Which College Degrees Have the Best Job Opportunities?

by Fred Siegmund

There were 1,524,092 BA degree graduates for the year ending June 2007 — the last year of complete data. Graduates with a BA degree show a nearly unbroken increase since the 1960’s.

A total of 22.5 million people received BA degrees in the United States between 1990 and the year ending June 2007. During the same period, the labor force went up by 28.4 million people.

Finishing a BA degree has advantages in the job market regardless of degree program, but some degree programs have many graduates and few job prospects. Published data allows matching BA degrees with new jobs and job openings.

Degrees Don’t Always Translate Into Jobs

Take psychology, a major with a BA degree-job mismatch. There were 90,039 BA degrees in psychology in the year ending June 2007, but no jobs using, or needing, psychology skills that do not require a master’s or doctoral degree; definitely a mismatch of degrees and jobs.

Computer and Information Sciences totaled 260,688 BA degrees in 10 degree programs for the 5 years ending June 2007. In the 5 years ending June 2008, jobs needing BA degree skills in computer science are up 360,740; a much better match of degrees to jobs.

In the same period, engineering had 325,212 BA degrees in 34 programs compared to 340,940 new jobs. Even though new engineering jobs are more than degrees, openings for new college graduates were much more because people retire and must be replaced.

Engineering continues to be an employable major.

Communications and Journalism programs had 360,200 BA degrees in 8 degree programs in the 5 years ending 2007, a time when newspapers and television are cutting back on jobs.

Job prospects here are not hopeless, but journalism has many more job seekers than jobs.

Social sciences, history, area and ethnic studies, multidisciplinary studies, liberal arts and general studies have over 16 percent of BA degrees in the year ending June 2007, and roughly 250,000 degrees in just the latest year. English and foreign languages have almost 5 percent of degrees in 2007, which is 75,000 degrees.

Few jobs outside of teaching apply social science and language skills directly; the few that do require graduate degrees. Teaching positions continue to grow, making it a good idea for anyone doing degree programs in social science to finish the requirements for a teaching certificate.

The Degrees With Jobs in Waiting

The life and physical sciences have 96,000 BA degrees in the year ending in June 2007, but better non-teaching job opportunities, especially chemistry and biology.

The chemical industry and pharmaceutical industries hire BA chemists, and testing labs and science research firms also hire entry chemists.

Research labs and testing firms hire biology technicians and the government needs wildlife biologists and zoologists.

Health science BA degrees tend to have jobs waiting. Health professions and clinical sciences had 419,625 BA degrees in 34 programs in the 5 years ending June 2007 compared to 478,830 new jobs in just 14 nursing, therapy and technician occupations.

Finally, business programs totaled 1,557,841 BA degrees in 21 degree programs in the 5 years ending June 2007. The BA in business is turning into admission to an MBA program rather than a business career.

Worse, managerial jobs are down from just over eight million in the late 1990’s to barely 6 million now. An accounting degree or BA in finance or information systems is the best major for career entry for BA students.

Lately, news reports question the worth of a college investment. Job and wage data makes it certain the college still pays, especially for those attending state supported junior and senior colleges.

Matching a program of study to today’s job market will make it pay more.

(photo: Rennett Stowe)

About the author: Fred Siegmund covers America's jobs as part of work doing labor market analysis and projections for a client base of recruiters, trainers and counselors. Visit him at www.americanjobmarket.blogspot.com

Previous post:

Next post: