10 of the Most Useful College Degrees of 2016

College students sitting on floor trying to pick a major

College students trying to pick a major | Source: Thinkstock

Go to college and get a good job. That standard advice sounds so simple at first glance, but the longer you look at our economy, the more complicated things become. Industries are increasingly disrupted by technology, wage growth can be as elusive as new job offers, and the price of that required degree and student debt may crush your return on investment – leaving you with a ramen noodles diet long after your college days.

“Which major should I choose?” New research from CareerBuilder may help you decide. The employment research company recently analyzed the job market to find which college degree programs are not keeping up with demand in critical areas. Overall, nearly two-thirds of employers say they are concerned about the growing skills gap. Half of employers also say they have experienced a negative impact on their business due to extended job vacancies, with 25% reporting a loss in revenue and 43% seeing a hit to productivity.

Economics 101 tells us that high demand and low supply generally lifts prices, or in this case, your potential salary and job prospects. If employers are having trouble finding qualified candidates, that results in higher pay and more career opportunities for workers holding the right degrees. The problem: knowing which fields are high in demand but short on supply. CareerBuilder highlights which fields are experiencing a big gap between the number of jobs posted and the number of hires companies make each month.

“The skills gap can have a paralyzing effect on businesses, resulting in greater economic implications” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. “In addition to reskilling and upskilling our existing workforce, we need to step up efforts to inform younger generations about high-growth, high-earning occupations where jobs far outnumber available candidates.”

Let’s take a look at the 10 most useful college degrees of 2016, ranked by the gap between postings and hires.

10. Economics

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 10,583
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 519,427
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 14.4%

9. Legal assistant/paralegal

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 10,952
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 276,741
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 8%

8. Health information/medical records technology/technician

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 13,904
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 195,120
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 9.6%

7. Biology, general

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 13,980
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 148,902
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 6.8%

6. Mechanical engineering

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 16,213
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 278,995
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 3.1%

5. Electrical and electronics engineering

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 18,959
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 317,576
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 3%

4. Human resources management and services

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 21,736
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 1,066,144
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 5.2%

3. Pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, and administration

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 37,652
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 402,295
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 7.2%

2. Registered nursing, nursing administration, nursing research and clinical nursing

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 242,884
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 2,956,717
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 9%

1. Computer and information sciences

  • Average monthly gap between postings and hires (2015-2016): 480,650
  • Number of associated jobs (2015): 4,691,330
  • Projected job growth 2015-2020: 8.6%

Interestingly, a lack of information regarding which degree programs can help you land a good job is the most cited cause of the skills gap. Forty-seven percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder believe the skills gap is really an information gap, which isn’t hard to believe considering almost a quarter of high school seniors have no idea what career they want to pursue. CareerBuilder also finds that of the high school seniors who have decided on a desired profession, 23% say they made their choice based on something they saw on TV or in a movie.

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