This paper addresses the question of the extent to which job access at labour market entry influences socio-economic status later in life. Multivariate models of workers' socio-economic status at the ages of 30, 40 and 50 were estimated using longitudinal data. The results show that job access at labour market entry is indeed instrumental in career advancement over the life course. The importance of job access at labour market entry increases significantly with age. Good job access at the beginning of the labour career evidently gives workers an advantage over others who start in less favourable labour markets. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.