The 10 best companies to advance your career

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Labor is in high demand these days. US employers added 263,000 jobs in November, down only slightly from October’s 284,000 figure. And while unemployment remained unchanged at 3.7%, wages are 5.1% higher than a year ago, the New York Times reports.

Not every employee has the choice between prestige companies. But it’s always good to know what’s out there and which companies have a reputation for helping workers get ahead. A recent report, the American Opportunity Index, examined payroll data and job postings at 250 of the largest US companies. The aim was to identify which offered the greatest employment opportunities for workers with and without a college degree.

The index uses nine metrics in three categories to assess the extent of opportunities offered to workers. Researchers looked at access to work, career opportunities and pay.

“We believe these three dimensions are the key factors in creating opportunity: workers must be able to climb the ladder, earn enough to stay on the ladder, and move up the ladder,” states in the introduction of the report.

Here’s a look at the top companies on this list.

10.Southwest Airlines

The 10 best companies to advance your careerEliyahu Yosef Parypa /

In addition to being a major US airline, Southwest Airlines is also the largest low-cost airline in the world, employing more than 55,000 people. The 50-year-old airline led the transportation sector in the American Opportunity Index, the only airline to make the top 30.

It has been lauded for career stability, career growth, growing talent, and advancement without a degree. And despite all the turmoil in the airline industry, Southwest has never had a layoff.

Despite all those employees, however, many customers were outraged by the massive number of flight cancellations this holiday season – which Southwest blamed on staff shortages and outdated technology.

9. International paper

International paperJonathan Weiss /

International Paper’s name says it all – it’s the largest pulp and paper company in the world.

The American Opportunity Index ranks it high for career growth and career stability. It has received other accolades and was recently ranked 29th out of 100 on Foundry’s Computerworld’s list of the best jobs in IT.

8. Mutual Freedom

Reciprocal freedomJonathan Weiss /

Headquartered in Boston, Liberty Mutual is a global insurance company and the sixth largest property and casualty insurer in the United States. The nonprofit group Volunteers of America recently singled out the company for paying its employees to volunteer, with a particular focus on mental health and nutrition and housing insecurity and youth homelessness.

The American Opportunity Index ranked Liberty Mutual highly for talent development, advancement without a degree and as a career launch pad. In fact, the index finds that more than 80% of leadership positions are filled by internal employees.

7. HF Sinclair

HollyFrontier, the HF Sinclair Corp.JHVEPhoto /

HF Sinclair Corporation, a Dallas-based diversified energy company, was ranked 7th in the index.

Although it’s one of the smaller companies on the list, with just 4,200 employees, it has a high priority for nurturing talent and was named as a company where employees without a college degree can advance. It is the leading company in the oil, gas and mining sector.

6. Fiserv

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The “fi” in “Fiserv” comes from “financial” as it provides financial technology services to customers across the financial services industry. The Wisconsin-based company was ranked 6th overall in the index, but was ranked #1 in business services and #2 in technology, behind only global giant Microsoft.

Fiserv performed well for career stability, as a career launch pad, and for promotion without a degree. And it has ambitious plans to increase its profit margin in the fourth quarter, its CEO said in December 2022.


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High-performing technology company Microsoft scored highly for career stability, talent development, and advancement without a degree.

Believe it or not, co-founder Bill Gates, who now heads the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, rose through the ranks even without a degree — he left Harvard after two years and founded the company with friend Paul Allen.


Pacific Gas and Electric CompanyVarious photographs /

PG&E, or Pacific Gas and Electric Company, is an American investor-owned utility company that provides natural gas and electricity. It serves 5.5 million electricity accounts and 4.5 million natural gas accounts in Northern and Central California. The company earned its 4th place in the index thanks to its outstanding career stability, career launch pad and promotion without a degree.

3. Cisco Systems

Cisco signVarious photographs /

Cisco Systems is a technology conglomerate that designs, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, and other high-tech services and products.

The American Opportunity Index ranks it high for talent development, career stability, career launch pad and advancement without a degree. In addition to its high ranking here, it topped Fortune’s list of the top 100 companies to work for in both 2021 and 2022.

2. American Express

American ExpressJHVEPhoto /

You can probably picture the green American Express card or remember the traveler’s check slogan “Don’t leave home without it” (later changed to “Don’t leave home without it” and used on the card).

American Express is a multinational company specializing in payment card services. In addition to being 2nd overall, it topped the Payments and Banks & Lenders sectors of the index and was singled out for talent development and advancement without a degree.


AT&TJonathan Weiss /

And #1 on the index is AT&T, the multinational telecommunications holding company.

It is the world’s largest telecommunications company by revenue and the third largest provider of cell phone service in the United States. The index ranked AT&T particularly well for career growth, as a career launch pad, for nurturing talent, and for advancement without a degree.

In fact, AT&T’s senior executive vice president Angela Santone said less than 5% of the company’s positions require a college degree. And the company is growing: Fortune reports that AT&T added 3.2 million phone subscribers in 2021, “a number that surpassed the combined net adds over the past 10 years.”