• Not sure what to major in? See if your passion fits these in-demand degrees.

    August 16, 2017 by

     

    If you haven’t selected a major yet, you are probably getting all kinds of advice from peers, parents, faculty and everyone with an opinion on social media. Many advise that you study what you’re interested in. To follow your heart, because that way you’ll find a job you’re passionate about.

    Considering a major that will actually be in demand

    I agree wholeheartedly that you should study what you care about. But shouldn’t you at least know what degrees are actually in demand, so you can make an informed decision? 

    If you could study something that interests you and is in demand by employers, that would be a grand slam. I heard from two career experts on this topic, who weighed in about what you should expect employers to need from graduates in coming years. Jama Thurman is Manager of Counseling and Career Services at Hodges University, and Vicky Oliver, who is a member of our Panel of Experts and the author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005) plus other bestselling career books.

    The most in-demand degrees 

    “Right now, math degrees are in demand,” says Vicky Oliver, because of all the opportunities in finance. “Computer skills are also very hot. IT jobs can be found relatively easily, so if you want job stability, master your computer skills.”

    Related: Northwestern Mutual internship director talks about how they recruit for finance interns

    Jama Thurman points out, however, that in-demand majors vary depending on your geographic location. “In my area, the degrees in demand are nursing and education.”

    That said, if you look at national trends, employers report looking for a few fields of study more than others (according to a survey done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers). Those fields are, in order:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Sciences
    • Accounting
    • Economics

    Specifically, the ten most in-demand majors in those fields are:

    • Finance
    • Accounting
    • Business Administration/Management
    • Computer Science
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Management Information Systems
    • Information Sciences and Systems
    • Information Sciences and Systems
    • Logistics/supply chain
    • Electrical engineering
    • Economics

    These are mostly STEM fields. If you haven’t noticed, the American workforce is yearning—pleading—for more STEM grads.


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    What if I’m not interested in any of those fields of study?

    You have a lot of choices when deciding a majorThis is not to say that all employers across the board will only look at students with these majors. Even the most in-demand major listed above, finance, is reportedly in demand by 60% of the employers who responded to the NACE survey. The last one on the list, economics, is in demand by 39% of employers surveyed. Now, if you kept listing majors past the top ten, you’d probably keep seeing more STEM fields, but you should infer that there are plenty of employers who have room for other fields of study.

    What do those degree-holders have that other students do not?

    “When it comes to computer skills,” says Oliver, “the candidate has an ability to jump right in without being trained. If the computer skills are strong enough, even a candidate fresh out of college might find that he or she is training other workers who have been at the company a long time.”

    When given the choice, employers would prefer a candidate who is “oven-ready” and doesn’t require much training before they can start contributing fully. Thurman even thinks that “specialized education is required for most positions today.”

    Also read: Online jobs for students and other tips to balance school and work

    Having said that, I can’t underestimate how much employers drool over soft skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and an analytical mindset. If the degrees mentioned above don’t lie anywhere near your interests, take heart. Make it your goal to be the problem-solving English major who knows how to look at a situation from many sides, question the status quo and offer new solutions.

    What does gender have to do with all this?

    Women are underrepresented in STEM fieldsThere is a gaping gender gap in many of the fields listed above. Women are underrepresented in STEM fields overall, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016). Both Oliver and Thurman chimed in to advise young women who are choosing a major. Thurman says, “The most important factor in choosing a career is interest level. However, if a job seeker decides to choose a career path that is underrepresented, they may have more opportunities.” She points students to O*NET, where they can see determine career interests by browsing the interest profiles.

    Oliver encourages women to “consider going for an engineering degree or a math degree. That said, it is essential to pursue what you are the most talented at. I pursued a degree in English Honors and even back then, people were saying that an English degree would not translate into a great job opportunity. But I turned mine into a great career in advertising and a second career as an author.”

    Oliver says that “sometimes you have to invent a job that fits you–instead of trying to fit your educational path into a career. Don’t time the market. Pursue what you love and figure out ways to incorporate what you love into your career path. One time I interviewed at an ad agency that did not have an opening. The creative director said to me, ‘Vicky, it sounds like you want me to invent a job for you. I can’t do that.’ I said, “That is PRECISELY what I am asking you to do. You know I am talented. You have clients. Make me a part of your company.” Long story short: I did not get the job at that time. But 2 years later, he DID offer me a job.”

    Follow your passions and interests. But before you do, just see if they align with any of the fields of study that employers trip over themselves trying to hire. And see if you can invent your own job by applying your passion to one of those fields.

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