When I was in college, I started out majoring in music, enjoying the freedom that came from spending my educational career on something I was really passionate about. Midway through, I changed my mind, opting for a music minor and a degree in Communications. As it turned out, neither was a very smart move.
I wanted to be a performer above all else, with no interest at all in teaching, and you don’t have to have a degree to perform. All you have to do is be good. Likewise for my Communications degree. I wanted to work in radio, but quickly found that it wasn’t the degree, but rather who had the best radio voice, that got the job. Lesson learned, some degrees might be impressive, but offer little advantage in the real world.
That’s why when my oldest daughter began looking at colleges and plotting a life course, I encouraged her to pick a major that would help her in the real world. She had flirted with majoring in theatre, but I reminded her that it would not be much different from a music degree. Unless she planned to teach, the advantages that degree would offer are few and far between. Fortunately she decided on a much better degree, in accounting. Specifically, forensic accounting, meaning that she has thought this thing through.
That said, here are some of the best degrees to shoot for if your goal is job security in a questionable economy.
Business. Quite possibly the most popular general degree in history, with a starting salary in the low 40’s and a mid year salary around 70K, it may not be a get rich quick degree, but it does provide some measure of stability, a foundation that is resistant to almost any economic downturn.
Paralegal. Becoming a paralegal is a good way to enter the legal profession, which is considered by many to be the second oldest profession. Analyst are expecting 28% growth in this industry through 2018, and with salaries ranging between 35K and 51K, it is an attractive opportunity, and if you have a bachelor’s degree, paralegal programs can be completed in as little as six months.
Health Care Administration. Obviously the health care industry is going to remain stable no matter what, boasting 10 of the 20 fastest growing jobs. Salaries range between 35K and 58K. Insurance Underwriter and Health Services Manager are two other related careers to consider.
Criminal Justice. As long as there is crime, there will need to be people in place to deal with it. Whether you want to become a Police Officer, Correctional Officer, Detective, or work in some other facet of law enforcement, a Criminal Justice degree offers stability, growth, and salaries from the 30s to the upper 50s.
MBA. A step up from the Business degree, an MBA is referred to by BusinessWeek as “a near certain ticket to instant riches”, offering management opportunities, starting salaries close to 80K, with mid career approaching near 100K.
Information Systems. Companies are routinely having to upgrade and maintain their information and data gathering systems both internally and externally, and the computer and information systems industry runs second only to health care in the race for largest employment niche. Analysts predict a 17% surge in related jobs through 2018, with salaries ranging from the 50s to just under 90K per year.
Keep in mind that a four year degree or a master’s degree is not always necessary for long term success.
Associates of Science in Construction Management. While many people may find these jobs “unglamorous”, the fact is that there are a many well paying jobs in the skilled trades arena, jobs which are usually difficult for employers to fill. Don’t miss out on what may be the most overlooked opportunity in the workforce.
So while the idea of spending four years singing Italian arias or acting on a stage may sound like an appealing way to get a degree, think long term. What will it get you, if anything? And is the result secure? Choose a degree that will actually help you in real world scenarios, just in case you don’t become the next Pavarotti or Brando.
Now, go forward and do well…..