Megan Wilkes, 18, has a passion for zoology. But zoology majors, along with those who major in philosophy, art history, humanities and anthropology, are among the least likely to find jobs upon graduation. Not surprisingly, Megan isn’t confident she can find employment as a zoologist, and instead plans to major in education in order to teach high school biology.
But even if Wilkes majors in education, her prospects aren’t secure. A recent MSNBC survey shows that 53% of all college graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. When you consider that most graduates carry about $26,000 in student loan debt, many college graduates find themselves not pursuing their passions and unable to pay back their student loans.
For these reasons, it is more important than ever to be smart about choosing a major. According to Career Explorer, Monster.com and other sources, students are landing jobs and receiving competitive wages in a few disciplines.
Medical Field Careers
The baby boomers are aging, which means their collective health care needs are on the rise. In fact, the number of health care jobs is expected to grow by 22% from 2008 to 2018, creating 3.2 million new jobs. Furthermore, due to the broad nature of the medical field, you should have no problems changing career paths. Here are a few of the hot medical careers:
- Registered Nurse As a registered nurse, you can focus on a range of specialties: pediatrics, intensive care or emergency services, to name a few. And while traditional nursing is viewed as hospital work, registered nurses also work in physicians’ offices, outpatient clinics, patients’ homes and even from their own home doing telephonic nursing. To become a registered nurse requires a four-year degree in nursing and a passing score on a licensing test. Registered nurses have a starting salary of $53,000.
- Physician Assistant More and more, people are becoming physician assistants instead of actual physicians, which is appropriate since the number of physician assistant jobs is expected to grow by 39% in the next 10 years. Physician assistants practice medicine under the direction of a physician and can do many of the same tasks as physicians. While physician assistants make less money than physicians — about $89,000 a year with a starting salary of $77,000 — they typically work fewer and better hours, and only need two years of graduate school in a physician assistant program.
- Nurse Anesthetist A nurse anesthetist, also known as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), assists the anesthesiologist during surgeries and can earn more than primary care physicians — approximately $189,000 per year. The training to become a nurse anesthetist includes becoming a registered nurse and working in an intensive care unit or equivalent for a minimum of a year before going on to a graduate program: either CRNA training or physician assistant training specializing in anesthesiology. Both of these graduate programs require about two years to complete.
If you are interested in the medical field, but the thought of blood is more than you can stand, you are still in luck. It takes a lot more than medical professionals to run the health care industry, and jobs in areas such as health care administration, health information technology and management engineering are also on the rise. Salaries for these positions range from $30,000 to nearly $100,000 annually.
In the financial sector, accounting majors are quickly finding accounting jobs, which are expected to grow by 18% from 2008 to 2018. To find even more success as an accounting major, work towards earning your certified public accountant (CPA) license. Becoming a CPA is a difficult task to undertake and includes getting your bachelor’s degree, working in the industry for a number of hours designated by your state of residence, and passing a series of rigorous tests.
CPAs earn an average of $74,000 a year, and the average entry-level accounting position earns $44,700 a year. Other growing, in-demand financial sector jobs include financial advisors, industrial engineers, actuaries and budget and financial analysts.
A college student most likely can’t go wrong by earning a degree in computer science, as the rate of technology is expected to continue to grow exponentially over the coming decades. Leading the pack for in-demand IT jobs are software developers, with a projected growth rate of 30% from 2008 to 2018 and an average yearly wage of $90,000, with a starting salary of $55,000. In fact, all computer-related jobs are expected to grow by 20% during that time frame.
Other potential careers for computer science majors include network systems and data communications analysts and database administrators, both with projected growth rates of 28%. For greater career security, find a job within the health care industry. A graduate degree is not always necessary.
When choosing a college major, pick one that appears likely to lead to a future that will last — and then find your niche in that field. Taking time to think about this now will be to your benefit when you graduate with a job and a salary to pay back student loans. Consider what you enjoy, but focus your decision on the reality of the major you choose and its ability to sustain you financially and fulfill you professionally.