a team of 11 people at a major tech company."
9."This might be an unpopular opinion, but working in retail at 19 led to me getting promoted to management at 21, and I was making more back then as assistant sales manager than I do now (as an adult who went to college)."
"Yes the hours can suck sometimes, but it's usually just around Christmas. I would just say be smart about what company/store you work for — find one that matches your vibe.
When I was 21 and working at the Express, one of my coworkers started as a cashier/sales person, got promoted to management, realized she was REALLY GOOD at the merch displays, and got promoted to store visual merchandise manager.
When I was having my first kid, I worked as an assistant manager for a really well-known kids retail chain in a really nice mall. The job was SO FRIGGIN' EASY, the store was small, and I made good money ANNNNNND got an amazing discount on super cute clothes for my kid."