Putting Your College Degree to Work for You

Stuck in a job that’s completely unrelated to your degree? Or worse yet, still looking for a job; any job? I know many college grads in this situation and if you are looking for an explanation, I have a possible answer:

You are have one of those common degrees, which has a corresponding career path with no job growth.
To preface, this is not a dig at anyone’s degree or career choices. I am merely dispensing information that I wished I’d had before I started college and picked a degree. I should let you know that I commiserate and once had a social science degree, which did very little to open the doors of career opportunities. I corrected my error in degree selection with a Masters in accounting. If you are currently in college or high school, learn what many college graduates are now figuring out.  For those with a degree already, it may be wise for you research how to get a masters in business administration degree or other certification.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top five occupations by number of new jobs to be created by the year 2018 and require a Bachelors degree are:

  1. Registered nurses – 581,500 new jobs
  2. Accountants and auditors – 279,400 new jobs
  3. Elementary school teachers, except special ed – 244,200 new jobs
  4. Management Analysts – 178,300 new jobs
  5. Computer software engineers, applications – 175,100 new jobs

Knowing that these are the professions that will hire the most people in the next 7 years, we would expect informed college students to acquire degrees closely mirroring the actual job market. Thus the most degrees received should be nursing, followed by accounting, followed by education…etc.

This probably is not surprising, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of Bachelor’s degrees looks very different.

  1. Business – 347,985 degrees or 21.7% of all Bachelor’s
  2. Social sciences and history – 168,500 or 10.5% of all Bachelor’s
  3. Health Professions – 120,488 or 7.5% of all Bachelor’s
  4. Education – 101,708 or 6.35% of all Bachelor’s
  5. Psychology – 94,271 or 5.9% of all Bachelor’s

Some interpretation for you:

Business may look like it is in the correct position atop the list of total degrees granted. After all accounting and management analysts both made the top 5 growing careers. However, far too many opt for business administration degrees; which by the way are widely known in the business world as slacker degrees. To be in accounting, you need an accounting degree. According to the AICPA, only 51,036 Bachelor’s degrees in accounting were granted in 2010. Separating accounting degrees from business would put accounting degrees at about 11th on the list of total degrees awarded, but it is the 2nd largest growing career.

If you wanted a job in management analysis, you probably will want an accounting or finance degree. I guarantee that these are not the lion’s share of business degrees awarded.

By looking at the degree list we also see that social sciences and psychology are over-saturated with students. Yet where are the booming new jobs? (This coincidentally was my error as my bachelor’s was in economics, a social science.) I know that history teachers need degrees in history and education, but even if you assumed that most social science degrees were coupled with an education degree, the remainder would still put social sciences in the top 10 degrees by volume awarded.

Finally, computer and information sciences degrees are 13th on the list of degrees awarded by volume, yet software engineers are 5th on the list of total job growth.

If I was to expand the list of degrees by volume to the top 10, probably half of the degrees do not seem within reality of job growth. With dramatically rising college tuitions and high unemployment for college graduates, today’s students need to make smarter, more informed decisions about the schools, degrees and careers that they chose.

However, as promised, I am not all doom and gloom. One area of job growth was intentionally left off the list above and anyone with any bachelor’s degree is halfway towards qualifying for the job. College professors, which require a doctorate, would have clinched the number three spot on the top five growing careers above with 256,900 new jobs. If you are really passionate about your area of study, there is still hope for you, but it is four more years of school and thousands more in student loans.

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