College Degrees that Hiring Managers Love

Degrees with Job Potential

Want to earn a degree that could lead to career opportunities? Check out these six degrees with solid employment odds.

By Lisa Manterfield

If you've been keeping up with the unemployment figures lately, you might be wondering if going to college is worth it. The answer is a resounding yes, according to "Hard Times, Not all College Degrees are Created Equal," a 2012 report from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

In fact, the report's exact wording was "Yes, extensive research, ours included, finds that a college degree is still worth it."

Here's just a bit of the research behind their endorsement. According to "Hard Times," the average unemployment rate for new college graduates is 8.9 percent. That may sound high...until you compare the figure to the unemployment rate of those without a college degree: 22.9 percent for recent high school grads and a staggering 31.5 percent for those who recently dropped out of high school, says "Hard Times." 

But as the title of the report says, not all degrees are equal.

And another study echoes that sentiment. According to "Job Outlook 2012," a report compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), certain degrees, such as business, computer science, and engineering, consistently top the list of most sought-after majors.

So if you're thinking of going back to school, but want to pick a degree that could help make you competitive in the job market, read on for six degrees that studies say pass the test with flying unemployment numbers.

Degree #1 - Bachelor's in Business Administration

Do you see yourself in a leadership role? Maybe you're looking to prep for a career that will allow you to use your planning, communication, and problem-solving skills, too. If so, a degree in business administration might be the in-demand choice for you.

According to Andrea Koncz, NACE's employment information manager, it's a very versatile degree. What's more, the major's coursework reflects this versatility. It usually includes classes in business strategy, accounting, and operations management, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Employment Odds: According to "Hard Times," recent business administration and management majors reported a low unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. And this figure doesn't come as a surprise, with the "Job Outlook 2012" listing business as the most sought-after broad degree category among respondents.

Why? "The specific skills from these programs translate to many different fields," explains Koncz.

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Potential Career: According to the Department of Labor, a bachelor's degree in business (or a related field) is generally required to prepare to pursue a career as a financial analyst.


Degree #2 - Bachelor's in Accounting

Are you attentive, detail-oriented, and into numbers? If you're interested in the challenge of collecting and analyzing financial information, and maybe even one day predicting future financial trends, an accounting degree could be a good - potentially employer-friendly - option for you.

If you do opt for an accounting program, know that you might take commonly offered courses such as accounting information systems, business law, and auditing, according to the College Board, an organization of colleges and universities that administers tests such as the SAT.

Employment Odds: "Job Outlook 2012" reported that accounting was the second most sought-after bachelor's degree among employers. In fact, "Hard Times" found that accounting grads had the second lowest unemployment rate among business majors, at only 6.8 percent.

Why are accounting grads so in-demand? One reason, according to Koncz, is that accounting programs often help develop analytical skills, which can be valuable in other fields besides accounting.

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Potential Career: Your career options as a grad in this major could include accountant and auditor, with the U.S. Department of Labor noting that a bachelor's in accounting is required to pursue most positions.


Degree #3 - Bachelor's in Computer Science

If you're a tech whiz who loves tinkering with computers, a degree in computer science might be a good choice for you. And that's fortunate, since it's a top choice among employers as well.

If you decide to go after this degree, you'll likely "learn about computer systems and the way humans and computers interact from a scientific perspective," according to the College Board. And depending on the area of computer science you're interested in, your program could include classes such as software engineering, mathematics for computer science, and artificial intelligence, says the College Board.

Employment Odds: Computer and information science ranked number three on NACE's "Job Outlook 2012" list of most in-demand broad category degrees. One reason for this, Koncz says, is that computer science programs teach a very specific technical skill set, which is unique to fast-growing fields such as computer systems analysis.

Want more data? According to "Hard Times," the unemployment rate for new grads in this field was 7.8 percent, and the report predicts that "computer majors are likely to bounce back strongly as the recovery proceeds."

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Potential Career: Ever consider computer programming as a career? If so, you'll want to remember this: A good number of computer programmers have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, though some employers may consider candidates with an associate's degree.


Degree #4 - Bachelor's in Psychology

If you're intrigued by what makes people tick, and you enjoy helping others, one major to consider is psychology, which is in demand, say the studies.

In fact, within the field of psychology, you'll discover a broad range of specialties and topics, such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, personality, and research methods, according to the College Board.

Employment Odds: "Job Outlook 2012" reported psychology as the second most in-demand liberal arts major. That trend was also reflected in "Hard Times," with recent graduates in psychology showing a relatively low unemployment rate of 7.3 percent.

What gives for this unemployment rate? It could have something to do with the fact that nearly half of recent graduates work in the fields of health care and education, according to the "Hard Times" report, which also labeled these industries as either stable or growing.

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Potential Career: If you're interested in a career in social work, this could be a great option for you. Why? Because the U.S. Department of Labor notes that most direct-service social workers are required to have a bachelor's degree in social work, or a related field like psychology or sociology.


Degree #5 - Bachelor's in Communications

If you love to research, write, and speak with other people, a communications degree could lead to career options in a wide range of industries for you.

Communications can cover everything from television production to the Internet, according to the College Board, which notes that commonly offered business communications classes might include public relations writing, media analysis and criticism, and public speaking.

Employment Odds: "Hard Times" reported that recent communications grads had a low unemployment rate of 7.3 percent.

This low figure could be in relation to the skills that could be acquired through a communications degree program, such as verbal communication, critical thinking, and research. The best part? Some of these skills are among the top attributes sought by employers, according to the "Job Outlook 2012" Report.

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Potential Career: The U.S. Department of Labor notes that public relations specialists generally need a bachelor's degree, and that employers often want applicants who have studied communications, public relations, English, journalism, or business.


Degree #6 - Bachelor's in Engineering

If you're fascinated with how things work, whether it's a light bulb, auto part, or suspension bridge, you might find your calling studying engineering. And good news: Studies suggest that it's a degree that is popular with employers.

The courses you'll take will vary depending on the field of engineering you choose. For example, the College Board says that civil engineering majors often take typical courses in dynamics, environmental awareness for engineers, and thermodynamics.

Employment Odds: According to "Job Outlook 2012," engineering was the second most sought-after broad category major. And the "Hard Times" report reflects this, noting that new engineering grads experienced a low unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.

And with teamwork and problem solving skills important to employers, according to the NACE report, it's no wonder this degree is in demand. Especially since the College Board notes that as a civil engineering major, "you'll solve a problem with a group or compare ideas with other students after working a problem out on your own."

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Potential Career: The U.S. Department of Labor notes that there are a variety of engineering careers out there, including biomedical, mechanical, civil, and more. And as you probably assume, education requirements differ depending on the field. For example, civil engineers need a "bachelor's degree in civil engineering or one of its specialties," says the Department of Labor.


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