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15 In-demand Careers and their College Majors

As much as you may love college life, it comes to an end eventually. You may be enthralled by medieval literature, the life cycle of the banana slug or your hot neighbor in the dorms, but it’s important to keep your eventual career in your sights. Here are a few of the fastest growing job markets and the undergraduate majors that lead into them.

1. Computer programmer - Maybe you find yourself tweaking your blog all night. Or, perhaps you care how games like Guitar Hero and WoW actually work. If this sounds like you, consider a career in computer science. To become a software engineer, network administrator or computer programmer, you’ll need a computer science degree. Expect a lot of lower-division math work—and an eventual base salary around $50,000.

2. Physical or occupational therapist - Sports minded? If you’re strong in biology and physiology, consider majoring in physical therapy, kinesiology or exercise science. The aging Baby Boomer population ensures a growing healthcare market, and a licensed physical therapy assistant starts at about $45,000 a year. Becoming a licensed physical therapist can bring you about $75,000 a year, but you’ll typically need a master’s degree in physical therapy for that.

3. Nurse or physician’s assistant - If you’re interested in medicine but are turned off by med school, consider these jobs, which require less training. A registered nurse needs only a two-year degree in a nursing program to earn about $65,000 a year. A physician’s assistant job requires a little more training: a pre-med bachelor’s degree or a B.S. in Nursing, followed by a specialized three-year degree. If that seems like as much trouble as med school, consider this: Business 2.0 magazine projects that the need for physician’s assistants will grow by 50% in the next seven years.

4. Librarian - If you combine a love of books with tech savvy, library science may be the major for you. The internet boom and a large number of retiring librarians has increased the need for librarians to aid in navigating the information maze. Along with your four-year degree, most librarian jobs ask for a three-year Master’s in Library Science. It’s not the fastest growing job market on this list, but consider the peaceful work environment and great hours.

5. Pharmacist and pharmacy assistant - The role of pharmacists is evolving. They now spend less time filling prescriptions and more time interacting with patients, teaching them to inject insulin and administering flu shots, and pill counting is often delegated to assistants. The Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which will put you in line for a $95,000 salary, only requires a two-year degree in order to enter, but most pharmacists enter the program with at least three years of school. To prepare, study pre-med, biology or chemistry as an undergrad.

6. School psychologist - Touchy-feely and tough love types are equally needed as increases in ADHD and autism diagnoses have lead to a boom in school psychologist jobs. Major in psychology, pre-med or physiology, and expect to enter a graduate program. Once hired, you’ll work just nine months of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. School psychologists make about $65,000.

7. Engineer - Engineers come in flavors like civil, electrical, aerospace and electrical. You’ll need strong math, science and computer skills. Be warned—your four year degree could turn into a five or six year process. But you can earn between $50,000 and $70,000 with a B.S. degree in any of the above.

8. Fundraiser/development director - If you’ve got the gift of gab, consider a fundraising job. Non-profit and political organizations need people to communicate with donors, host charity events and coordinate PR campaigns to bring in the cash. Management and business majors are the best candidates, with political science and communications majors close behind. The median salary for experienced fundraisers is $78,000.

9. College professor - A growing number of 18 to 24-year-olds in the U.S. population means a need for college professors in the coming years. The good news? Pick your favorite major. The bad news? You’ll need to pursue it all the way to a doctorate. If you land a tenure-track position, the average pay is about $73,000 a year.

10. Medical scientist - You’re as logical as Spock or Sherlock Holmes, and you love the laboratory. You should be a medical scientist. This job market will grow about 34% in the next few years due to an aging U.S. population and increases in federal medical research funding, according to Business 2.0 magazine. Major in biology, chemistry, or physiology, and you can enter the field with just a bachelor’s. But you’ll make more money—about $100,000 a year—if you get a PhD.

11. Clergy - Surprisingly, some clergy members aren’t poor as church mice. The average salary is around $78,000 according to U.S. News and World Report. If you feel a higher calling, a theology degree isn’t your only option—a study of psychology can be highly useful in ministering to your flock. But the hours are rough. Expect to work nights and weekends helping those in need.

12. Database administrator - Knowledge is power, and as increasing numbers of businesses digitize their record keeping, databases are power, too. Study computer science, information systems or information technology for your four-year degree. You’ll work with sensitive data, so you’ll need to be methodical and reliable. The payoff is about $60,000 a year, or $90,000 plus with a master’s degree.

13. Accountant - If Excel and Quicken are your best friends and your checkbook’s always in balance, study economics or math as an undergraduate. Accountants can balance books for a corporation, or prepare tax returns for individuals, and salaries range accordingly. At the top end, accountants can pull in six digit salaries.

14. Management consultant - Put on your power suit and head to the corner office—you’re a management consultant. A wide variety of degrees are useful here, as long as they’re compatible with the businesses you’re consulting with. Business and—surprise!—management degrees are also helpful here. The median pay is about $58,000 a year, and you can expect to make more with an MBA.

15. Editor - Wordsmiths and literary types can earn about $52,000 a year in full-time editorial positions. You’ll need a degree in journalism, English or communications. Expect to start small with local publications and move your way up the ladder. Don’t forget to polish up your HTML skills—blogs are a growing segment of this market.

Posted: Monday, December 03, 2007 2:43 PM by Factive
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zacharias said:

whoo! i'm good for 2. good thing those big community college bucks arent going to waste.

# December 7, 2007 5:24 PM

Kristen said:

Engineer - Engineers come in flavors like civil, electrical, aerospace and electrical.

# December 7, 2007 5:28 PM

Thomas Rhodes said:

Don't be a computer programmer -- it's not worth it.

People in the software industry need more creativity and initiative than many doctors,  accountants,  teachers and licensed professionals.  However,  they don't have a professional association or union looking out for them.

You'll work for years in places where "project management" means trying to motivate people by setting unrealistic goals.  Then you'll snap...

# December 7, 2007 5:55 PM

Free Chat said:

Librarians? Are you kidding? I thought they were deemed obsolete and were to be terminated. (old twilight zone reference lol).

# December 7, 2007 6:06 PM

Matt said:

I thought it was the trades that were going to explode in the next 5 years...

Plumber, mason, electrician, things like that...

# December 7, 2007 6:09 PM

Ian at College Colosseum said:

Nice.  It doesn't come as any surprise that anything having to do with computers takes in a good salary.

Pharmacy is probably the best for work to compensation ratio.  Hours can sometimes suck.

# December 7, 2007 6:10 PM

iB said:

As a programmer/DBA I make $50k with an 8th grade education. I dont think it's that rare in the tech industry if you are good to make ~59+ with no education as long as you have a little experience (or can inflate a resume and pull it off).  Once you get the ball rolling it's easy.  

Don't forget to follow up with college though for the people who think it matters, and b/c with out it you will go as far as you can quickly and it won't be very far (unless you start your own business)

# December 7, 2007 6:11 PM

Ben Schiendelman said:

Computer programmer? Try a base salary around 70,000.

# December 7, 2007 6:27 PM

Tom said:

A lot of these don't surprise me but clergy is demand? That's the only one that shocked me.

# December 7, 2007 6:28 PM

Rene Martin said:

Yeah I am debating going into library science, I just need to work on my masters degree. I should consider it. Damm this left me thinking, plus the job is very laid back and you really can move up since majority of Librarians are retiring or new library facilities are needing younger applicants. I mean don't think its just casual book to check out librarians, theres film librarians, art, accountant. They are several areas to apply this at.

# December 7, 2007 7:12 PM

Richard Park said:

Programmer - HELLO.  $50,000.00/year is basically a starting salary, with a 4 year BS.  When I graduated in '98, I made more than that out of the gate.  Now I make more than twice that.

# December 7, 2007 7:29 PM

Steven said:

Computer programmers - the demand is THERE.  Seriously, get a good resume and put it on Monster.  You'll get contacted.

# December 7, 2007 11:39 PM

Anonymouse said:

I have no degree, I am a college dropout and make $105,000 a year as a C/C++ software engineer. IMHO, 1 is way off. :-)

# December 7, 2007 11:49 PM

Me said:

Its a great article concept, but would have been much better had you actually included facts supporting the "in-demand" part of the title.  Perhaps you could share how you arrived at the conclusion that librarian is an "in-demand" career?

# December 8, 2007 12:17 AM

nick said:

A Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) requires four years of post-graduate work, not two.

# December 8, 2007 4:41 AM

travis said:

having been a web developer for over 8 years (and not having a degree), i can tell you that a computer science degree is a complete waste of time if you don't aspire to becoming part of upper level management.  

i can tell you absolutely that when it comes to 4 years of "higher education" versus 4 years of on-the-job experience, the candidate with the experience will always get hired and will be paid more.  

a comp sci degree doesn't teach you how to write software (just ask any developer that actually went to college what they learned from it).  only experience can teach you how to write good code.  

if you would like to become a software engineer, here's my advice: skip college and get a job at a consulting company doing quality assurance (QA) for web applications.  QA is a miserable job, but you will learn a lot and get your foot in the door.  anybody can get a job doing QA.  earn your stripes doing QA for a year while you are learning how to write code at night and on the weekends, then you will be able to move up into a developer position.  after about 4-8 years of writing code, you can move onto architecting applications.  

i would highly recommend working at a consulting company.  DO NOT get a job in the IT department of a non-IT company (trust me, it's miserable and you won't learn nearly as much).  

only work on web-related software.  COMPLETELY FORGET IT work (anything hardware related).  it's pay is half that of a developer, you're on-call all the time, you have to deal with customers and, in my opinion, it's really boring.  

don't do mainframe work and don't pick some obscure language to learn (stick with Java or .Net).  you might make more money doing either of those, but you will have a lot less job opportunities.  i would get a solid web development background before branching off into something specialized.

In the southeast, expect to make $30,000-50,000 as a QA person, $40,000-60,000 as a developer, $60,000-85,000 as a senior developer and $80,000-115,000 as an architect.  and again, none of those positions or salaries require anything more than a high school education and on-the-job experience.

# December 8, 2007 6:21 AM

richard said:

Why all the med school bashing.. if you're smart enough to be a doctor DO IT.

# December 8, 2007 7:16 AM

Monica said:

Engineer ought to have made that list - every engineering firm I hear from (including large corporations such as Siemens) is considerably understaffed because the Baby Boomers are retiring in great numbers.

# December 8, 2007 8:01 AM

GOD said:

2 years doesn't get you a registered nurse, that's the LPN (licensed practising nurse) program. Who pretty much just do the *** work for the RNs! HA

# December 8, 2007 11:17 AM

Andrew said:

Hey, they forgot about us Mechanical Engineers!  :P

# December 8, 2007 1:43 PM

Alex said:

Why are they called in-demand if they're soo poorly paid?

# December 8, 2007 2:54 PM

John said:

No! Whatever you do, don't study computer science. If you do, you will have to compete with everyone from India for a programming job.

# December 8, 2007 3:30 PM

Mr. Books said:

Wait Wait . . . You mean English degrees AREN'T worthless?  This must be false.

# December 8, 2007 4:47 PM
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