The US Cities and States With The Highest Entry-Level Salaries


When it comes to their career, everybody’s got to start somewhere, right? And those with little or no experience can’t expect to earn big bucks from day one. But they shouldn’t be exploited for their lack of real-work experience, either. 

That’s what inspired this latest study from Using data from thousands of job listings, it calculated the average US state salary and compared it with the average new starter wage. 
Then it put together some maps and charts showing the best cities and states for workers with their foot on the first rung of the career ladder.

Where are the best-paying entry-level jobs in the US?

What US city is the best place for entry-level jobs? San Francisco? New York? Los Angeles?
All good answers. After all, they’re the epicentres of some of the world’s biggest and most valuable industries.

But that’s also why they can be the worst places to get a foot in the door – at least when it comes to pay. 
Millions of hopefuls flock to these cities every year. And as they all compete for the same entry-level positions, wages fall. It’s a basic economic truth.

The best US cities for entry-level salaries

That’s why the list of the best-paying US cities for new starters is full of less glamorous locations, including Bowling Green, Kentucky, Des Moines, Iowa, and Boise, Idaho. More than 7 out of 10 new starters in these cities earn more than the state’s average salary.

At the top of the list is Bozeman City in Montana. Bozeman lacks the glamour and prestige of LA or New York. But it offers serious earning potential for new starters. Almost 9 out of 10 take home more pay than the average worker in Montana.

So what are your career options in Bozeman? The city has a growing healthcare and biotechnology sector, as well as thriving tech, renewable energy, and startup ecosystems. There’s also an increasing demand for real estate and construction workers.

Lowest-paid entry-level jobs in the USA

US Senators and Representatives earn around $174,000. Many of them, including Nancy Pelosi, are worth over $130 million.

But for new starters, Washington, DC, is a very different place. The US capital and seat of political power is the worst city for entry-level salaries. Just over 1 in 4 (26%) of those getting their foot in the door can expect to earn more than the average median state salary.

The relatively low pay for new starters in Washington, DC, is due to high competition for jobs, budget constraints in some organizations, and the willingness of some individuals to accept unpaid internships.

New starter pay in US states

South Dakota pays its new starters well. 76% of workers earn more than the state median salary. Agriculture and farming are the major industries, and recent labour shortages have driven up wages for new starters or more inexperienced staff.

Hawaii is rock bottom of this chart. More than 6 out of new starters earn less than the average worker in Hawaii. This is due to the state’s reliance on tourism and service industries, which are notorious for their low pay. Many restaurants and bars refuse, or simply can’t afford, to pay workers more than the minimum wage. In Hawaii, that’s just $12.00 per hour.

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