37% of 'entry-level' jobs need work experience, averaging 2.5 years

Thursday, January 25, 2024

New study analyses 17,815 entry-level job adverts in the UK to uncover the hardest industries to break into.

Misleadingly, many 'entry-level' jobs actually require lots of work experience. With almost 10 million Brits job hunting at any moment, those with access to well-placed connections or the funds to work unpaid internships have the edge.

To find out how common it is for entry-level jobs to ask for professional experience, careers experts, StandOut CV, analysed 17,815 job adverts for 43 popular entry-level jobs, using LinkedIn's job board 'entry-level' filtering, across various industries to find out which jobs are the hardest to break into – and where Brits should look to get a foot on the ladder.

You can read the full study here:


Key findings:

  • On average, 37% of 'entry-level jobs' required prior working experience.
  • When stated, the average length of experience requested for an entry-level role was 2.5 years.
  • The careers where prior experience was mentioned the most in entry-level listings were IT technicians (62.8%) and junior software engineers (60%).
  • The entry-level jobs most likely to not ask for prior experience were teaching assistants (1.6%), social workers (3.8%) and licensed practical nurses (3.96%).
  • When the number of years of desired experience was specified in entry-level job adverts, waiters and administrative assistants were requested to have had five years of experience (the most in the study).

Which careers expect the most prior experience?

Compiling a list of more than 40 of the UK's most popular and best-paid entry-level job types, the study found that overall 37% of entry-level job listings asked for prior experience. 

Although one in five (21%) entry-level jobs didn't specify exactly how much experience they desired, when they did, 'entry-level' jobs expected on average around 2.5 years of prior experience.

The entry-level jobs most likely to require experience

Below are the top 10 jobs most likely to ask for prior experience while being labelled as an 'entry-level' job and the minimum salary advertised on the job descriptions.

  1. IT technician (62.8%): £25,956
  2. Junior software engineer (60%), £43,733
  3. Barista (58.8%), £26, 425
  4. Associate product manager (58.2%) £50,714
  5. Graduate sales engineer (56.5%), £25,820 
  6. Computer Programmer (56.0%) £32,700
  7. Civil Engineer (55.6%) £33,6308
  8. Project manager (54.8%) £45,3329
  9. Graphic designer (52.3%) £30,957
  10.  Waiter/waitress (52.0%) £18,935

The job title most likely to ask for prior job experience was IT technician (62.8%). Entry-level jobs for this role advertised a minimum salary of £25,956, considerably below the study's average of £31,063, and lower than the latest Government figures showing the UK average full-time salary sits at £34,963.

Three in five (60%) junior software engineer entry-level jobs asked for prior experience. When specified, this averaged at one year of prior experience. In this case, internships to gain this experience might be worth the investment, as minimum entry-level salaries were an appealing £43,733. 

Completing the top three, the next job advert most likely to ask for prior experience is for baristas (58.8%). Adverts specified on average two years of experience with a minimum salary of £26,425. 

Entry-level jobs which ask for the greatest number of years experience

Here are the 10 jobs which ask for the longest amount of work experience and the minimum salary advertised on the job descriptions.

  1. Waiter/waitress: 5 years, £18,935
  2. Administrative assistant: 5 years, £41,100
  3. Associate product manager: 4 years, £50,714
  4. Project manager: 4 years, £45,332
  5. Executive assistant: 4 years, £26,570
  6. Account manager: 4 years, £33,575
  7. Teacher: 4 years, £27,047
  8. Biomedical engineer: 3.3 years, £34,581
  9. Accountant: 3.3 years, £31,581
  10. Business analyst: 3.2 years, £35,884

Despite having a salary far below the average minimum in the study, waiters and waitresses were expected to have had on average five years of relevant experience for entry-level jobs advertised on Linkedin. 

Also asking for around five years of experience is the role of administrative assistant. Related careers in administration and tech also ask for a considerable amount of prior experience – with executive assistants and product manager roles also asking for four years. 

Which entry-level jobs were truly 'entry-level'?

These are the jobs which were least likely to specify they wanted prior experience in their job adverts and the minimum salary advertised on the job descriptions.

  1. Teaching assistant (1.6%) £23,926
  2. Social worker (3.8%) £37,958
  3. Licensed practical nurse (4.0%), £20,056
  4. Dental nurse (6.4%), £36,524
  5. Real estate agent (7.4%), £29,522

Only 1.6% of entry-level teaching assistant jobs asked for prior professional experience – easily the lowest amount in the study. Although a rewarding career with high job satisfaction, the minimum starting salary for a teaching assistant is £23,926 – 30% below the average starting salary in the study. 

Another public service job, social worker, was the next job that most commonly had genuine entry-level job listings – with just 3.8% specifying prior experience. 

The position of licensed practical nurse came third with 4% of job listings asking for previous professional experience. This role is an entry-level nursing job where you work under the supervision of a registered practical nurse or doctor. Unlike for a job as a registered practical nurse, you only need to complete a year-long course. 

Entry-level jobs requesting the fewest number of years of experience 

When it came to jobs that requested the fewest years of experience, naturally excluding those that asked for none, licensed practical nurses, PR assistants, sales representatives, administrators, event planners, and junior software engineers all requested just one. 

Andrew Fennell, former recruiter and Director at StandOut CV, offered these tips for those looking for an entry level job:

  • Create a tailored CV:  Study the jobs you are applying for, determine the most important requirements, and ensure your CV is reflecting them as much as possible ; selling yourself in the best way possible.
  • Review career paths: You might find from your research of other people's career paths that you don't need to have a linear path to your dream role. Consider playing the long game and choosing a job in a related field with easier entry requirements. A five-year plan can help with motivation and understanding what you need to get out of each job before you move on.
  • Get experience: As we can see, most entry-level jobs require experience, so you need to get experience through internships, volunteer work, or by doing it yourself. This could be writing a blog or taking an online course designed to build a portfolio in your field.
  • Don't burn yourself out: It's tempting to try and apply to as many jobs as soon as possible but not only will this compromise the quality of your applications, but it could be detrimental to your mental health. Set yourself an achievable goal, like two well-researched and crafted applications a day or four hours of focused job hunting and consider appointing a friend or family member to keep you accountable to this goal.

To see the full study please see the study page here: https://standout-cv.com/entry-level-jobs-statistics-report


A total of 17,815 entry-level job adverts were scraped from Linkedin jobs between 9/12 to 14/12 across the United Kingdom. Using LinkedIn's 'entry-level' filter we searched for specific job titles and filtered out all other job listings other than those labelled 'entry-level'. Using AI, researchers then analysed these job listings to see how many requested prior experience and, where relevant, how many years of experience they requested. The bespoke tool used natural language processing and AI to remove false positives such as "this job requires no experience" or "this is a job where you can gain lots of experience". The data was then manually reviewed where required. 

The 43 popular entry-level jobs were selected by using UK Indeed reports on the most common jobs, best-paid graduate jobs, and high-paying entry-level jobs. In addition to that, researchers also reviewed other sector reports on popular entry-level jobs. 

The jobs analysed were: licensed practical nurse, public relations assistant, sales representative, administrator, event planner, junior software engineer, lab technician, data analyst, trainee solicitor, consultant, customer service representative, investment consultant, delivery driver, graphic designer, barista, it technician, dental nurse, marketing assistant, copywriter, nurse, analyst, junior web developer, civil engineer, petroleum engineer, business analyst, accountant, biomedical engineer, teacher, account manager, executive assistant, trainee recruiter, project manager, associate product manager, administrative assistant, waiter/waitress, teaching assistant, social worker, real estate agent, paralegal, editorial assistant, construction worker, mechanical engineer, computer programmer, graduate sales engineer.