The top 10 states for high-paying entry-level jobs—New York and California aren't on the list

Source: Envato Elements

Entry-level jobs are often the lowest-paid on the totem pole, but a variety of factors influence what salary new employees are making.

Pay varies per industry, for example — an entry-level customer service representative in Philadelphia could make up to $52,000 per year and an entry-level sales representative could make up to $120,000 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.

Location might influence your opportunities for good entry-level pay as well.

Resume writing website used job search site Indeed to measure how many entry-level jobs were posted in each state with a salary above that of the state's median salary according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They then ranked the states in terms of the percentage of entry-level jobs that paid above the median salary.  

Here are the top 10 states for high-paying entry-level positions according to, including the state's median salary according to BLS and the percent of entry-level jobs paying above it.

South Dakota: 76.1%

Median salary: $19.17 per hour

Montana: 75.2%

Median salary: $20.29 per hour

Idaho: 72.7%

Median salary: $19.26 per hour

Iowa: 70.5%

Median salary: $21.32 per hour

New Mexico: 69%

Median salary: $19.19 per hour

Indiana: 68.2%

Median salary: $20.24 per hour

Wyoming: 68.1%

Median salary: $21.85 per hour

Nebraska: 67.6%

Median salary: $21.20 per hour

Kentucky: 67.1%

Median salary: $19.32 per hour

West Virginia: 66.9%

Median salary: $18.16 per hour

Given the larger workforce picture in some of these states, chief economist at ZipRecruiter Julia Pollak is not surprised at these results. "They're very closely in line with the macroeconomic indicators on overall state labor market conditions," she says.

Between 2019 and 2023, for example, "the state that's seen the largest employment growth is Idaho," she says, which falls at No. 3 on the list. With so many job openings overall, it makes sense that there would be plenty of entry-level opportunities in Idaho, including those that pay comparatively well.

Altogether, when it comes to factors such as job openings, hires, quits, layoffs and unemployment in each state, South Dakota is one of "the states where the labor market has improved most relative to the way it was before the pandemic," she says. The state comes in at No. 1 in's ranking. Using the same metrics, at No. 2, Montana's labor market has seen considerable improvement as well.

"I think your entry-level jobs are kind of the bleeding edge of the labor market," she says, "and small changes in labor market conditions translate into large changes in conditions for entry-level workers." Which is to say, if the labor market's doing well and improving overall, as in the case with South Dakota and Montana, workers looking for entry-level jobs will see a lot more opportunities.

Plus, "within almost all of the states that are doing well, some key cities are driving the results," she says. For instance, in Iowa, which comes in at No. 4 on's states ranking, Iowa City comes in at No. 2 in the company's ranking of best cities for high paying entry-level jobs.

If you are looking for an entry-level position, the data above may help pinpoint you in the direction of a location of interest, but make sure to also look at "what are the employers that are available there, what is the cost of living there," among other factors, says Amanda Augustine, career expert for

Let these results give you one piece of a larger local context and "use this more as a starting off point for deeper research," she says.

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