If you arrive to college seeking out the most marketable undergraduate degrees you’re missing the point of school. It’s far more worthwhile in the long and short run to choose a college major based on what will get you a good job afterwards. It’s more rewarding to get a degree in something you enjoy learning about and your GPA might be higher if you’re interested in what you’re learning.
It’s undeniable that not all degrees are equal in the job market. According to the June 2011 report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in government, management consulting, architecture, engineering, and financial activities in banking, insurance and real estate were all up. In addition, the health care industry has had an increase of 27,000 jobs from May to April.
This doesn’t provide a whole picture since many industries with slight net changes already control a fairly large part of the market. For example, information technology or anything involving computers is projected to be down 0.45% over the course of a year but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a big market. Education is also always hiring because there will always be kids who need to be educated and there’s always high turnover in the department.
The above-mentioned list of majors is also confusing because industries like management consulting or the health care industry don’t really direct you very well towards a college major.
It might help, therefore, to divide industries into specialized and non-specialized jobs. Engineering and architecture are very specialized industries, and since we know they’re both going strong, it’s a relative no-brainer if you like those fields to major in them. Graphic design is another such industry that’s very specialized and has plenty of use in the real world.
It goes without saying that since the vast majority of organizations that employ you are in the business of making money, studying the art of money or business school is a highly marketable route. There was a monthly gain of 17.8 thousand more jobs in accounting and bookkeeping. This goes to show that economics is seen as slightly more theoretical and slightly less marketable, for example, then business administration, marketing or finance.
Beyond that, some degrees are more valuable with practical applications or technological components. For example, among the humanities, geography is useful because many multinational corporations along with industries in construction and resource extraction require people to use GIS technology for development purposes and to make decisions. History or the classics are too majors that are far less useful although museums hire history majors as curators. To that degree, geography has specialized applications that translate directly into an industry.
The non-specialized industries consist of jobs like working for a non-profit, law firm (as a paralegal) or large administration. The government and politics is also not particularly specialized. There are poly-sci majors working on Capitol Hill but people there have a variety of backgrounds.
A lot of these jobs are general office jobs that require you to know an organization well which can’t necessarily be taught in college. The work involves a hodgepodge of administrative tasks and they generally hire on work experience.
A variety of degrees work but english and communication can usually be seen as valuable as you’ll have to do a lot of correspondence. A degree in a foreign language (in many parts of the U.S., especially Spanish) is incredibly useful here as it gives you a leg up for when your organization or company needs to deal with bilingual clients.
Lastly, a lot of college degrees lead to jobs if you combine them with the right graduate degree. Even a degree in history, for example, can be combined with a master’s in historic preservation which would enable you to work in a city planning department. In this case, one needs to plan for an undergraduate degree that will make oneself fully prepared for grad school.