Finding a Job in San Francisco: 3 Strategic Tips

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been one of the nation’s most desirable places to do business for both companies and their employees.

This area is home to a number of important industries, from science and technology to business and finance, making it an economic powerhouse. The employment rate has also increased steadily over the past few years, growing 2.2 percent from 2017-2018—nearly a full percentage point higher than national job growth. The Bay Area also currently employs 3.7 million workers at some of the world’s most powerful and influential companies. These factors, among others, have helped to push the average household income in this region to more than $96,000 per year, compared to the national annual average of just over $57,000.

For these reasons, it’s easy to see why people want to work in and around San Francisco. However, the same factors that make working in the Bay Area so appealing—including high pay, unique benefits, and a high concentration of important companies—simultaneously drive up the competition for even entry-level positions there. This is why, in order to grab the attention of hiring managers and land a prime position at a top company, job seekers in San Francisco must find ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Below, we offer some tips and advice that you can use to increase your chances of standing out during the job hunt and, ultimately, landing the San Francisco Bay Area position of your dreams.

Finding a Job in the San Francisco Bay Area: Tips for Standing Out and Advancing Your Career

1. Earn an advanced degree in your domain.

Because the job market in San Francisco is so competitive, most jobs in the region will require a bachelor’s degree as a baseline for all applicants.

Since earning a relevant undergraduate degree is seen as the bare minimum level of education for most careers in the Bay Area, earning an advanced degree in your discipline is one way that you can help yourself stand out from others applying for the same positions. Doing so doesn’t just help you demonstrate proficiency in the subject area, but also shows employers that you take investing in yourself—and your career—seriously.

What’s more, research shows that employers increasingly prefer to hire applicants who have earned an advanced degree. At the national level, more than 38 percent of employers reported that they have raised educational requirements for new hires, with 33 percent requiring a master’s degree for a position which, in the past, may have been filled by someone with only a bachelor’s. At the regional level, an estimated 33 percent of job openings in the Bay Area prefer or require an advanced degree, but only 18 percent of all working professionals in the Bay Area have earned one. This leaves ample opportunity for those who have completed a master’s to stand out during the application process.

Some estimates also state that workers in the San Francisco area who have obtained a graduate or professional degree earn higher average salaries than those who have only earned a bachelor’s degree; these individuals make $114,868 annually compared to $79,862 for those without an advanced degree.

In order to help San Francisco-area workers meet the unique demands of the industries that call the Bay Area home, Northeastern’s Bay area campuses offer dozens of advanced degrees specifically designed to align with industry needs.

Interested in earning an advanced degree in the Bay Area?

Explore Northeastern’s graduate programs to find the one that can best help you achieve your goals.


2. Approach your career and education from a unique angle.

While earning an industry-related master’s degree allows you to bring relevant and actionable knowledge and skills to your work, this isn’t your only option when it comes to continuing your education and advancing in your career. Earning an advanced degree in a field or subject that doesn’t directly align with your career or position but instead complements it can prove to be advantageous in your job search.

Determining what counts as a complementary degree will depend on your desired line of work and your existing level of education. For example, if your goal is to work in a managerial position at a technology company, you might choose to pair an undergraduate computer science degree with a master’s degree in project management. While your undergraduate degree in this scenario ensures that you have the baseline knowledge and skills that you need to complete the daily duties of the role, your graduate degree prepares you specifically for the unique challenges of a managerial or leadership position.

Pursuing this kind of complementary degree demonstrates to hiring managers that you think outside of the box and that the unique combination of skills you bring to the table can make you a rare and valuable addition to their teams. By pursuing a unique combination of education, you can also stand out from other applicants who have followed more “traditional” routes, and sometimes, standing out is all it takes to land a coveted role.

3. Gain as much unique experience as possible.

Most employers and hiring managers will tell you that work experience is just as important a hiring determinant as education. That’s why it is so important to gain as much real, hands-on experience as possible throughout your education and the various stages of your career. Be creative in finding new ways to learn that allow you to hone new skills or participate in new types of projects. Not only will employers be impressed by the practical abilities you gain in this pursuit, but you will also grow personally from having had hands-on learning opportunities you can apply in your day-to-day role.

As a student—at both the undergraduate and graduate levels—the best way to do this is to select classes that will allow you to walk away from your degree with a project or portfolio that you can point to as evidence of your skills. Similarly, take advantage of internships, co-ops, or work-study opportunities related to your desired field of work offered at your university, and be sure to network and nurture the relationships that you build there.

Experiential Learning at Northeastern University in the Bay Area

At Northeastern University, most programs include an experiential learning component that allows students to complete projects for actual Bay Area employers. Faculty in the Master’s of Science in Computer Science program estimate that, as of 2019, over 40 percent of their students work for local tech companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Similarly, students in the Master of Science in Cybersecurity program have opportunities to collaborate with business software developers such as VMware, gaining valuable experience and building up their portfolio of relevant projects along the way.

Once you’re confident you’ve mastered the skills necessary to complete the work you were hired to do in your new role, it’s important to seek out ways to continue to advance by volunteering for new projects, joining new teams, or taking on new tasks. In addition to helping you demonstrate your value to your employer—which can increase the likelihood of being chosen for a promotion or a salary increase—approaching your career in this way will allow you to gain valuable experience you can leverage to advance your career, whether within your current organization or a new one.

Cutting Through the Noise

In a highly competitive job market like San Francisco’s, job seekers must take advantage of every opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition and gain an edge in the application process.

The academic programs offered by Northeastern University in Oakland and Silicon Valley can help. By bringing together challenging academics, experiential learning, and faculty members with industry experience, these programs are designed to meet the needs of not only the unique industries that call the Bay Area home but the unique individuals who do, as well.