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Top Majors and Top Careers

What are the top ten college majors? Hint: Guess and then do a seach. Do any of these majors match your career goals? After graduation, what are the top ten highest paying entry level careers? Does this information affect your career goals?

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abnormalalien's picture

Top 10

As far as I know the sciences are a big hit for college majors! But I see a lot of Business, Art, and Education majors as well. I'd say; Biology, Business, Chemistry, Anthropology, Computer Science, Information Technology, Art, Elementary Education, Nursing, and Psychology are the most common majors. According to Princeton Review, I guessed 6 out of 10. Can you guess more?

JamieS86's picture

 The top major at my

 The top major at my university in terms of number of people is psychology. I originally guessed English or Business, but no, it's psych. It's strange, though, because very few people actually go on to careers in psychology or mental health.

 I think psychology is one of those things people get interested in enough to study for a while, but not spend their career on.

 As far as top majors in terms of jobs and earnings, I haven't looked it up but I would guess computer science, engineering, and maybe business. My guess is the sciences and technical degrees rank near the top and the humanities near the bottom.

java602's picture

A lot of people are going

A lot of people are going into education fields with the goal of becoming teachers.  A few years ago, this would have been a solid career choice, but the United States education system is kind of in turmoil right now.  There are fewer jobs available now.  I am concerned that people who want to become teachers will not be able to find work once they graduate college.  I understand the motivation behind wanting to become a teacher, as many of my friends want to enter the field, but it might be good to have a back of plan to earn income until you can find a teaching
job. 

bandella's picture

Teaching

java602 wrote:



A lot of people are going into education fields with the goal of becoming teachers. A few years ago, this would have been a solid career choice, but the United States education system is kind of in turmoil right now. There are fewer jobs available now. I am concerned that people who want to become teachers will not be able to find work once they graduate college. I understand the motivation behind wanting to become a teacher, as many of my friends want to enter the field, but it might be good to have a back of plan to earn income until you can find a teaching job.



Yep, absolutely true. This is probably even more frightening for people going on to Ph.D. programs. As a history major, I've heard this over and over again: be prepared to take pretty much any teaching job you can get once you graduate with your Ph.D., because there are so very many recent graduates but so few positions available. As a result, many of my professors have suggested specializing in fields that are really starting to take off; still using history as an example, this would pretty much mean anything but American and European history. In particular, Asian, Latin American, Middle East, and African history are all rapidly growing fields and really mark your best bet for landing a good job after graduating.

Another option, especially if you're dead set on teaching American history, is to go abroad. Obviously this isn't an option for everyone, but if you're single without a family to support, this is a great way not only to teach what you love, but to completely immerse yourself in another culture. Who doesn't dream about one day living in a foreign country? Then, if you choose to come back, that experience will make you stand out from the people you're competing with for a job, especially if you picked up a new language along the way.

JamieS86's picture

 Hey Java,  I don't really

 Hey Java,

 I don't really know how difficult it is at the moment for an education major to get a job, but I do think we are going to have to start being more selective and increase pay and benefits if we want to improve our public education system. Just don't know if and when that will actually happen. . .

 If you want to teach high school or lower, having a graduate degree can really help. It isn't required for most schools, but there are private and charter schools that seek out people with advanced degrees to be teachers. Having a graduate degree doesn't necessarily make you a better teacher in that subject, but coupled with some education courses it can really help.

bandella's picture

US public education is a bit

US public education is a bit of a joke. Teachers are overworked with 30 students or more per class, and the boards responsible for deciding what content goes into textbooks need serious overhaul. The Texas BOE has a major influence on the purchasing standards of the rest of the country, which doesn't make sense on its own; even worse is that the Texas BOE is extremely conservative and nationalistic.

It's one thing to be patriotic; I think everyone should be able to feel pride and love for their country. It's something else entirely to promote xenophobia and borderline racist agendas, or to rewrite American history to minimize the roles minorities have played in shaping the nation.

Teachers are often working with their hands tied in that respect, simply because they're expected to follow state guidelines that are more about inculcating a certain point of view than teaching children how to think and reason for themselves, or showing them that not everything is as black and white as some textbooks claim.

America is a multicultural nation that should celebrate its many different social groups rather than try to force them all to conform to a single "true" narrative. Maybe I'm just a naive idealist, who knows. But whatever is going on in the education system today obviously isn't working, when kids graduate high school at a fifth-grade reading level and still believe the moon landings were all fake.

navyatha's picture

Engineering

The top major in my university was the chemical engineering program, which was ranked 9th in the united states. So, yeah, I took chemical engineering. But, I did meet some friends in economics, political science and business majors. I know history major is one of the popular majors, but my friend complained about the job situation for history majors, especially now that the economy is low. She was frustrated with landing an internship also. My situation can't say was great. Jobs for chemical engineering are good. But, it didn't concern me, because I was new to the major, and most companies don't offer internship or jobs for international students. While at career fairs, I noticed there were tons of internships and job openings for finance, business and economic majors.

TiffanyHayes's picture

Interesting

That's crazy, because my friend has a psychology degree, and is unable to find work, aside from starting her own practice, which I think is probably her best bet. I think the health sciences are leading the way, as far as the number of people entering into them for financial reasons. Registered Nurse Anesthetists make a killing, and are thought to even be surpassing the salaries of primary care physicians in the United States,

It's sad that more and more people are choosing career paths based on salary alone, but its a fact that education is about the only way to survive this struggling economy.

TiffanyHayes's picture

I completely agree

There are a lot of public debates and issues regarding the salaries of teachers in the United States. Truth is, with the Quality of teaching as it is for many of the students who are graduating, as the above poster stated, I don't believe they are earning a salary increase. Pay is often times based on performance. In this way we all, as professionals, strive to be the best we can be. Not all teachers, of course, but many are providing substandard quality education to our students and demanding higher pay. This is unbelievable. When our children begin learning the way they used to when teaching was revered, I believe we should spend time debating their salary.

onlinerewardz's picture

Top ten paying majors

  1. Petroleum engineers focus basically on building tools to increase the extraction and production of petroleum products. Their starting salary is usually between $90,000 to $95,000 a year.
  2. Aerospace engineer they design, operate,trouble shoot and maintain air and space travelling vessels.they may also record and analyze flights record.their yearly income ranges between. 55,000 to 60,000 dollars for a start.
  3. Chemical engineers are involved in the manufacturing of different chemical products.they work in the factories and apply different chemical techniques in other to convert chemical raw materials into finished goods.their salary ranges from $62,000 to $70,000 for a start.
  4. Electrical engineers;they design,operate,troubleshoot and maintain electric component and equipment.and their starting salary ranges from $55,000 to $65,000 per annum.
  5. Nuclear engineers ;they carry out research on different ways of utilizing energy from nuclear reactions and their salaries ranges from $62,000 to $68,000 for a start.
  6. Applied mathematics; According to the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), there are dozens of career options available to students with degrees in applied mathematics. Emerging fields include data mining, digital imaging, finance and economics, bio-informatics, environmental science and even climatology. Some fields may require a graduate degree for advancement, but the salaries listed above are currently available to students who only hold a bachelor's degree. Starting salary ranges between $55,000 to $60,000
  7. Biomedical engineer - Starting salaries ranges from 50,000 to 55,000
  8. Physics - Starting salary ranges from 48,000 to 53,000 dollars
  9. Computer engineerin - Startine salaries ranges from $58,000 to $65,000
  10. Economics - Starting salaries ranges from $45,000 to 50,000

Note this may not be very accurate, but it is a good estimate of what a fresh graduate would be earning if employed.

 

wedge1020's picture

Computer Science as a career gateway

Although I took Computer Science out of an interest in computers and programming, I've noticed a hidden value in this often misunderstood degree that bears mentioning.

When you're looking for that ideal job, there's a few attributes of thinking involved with any career (or positions of promotion within a career). People who have taken a management course may be familiar with some of these concepts. For example, management teaches an information triangle divided into 3 components:

1. Large bottom section. This is where the bulk of workers finds themselves. Assembly line, code monkey, wait staff, cubicle dweller. The work performed by individuals in this class is very structured (i.e. the tasks performed are very repetitious, repeatable, or easily reproducible-- you can document how you do your job and someone else can follow those directions and accomplish such tasks). Structured work often carries a high amount of certainty when performing (but is often subject to the uncertainty of job security, because of the relative ease of replacement). These are the people producing the actual produce, generating the actual data, and carrying out the processes of the business.

2. Middle trapezoid. This consists of your middle management, perhaps some analysts, your business intelligence types. These individuals, while still performing some structured work, increasingly deal with more and more unstructured (i.e. less certain) work. Projecting short term trends, seeing the production output numbers and improving efficiency, and generally improving business processes to maximize productivity, profit, and perseverance of the business (generally in the short term). These work processes cannot be exactly documented, because there's a fair bit of abstraction involved. You never quite know what will happen from week to week, as your responses may depend upon the data produced or the results of various sales figures. So these people work with the data and metrics produced by the producers to see if the business is going in the right direction.

3. Finally, you've got the elite top triangle (very small)... this will be your so-called "senior management" (at least, theoretically)... or the people who work on unstructured tasks constantly. 3-5 year long-term strategies. These people don't have much in the way of hard numbers to validate their decisions, so instead they must trust their gut instincts and predict what may be the correct direction to take. Absolutely undocumentable, as it requires an understanding and constant application of strategy, where one person's decision may vary greatly from another's based on the same data sources, with equally different justifications. A high amount of abstraction is needed, as there are so many potential variables and uncertainties.

Computer Science, as a discipline, focuses on the concepts of computing. Not necessarily computing as in hardware computers, but computing as in calculating and decision making (we just happen to use computers a lot, as they make good tools for letting us experiment without decision making strategies). Computer Science is awash in abstraction, requiring lots of abstract thinking and variable juggling to interact with its important concepts. While you can write a program to solve a specific task, learning how to express your solution is the act of describing the actions you wish for the computer to take (often times based on actual data, other times based on various stimuli). Computer Science is often considered so difficult by so many because it requires a development of unstructured thinking skills (it is just the computers themselves that require specific instruction!).

I've run into many individuals who pursued degrees in Computer Science not to go into a computing or IT career, but to go into management, or run their own business, or teach, to extend their philosophy background, or to become a better engineer.

So as you're thinking about potential careers, don't just look at the career, look at what that career has you doing, and what directions you might potentially go with that career, and ask yourself- are you getting the necessary background exposure to thinking? You might be well-served, if you don't pursue an entire degree in Computer Science, try to take at least take a couple of courses. A basic problem-solving and programming course is likely a necessary prerequisite to the more abstract but useful courses in Data Structures (how to arrange stuff to work better), Analysis of Algorithms (a more theoretical way of looking at how to arrange stuff to work better), and Theory of Computing (a lower and more abstract way of analyzing processes and what goes into a decision).

Just because Computer Science has the word "Computer" in its title, doesn't mean it is just about Computers.

betterintheory's picture

Nursing

Simply because of the economy in the shape it is right now, I have decided to go back to attend nursing school. It's one of those jobs that there will always be a demand for. Sure, we will always need engineers, that is a great degree to end up with. But so many people now are coming out of school with a history degree, or an English degree and they can't find a job to make use of it. It's very important in this day in age to make sure you have a job lined up before you get a degree in something worthless.

jsherm101's picture

To say there's a "top ten"

To say there's a "top ten" based on the stats of other colleges, other people, and other worlds is just silly. You're much better off simply by going by what interests you and building a top ten from that.

But, on the topic itself, let me just say a major should be one that is universally accepted as a valued trade OR capable for you to enter a niche with. Why? A skill-based major (such as Computer Science) allows you present yourself as efficient and capable to apply tasks and accomplish goals, something every employer will want. It's also just a trade that is more likely to generate revenue and needs than more aesthetic majors where several may apply to one job.

A niche, on the other hand, will allow you to become an expert in a single field and become a value to someone who needs exactly what you serve. It may be more difficult to find a job, but the security is much greater than the cookie-cutter environments.

In the end though, follow your heart, the money should follow!

wedge1020's picture

Niche/Specialized vs. General

While a niche skill certainly has some advantages, it is equally limiting in that if the market for such skills dries up, you're effectively out of a job and out of marketable skills to get another job. For example, knowing how to program in COBOL used to be a very specific and marketable skill. Everyone used to use COBOL, and there are still a bunch of applications written in it. As the years went on, other languages and tools began being used, and the market for COBOL programmers dried up.

Many of these individuals did not have degrees or backgrounds in Computer Science, they just had experience in COBOL. So while for many years they commanded high salaries and high demand, once that foundation wore away (ie nobody actually needed COBOL programmers anymore), there was a huge surplus of COBOL programmers on the market any no employers interested in people with those skills. These people didn't receive the necessary theory that more general disciplines like Computer Science would provide, enabling more effective adaptation and rehirability.

Computer Science, while it might be mistaken for a skill-based major, is actually anything but. You don't learn specific skills (ie programming languages) as the focus of the major, you happen to pick them up because you've learned to use them to better explore the theory. Computer Science is in many ways a form of philosophy, just applied more in the direction of problem solving and processing (perhaps a bit more on the objective-side of the quality scale). As such, because there's always a need for technology and people to create, operate, and maintain such techology, a background in Computer Science will be of utmost value, because you can understand at a conceptual level how something works and can easily pick up specific skills on a particular piece of technology.

If you took a more IT approach, you'd typically learn specific skills about specific tools (typically whatever is perceived as the most marketable at the time of study). So IT majors would be more skill-based. Perhaps more immediately hirable out of the door, but as technology changes, their skillset ages and generally is more inflexible.

Computer Science majors might have to invest some time honing their skills to a specific niche, but they have the background to learn it, and the flexibility to adapt. One of the difficulties many people have with Computer Science is that they think it is repetitious and "cookie-cutter"-like... this couldn't be farther from the truth.

So, my point again is, when you're considering a major, be sure to consider the long-term implications of your decision. A major that currently and specifically addresses a current hot trend might pay off in the short term, but 5-10 years down the road when it might dry up, then what? To invest for the long term and have a flexible set of skills I'd think is the ultimate form of job security.

MrFinance's picture

Top 10

abnormalalien wrote:

As far as I know the sciences are a big hit for college majors! But I see a lot of Business, Art, and Education majors as well. I'd say; Biology, Business, Chemistry, Anthropology, Computer Science, Information Technology, Art, Elementary Education, Nursing, and Psychology are the most common majors. According to Princeton Review, I guessed 6 out of 10. Can you guess more?

I will play devil's advocate here and say that out of all the majors, you said only Computer Science, Information Technology and nursing are top majors for undergrad.

Just about all the other majors you have mentioned really require an additional graduate degree to really have any real-world value to them, so that would mean they aren't top undergrad degrees. 

But again maybe we all have different views of what top majors are, it really is subjective.  If your point is that a lot of people study those majors, and that makes them top then I can see your point.  The only thing I would dispute is that a lot of people in undergrad study computer science as compared to the other majors you mentioned.

 

jsherm101's picture

All Majors lead to a spectrum

All Majors lead to a spectrum of jobs - no specific career or vocation. I'm an English Major (For example) but will be pursuing a law degree in the Law School probably at Brooklyn College in a few years.

My point is of course that the University Experience is one that is less vocational and more educational for discipline / liberalizing ideas. It's the concept of thinking new things and focusing on the future that will bring great futures - not just being prepared for a single, solid career.

 

Long story short, we need to be educating people to be thinkers and action-makers - not just people who  can run machines and follow tasks. Hence why college should be liberalizing, and be open ended for career choices / final top jobs.

 

But Law / medical preparatory isn't bad at all :P especially when you consider the number of years involved to accomplish the task.

ViCairo's picture

To my Knowledge

Software and Mechanical Engineering majors are extremely popular considering that they have one of the best-paid majors and are increasing in demand when I think about it. Yes, Psychology is popular as well as Education, but when you think about it, most news with regard to those two majors do not end with people getting paid or in high demand.

Business is another one as well as Criminal Justice. Political Science, and Nursing. My future profession does match with one of the following, that is in Psychology as well as Art. Art is considered a somewhat popular major, although this field is extremely competitive and brutal as well as difficult to gain steady income with a reputation to attract rather disagreeable customers.

Once I wanted to pursue Education, however, after researching more on that field, I found that I did not exactly want to pursue the careers that followed it, being a teacher sounded nice, really it did, but considering the amount of difficulty managing a classroom full of children, commanding respect and displaying good examples as well as leadership skills in order to inform clearly the next generation of the lessons they need in order to survive. It sounded nice, but was not what I actually wanted to do. 

SarahFord94's picture

Nursing

Although I don’t intend to become one myself, nurses are in high demand. I once saw an ad by a hospital back east inviting nurses to day of fun at the hospital. The nurses were supposed to show up and spend the day doing activities and participating in drawings. This way, the hospital staff could get to know them and decide which ones to invite to apply. This is how desperate they were for nurses.

The nursing field is one of the few careers available that the positions aren't in higher demand than the workers. In today’s economy, that is very rare and should be taken advantage of. Nursing is a fairly easy profession to get into, but the pay is good and the health insurance would be cheap and better than what most people get. It’s a good way to break in to the medical field for a fraction of the cost and schooling.

While nursing is not the most profitable out there, it will provide a steady income in unsteady times.  It’s a smart move since it won’t cost a small fortune for schooling, and it offers the guarantee of work and a stable lifestyle.

wedge1020's picture

Nursing is high-demand and high-turnover

Granted, not being a nurse this is more second-hand knowledge, but of the people I do know who are in the nursing field, I'd have to say the field is both in high demand AND high turnover.

For those personalities that like something new every few months or years, nursing would seem to offer an exceptional opportunity to do what you love (nursing) and not exercise fidelity toward a particular employer. Where I live there are easily 4 full-service hospitals within 30 minutes of one another... nurses are constantly hopping between these institutions, and departments within the institutions. This isn't directly a bad thing... although I guess there can also be a lot of politics that goes on behind the scenes as well.

But, with the high-demand, the nurses aren't punished for jumping ship. They know they've got the qualifications and their services are needed, so if they're not happy in one setting, they can easily jump to another.

There also seems to be a higher variety of working shifts as well-- the typical daytime, but also nighttime, and also 12-hour days (I know some people who work in nursing and prefer to work three 12-hour days, giving them 4 days off a week).

PYETwentyTwelve's picture

Discovering some other hot college majors in 2011 - 2012

Biomedical Engineering – The body's system is bond to break down from age and wear and tear, and biomedical engineers apply engineering science and technology to come up with fixes to help the body to sustain longer.

Computer game design – This major includes game production, development, design, art, programming, computer graphics, and human-computer interaction.

Environmental studies/sustainability – As long as the issues with the environment are in the forefront of our ever-changing world, there will be a need in the areas of energy, water, food, and the climate.

Health informatics/Information management - The need is huge for professionals who can help acquire, manage, and use information to improve health and manage payments. This profession is kind of a bridge between clinicians and IT professionals.  For those students who want to learn about the administrative side of the medical field this is a good path to take without much patient contact.

Homeland security - This has to be among the fastest-growing educational disciplines in recent memory, says Stanley Supinski, director of partnership programs for the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Of the more than 300 programs that have sprouted since 9/11, about 75 lead to undergraduate degrees.

Information assurance/cyber security –With the rise in more usage of computers information assurance students learn about the technical aspects of protecting computer systems, networks, and individual computers from viruses, worms, hackers, terrorist threats, and corporate espionage.

Nanotechnology - Nanotechnology-based medicines promise to send toxic drugs straight to tumors, and the technology could be the key to more energy-efficient fuel cells, solar panels, and batteries, and to environmental cleanup.

New media - Colleges are offering different courses under the new media umbrella, combining traditional journalism or communications studies with offerings in digital media and design technology.

Public health - With the rise of natural disasters, resistance to new medicines and healthcare reform, the call for public health experts will be in demand.

These up and coming majors are from the U.S. News & World Report (Education):

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/09/19/discover-9-hot-college-majors

Denia

iracquel's picture

In my opinion, as long as you

In my opinion, as long as you are happy with what you are doing, then that is what is important as far as a career is concerned. It is along those lines that I personally intend to choose my major. But since happiness will not buy food for my family and pay my bills, I will give a list of the most marketable/ highly paying majors today according to the Huffington post, a highly reliable source :)

1. Petroleum Engineering: It ranks first with a pay of approximately Starting Median Pay: $97,900 Mid-Career Median Pay: $155,000 ( I didn't even know such a course existed, hmm.... )

2. Chemical Engineering: Comes second with a starting median pay $64,500 Mid-Career Median Pay: $109,00

3. Third is Electrical Engineering: Pays as follows, Starting Median Pay: $61,300 Mid-Career Median Pay: $103,000 (Seems like the engineers really have it better than all of us )

4. Materials Science and Engineering (whoever invented this course): Starting Median Pay: $60,400 Mid-Career Median Pay: $103,000.

5. Aerospace Engineering: Starting Median Pay: $60,700 Mid-Career Median Pay: $102,000

6. Computer Engineering: Starting Median Pay: $61,800 Mid-Career Median Pay: $101,000

7. Physics: Starting Median Pay: $49,800 Mid-Career Median Pay: $101,000

8. Applied Mathematics: Starting Median Pay: $52,600 Mid-Career Median Pay: $98,600 (Hurrah for Mathematicians out there!! :)

9. Computer Science: Starting Median Pay: $56,600 Mid-Career Median Pay: $97,900

10. And finally, Nuclear Engineering: Starting Median Pay: $65,100 Mid-Career Median Pay: $97,800

....Either the writer has an engineering firm and is using this evil plot to convince people to major in engineering and work for him in the future, or we should all be engineers so as to pocket big bucks....life sucks when engineers get all the cash :(

...this will teach you to always do your math homework...it pays...and it pays real good!

Astepcloser's picture

At my own university,

At my own university, education is definitely one of the top majors. Just about all of my friends up here at college, are doing something that is education related. Another popular major is business. There are a lot of different fields that business majors can get into. And the third most common major at my college would probably be communications/journalism.

If you are looking at all colleges and universities as a whole, the followings are all pretty popular....engineering (computer/mechanical/etc.), mathematics, computer science and medical fields.

I would have to say that the major that I have chosen is doing pretty well on the payroll lists of most of the websites I have reviewed! Hopefully, that is a sign for me.

murkyzephyr's picture

class sizes

Of course, it's true that bad teachers are being lumped in with everyone else, and schools are firing people to cut costs if they can. But it's also true that class sizes are always brought up when discussing how to improve the education system. If the country gets more serious than it already is about increasing the value of primary and high school education, then teachers will be in higher demand as schools try to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes.

The best way to make sure you're hired after school is to be a great teacher, since you'll be more likely to be hired by being a more effective instructor, and when the school--like any company--looks to cut costs, they'll start with the less productive teachers first. Even then, the worst-case scenario is working at a school where teachers are always in demand, and solid teachers can always teach their students regardless of the area. If there's nothing else to be said for the teaching degree, it's a career-oriented college pathway, rather than the less directed, less productive majors in the arts and humanities, which--for all their benefits--often end up drawing in the students who simply don't want to do any work (not the kind of people who go into teaching to begin with). 

murkyzephyr's picture

attrition

While it's true that nurses can easily transfer from hospital to hospital in a given area or even region, it's also true that any hospital jobs carry with them the risk of attrition--more so than, say, a job without patients who may end up dying on your time (and, rightly or wrongly, nurses as well as doctors can end up blaming themselves). Though if someone has already worked in a hospital and still wants to be a nurse, it's probably a good sign, they're comfortable with the psychological and emotional risks involved with becoming an RN.

Compared with something like banking, most people in nursing school probably know what they're going to get, since the field isn't nearly as romanticized--though the medical profession as a whole is, nursing seems like the next step down from doctor, and so would carry a detriment to people looking to have an unreasonably high self-image (who gravitate towards banking without knowing what it requires, towards medical school without knowing what it requires, and so on--things they see on television without doing the research). As such, nurses who've stuck with it probably have a good shot at enjoying their work, and do indeed have the flexible hours and work locations for a productive and satisfying choice. 

murkyzephyr's picture

best practices

One of the values of a career-oriented major (nursing, communications, finance, etc.) is that it transmits the knowledge from people in the field or people studying the field to better prepare students for the world they're about to enter. I wholeheartedly applaud this, but I would raise questions as to the value of a college education other than this technical preparation--couldn't this career training take place alongside a more structured program in the humanities, or even science?

Of course these questions are largely irrelevant from the perspective of the college administrators, most of whom probably would structure such a two-track (or three-track, if science is included) system for people who want to read for four years and people who want to learn how to better become parts of the workforce (or a combination of both for the sciences). But even if the only change is for the people on the technical track, a partial system of majors--or a system of only technical minors--would encourage people already set on a given field to explore the big questions of life, and might move some of the people in the purely literary fields to better prepare for life after college (and in the sciences, the major is usually one in both, leaning towards technical preparation). 

murkyzephyr's picture

nursing is up, education could break either way

Nursing has been in greater demand in recent years, and teachers will be in greater demand if the reform movement grows legs and migrates out of centralized urban areas. Nursing is up because people always get sick, and the older you get, the more frequently sick you get--the elderly are also at a much higher risk for all sorts of crippling if not life-ending conditions, and nurses are always needed to care for them. Since the baby-boomers are graying, they'll boost demand for nurses greatly, and already have.

Education may break either way, however, since the reform movement is currently localized to cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. If the reform movement spreads throughout the country, things like class sizes will come into sharp relief, and the school administrators will start looking for more teachers to teach classes, so the class sizes will be lower. If, however, the debt and deficit become more important issues, things like education will be cut in order to pay down the debt, and class sizes will seem irrelevant compared to the seemingly larger national problem.

Nursing is definitely the safer bet, but 30 years from now may be in much less demand, while education is always a field which needs employees. 

murkyzephyr's picture

mostly agree

It's important to make sure you have a job lined up, but it's equally important to make sure you can do that job well once you have it. Someone can study a theoretical major like English and be unable to write articles, or may study a "big tent" major like economics and not be able to productively balance a budget.

Developing skills in college is important, of course, but the pure amount of knowledge you can gain will be important in translating those skills into productive activity in the workforce. The opposite is true, as well--someone can know everything there is to know about a field, and be practically unable to translate that knowledge into productive action because he or she doesn't know how the information fits together, in reality.

A balance of the two is necessary to ensure you can be productive, and anyone in any major can accomplish this--the kinds of people who go into history or literatures are usually the same kinds of people who aren't interested in the workplace to begin with, so it's unsurprising they end up unable to find jobs, both for lack of expertise and for lack of research into the companies. They can always get jobs in writing and history, but since they were unfocused on the jobs' market, it's more difficult to do this. 

murkyzephyr's picture

income and lifestyle

It's true that nursing offers a good income and lifestyle, but as more and more people choose nursing, it's questionable whether more efficient medical treatment, less funding for hospitals, and the uneven number of patients in the future (before and after the baby boomers) may make nursing itself impractical in the long-term. In the next 30 years, it seems like the increase in the number of patients needing treatment would outpace both the increased efficiency in medical care and funding shortfalls for hospitals. But once those patients drop out of the system, the funding cuts and productivity gains will bite for the existing nurses, and for doctors and all hospital staff as well. Since nursing provies a stable income and good lifestyle, it may be advisable for all nursing students to use these advantages to build up a high savings pool and pursue further education after college using the free time and flexible hours available with a nursing career. Compared to the engineers bubble a few decades ago, nurses have both the good income and the high amount of free time to position themselves favorably for the snapback in healthcare demand 20-30 years from now, whereas the engineers had much more demanding schedules and couldn't readjust. 

murkyzephyr's picture

Commentary--Biomedical Engineering

Biomediclal Engineering -- it seems like this has the potential to be a bubble, and it largely depends on whether developments made in the next few years can translate into productive advances in medical care. Some certainly have the potential to transform healthcare, such as the toxin delivery system for tumors, but it does seem a bit too much like science fiction to have wide-ranging impact over the next few years, at least. Predictions about the future, especially involving technology, are difficult to make, as the internet was initially poorly understood on the one hand, but cars function essentially as they did in 1945. Medical care seems to be more like cars, at least today, in that it has received and benefited from several technological advances, but most of the advances were in the development of treatments and the understanding of the body itself, rather than delivering existing drugs more effectively. That's not to say biomedical engineering won't completely transform medicine--it probably will, one day--but it's questionable whether someone majoring in biomedical engineering in college today isn't walking into a speculative bubble as science departments try to break through with a number of treatments and delivery systems, only to have one or two of them go on and continue to be tweaked 5-10 years from now. 

murkyzephyr's picture

Commentary--Computer Game Design

While it's true computer games have exploded in popularity over the past decade, it's questionable how much of this field has been dominated by a few companies re-making the same game over and over again and building a fan base. Smaller companies can have breakout hits, of course, but by and large the companies which end up hiring are the same companies which are expanding and have usually dominated the market--past a certian point, they'll only hire to replace the workers who retire, switch to another large company, or switch careers entirely. Programmers and game designers currently at a large company may have an easier time staying there, and their skills can be transferred to another company is the one company has financial problems, as would be the case in any other field. But because computer games are largely a luxury item, an economic downturn generally means luxuries are the first to be cut from household budgets, and so computer game programmers and designers are especially vulnerable to downsizing as companies try to weather the economic storm. If a programmer or game designer can land on a high-value franchise, however, they may be able to become part of the heart of the company, which is almost never downsized.