The Best Majors for College Students

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Published September 18, 2013

| FOXBusiness

College freshmen that haven’t decided on a major may want to consider a degree in sales and marketing, medicine, health-care research and renewable energy to increase their odds of getting hired upon graduation.

According to newly-released data from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, jobs in these fields will be in high demand come 2018. What’s more, the firm finds that students who concentrate on math, science, engineering and technology will have the largest array of job options post-graduation.

Concentrating on math, science and technology positions will help college grads secure work because these skills cover a vast array of positions in our jobs economy, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

“When you get into fields that run across every type of company, it gives you such flexibility in your career,” Challenger says. “So many jobs today require people to have so much communication, through companies’ programs and policies, so that is very important as well.”

But just because technology and science-oriented skills can increase job opportunities, that doesn’t mean students should slack on other skills.  The Society of Human Resource Management says the skills that 2013 graduates were most lacking began with basic writing skills. Nearly half of the human resources professionals surveyed report last spring’s graduates lacked grammar, spelling and other writing skills. Next on the list were math skills, ranked by 18% of respondents.

Here are a list of the jobs and fields the firm says will be most in-demand come 2018:

Big Data Experts. A variety of industries, particularly heath care, retail and government agencies are focused on collecting and using information, and there will be a need for experts that know how to organize and manage this data, Challenger, Gray and Christmas reports.

Research and Development Professionals. There will be a need for technical development experts in every field from renewable energy to health care, according to the report, so student with majors in math, biology, engineering, design, computer technology and chemistry skills will be ahead of the curve.

Medical Technicians. Individuals trained to operate, troubleshoot and repair increasingly-advanced medical equipment will easily find employment, Challenger reports.

Athletic Trainers and Physical Therapists. The rapidly aging boomer population will drive a need for physical therapists, the report states. At the same time, the rising popularity of competitive sports and fitness are creating more demand for athletic trainers.

Sales and Marketing: New products and services are always in demand, as are the people who sell them, the report says.

Human Factors Engineers and Ergonomists. Wondering what these workers do? Challenger, Gray and Christmas acknowledges they need a “catchier name,” but they specialize in maximizing the efficiency, health cost and quality of how we work. They will help companies manage and strategize their workface and will have educational backgrounds including psychology, engineering and technology, the firm says.

Several other areas of employment that will be in demand include education, nursing, finance and accounting, trade crafts, information technology and network administration, the report says.

Labor economist Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution says that while the list looks to be comprehensive for many current students, economics may be a solid choice as well. 

“Economics majors appear to have pretty low unemployment rates, so econ wouldn’t be a bad major either,” he says in an email message.

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