Before you decide on a major or career, maybe you need to weigh all your options, especially in this economy where unemployment rates are high. Kiplinger compiles a well-thought-out list of the best majors.
Many Millennials grew up hearing that they should study what they love. While that's a nice sentiment, it's also landed countless recent grads in quagmires of student debt and unemployment. In today's tough economic climate, some college majors simply offer better prospects than others — and savvy students should want to know the difference.
That's why we came up with our list of the 10 best college majors for your career. We analyzed the unemployment rates and salaries for graduates of the 100 most popular college majors, using data from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce and PayScale.com.
What did we look for? Fields of study with grads — both recent grads within the past five years and those well into their careers — who enjoy an attractive combination of big paychecks and abundant employment opportunities. The undergraduate programs that we ranked can take from two to five years to complete.
Take a peek at our list of the 10 best college majors for your career.
10. Medical Assisting Services
Unemployment rate: 2.9 percent (Average for all grads with a bachelor’s degree: 4.9 percent)
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4 percent (Average for top 100 majors: 7.7 percent)
Median salary: $51,000 (Median for all grads with a bachelor’s: $54,756)
Median salary for recent grads: $43,000 (Median for top 100 majors: $37,000)
Projected job growth for this field, 2010 to 2020: 31 percent (Average: 14 percent)
If you don't mind following doctors' orders, medical assisting is a pretty sweet deal. The average medical assistant with a two-year associate’s degree will enjoy far better job prospects than most grads and earn nearly as much money as a young B.A.-holder. Medical-assisting majors study office administration and basic clinical skills, such as transcription, coding, and lab procedures. They generally work in doctors’ offices, taking patient history, performing basic tests, and tracking insurance and other paperwork as needed.
9. Management Information Systems
Unemployment rate: 4.2 percent
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 7.4 percent
Median salary: $71,000
Median salary for recent grads: $51,000
Projected job growth for this field, 2010 to 2020: 18 percent
Not all computer majors are created equal, contrary to rumor and admissions-office hype. Computer-networking majors, for instance, see 8.2 percent unemployment and a $37,300 salary upon graduation. But management information systems majors can expect high starting salaries right out of school, and strong job and salary growth after that. The major prepares students to work in IT for big organizations — helping clueless technophobes fix their email, sure, but also building, securing, and maintaining a network for an entire company.
8. Construction Services
Unemployment rate: 5.4 percent
Unemployment rate for recent grads: not available
Median salary: $65,000
Median salary for recent grads: $50,200
Projected job growth for this field, 2010 to 2020: 17 percent
Construction services may seem an odd choice in a down economy, when building projects can grind to a halt. Still, there's enough demand for general contractors and construction managers to keep unemployment at a tidy 5.4 percent. Construction-services majors study project scheduling and construction law and go on to oversee projects ranging from office buildings to power plants. The workplace isn't as glamorous as a swanky office, but new construction services grads make more money than new grads in finance, general engineering and pre-law.
7. Medical Technologies
Unemployment rate: 1.4 percent
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4 percent
Median salary: $58,000
Median salary for recent grads: $45,100
Projected job growth for this field, 2010 to 2020: 13 percent
Medical technologists are in serious demand — so serious, in fact, that some hospitals try to tempt recent grads with perks such as sign-on bonuses. In addition to the abundance of employment opportunities, medical-technologies majors can look forward to above-average starting salaries. In school, majors study chemistry, biology, and clinical laboratory skills; after graduation, they work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and diagnostic labs analyzing patient samples.
Read on for more.