10 hot careers for new and mid-career college graduates

CalWORKs Job Fair signage is displayed during the Fall Classic Hiring Spree event at Los Angeles City College in Los Angeles, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. Economists and policy-makers have been trying to understand the reason for the prolonged period of high unemployment in the U.S.: a skills mismatch, weak aggregate demand, or wage rigidities. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg
(By Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

Here’s a new list of  10 hot careers for recent and mid-career college graduates with bachelor’s degrees.

The report comes from the University of California at San Diego Extension, the continuing education arm of the university and was written by faculty Henry DeVries,  Sundari Baru, and Josh Shapiro, who looked at data to  create a list  of “hot careers” that can “realistically be filled by recent college graduates.” Missing from the list are professionals such as surgeons, veterinarians and electrical engineers because they require far more training than the careers on this list.

The information here is taken directly from the report, though there is much in the report for each career, which you can access here.

DeVries is an author, educator, and assistant dean for external affairs at UC San Diego Extension. Baru is a research economist at UC San Diego Extension  currently working on a National Science Foundation-funded project on the dynamics of regional innovation. Shapiro is the director of research and evaluation at UC San Diego Extension and a  member of the team working on the same project.

Here are excerpts from the report:

1. Software Developers/Applications (tie for number one)

The rapid widespread adoption and integration of information resource technology into the daily fabric of life, from personal computers to security equipment to automobiles, consumer electronics and smartphones has created an ongoing critical shortage of qualified software developers to design, develop, test, document and maintain the complex programs that run on these hardware platforms.

Beginning with user needs analysis, software developers create application code to solve specific problems through a series of complex, interlocking, often shifting requirements. Job activities may include breaking down problems into logical subsets, exploring existing software code, considering the implications of introducing additional functionality, designing software with flowcharts and other tools, directing teams of coders, testing and verifying code, and writing code themselves. The research shows the number of employed applications software developers outnumbers the systems software developers, 586,340 to 391,700. Although the demand for applications software developers is higher, systems software developers have a better projected employment growth rate (32 percent by 2020 versus 28 percent by 2020 for the applications software developers) as well as a higher mean annual salary ($102,550, almost $5,000 more for the applications software developer).

The title of software developer can apply to a multitude of positions that employ principles of engineering, mathematics, and computer science, whether in the creation or in the testing of software.  A bachelor’s degree in computer science or mathematics, as well as strong programming skills, are what an applicant usually needs for a job as an applications software developer.

1. Software Developers/Systems Software (tie for number one)

The field has a smaller number of current employees but a larger projected growth rate than software developers of applications. The mean average annual salary is $93,280. While software developers of applications design and implement the software behind computer applications for consumers (examples of these types of software are word processors or games, more specifically, something used by a person), systems software developers design, analyze, and install software that commands the way a computer functions, meaning the computer’s operating system.

Similar to applications software developers, software developers of systems software usually need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or mathematics. Programming code might also be a requirement for the job. It is important people working in technology stay up to date on recent developments in the field as progress happens quickly in this sector.

Neither of these two occupations are generally responsible for writing the programming code of the software, which is usually left to the programmers who may work in close contact with the software designers.

3. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists/Data Miners

Once roles found almost exclusively within high-prestige and high-priced business strategy consulting firms, market research analyst positions have exploded throughout every sector of the economy with the rise of widespread datagathering through transactional databases, consumer preference and loyalty programs, the Internet and social media, and customer relationship management systems.

Although the mean annual salary, $67,380, is considerably less than the number one and number two careers in the hot careers list, the job outlook between now and 2020 shows a deep and urgent need for more qualified individuals in these positions, with a projected growth rate of 41 percent by 2020.

Many different types of bachelor’s degrees can provide entry-level paths to positions in market research analysis. Quantitative and logical fields such as math, statistics, or computer science provide a solid foundation for the analytic requirements of such positions. On the other hand, liberal arts degrees that emphasize human behavior and communication, such as sociology, psychology or economics, could also serve as a springboard to a market researcher position, especially if the candidate has experience in a particular business sector. Leadership and more technical jobs in this field often require a master’s degree in fields such as statistics or marketing.

4. Accountants and Auditors

A bachelor’s degree in accounting is the best way to gain an entry level position in this field. Other degrees in closely related fields may suffice, or people in lower-level financial occupations, such as bookkeepers or clerks, can work their way into junior accounting positions through a combination of additional education, internships, or on-the-job training. College graduates with strong math and economics skills are viable candidates for certificate programs in accounting.

5. Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators  are the workers most people think of when they think of “IT,” or information technololgy. Administrators are responsible for planning and executing the installation, maintenance, troubleshooting, technical support, security, upgrades, user training and backup of enterprise, and consumer hardware and software systems. Network administrators and systems administrators find work in nearly every sector of the economy.

The criteria that landed this occupation on the hot careers list are a mean annual salary of $76,320 paired with a projected growth rate of 28 percent by 2020.

A bachelor’s degree in computer or information science is the strongest foundation for a career in systems administration or network administration, while those who have earned electrical or computer engineering degrees may also be competent in the role, depending on its specific requirements. IT employees, more than most, need ongoing education, training and development to keep up with evolving features, standards and upgrades in the systems they support.

6. Elementary School Teachers (excluding Special Education)

Elementary school teachers have chosen an occupation that is high on the hot careers list because of the number of currently employed teachers—1,360,380. Outnumbering any other single occupation nationally, a teaching career path tends to offer a form of stability that is relatively rare in other fields of pursuit.  However, the mean annual salary is only $56,130.

All states require public elementary school teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as a teacher’s license, certificate or credential; however, specific requirements vary by state. Teachers must also typically pass a background check, complete a teacher preparation program, and demonstrate classroom competence through supervised student teaching or a more lengthy and rigorous semester- or year-long teaching internship. Currently in eight states, an advanced degree (such as a master’s or Ph.D.) has become a requirement to earn a full professional license, but this is far from a universal trend.

7. Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts (occupational code 15-1121) develop, install, inspect, and assess the integration and cross-platform functionality of computer systems of companies in every economic sector to ensure the business needs of the company are fully supported by software and hardware systems. They then determine how to maximize efficiency and return-oninvestment by recommending and implementing enhancements to those systems, overseeing integration projects,conducting and interpreting user testing, and designing comprehensive user training and support platforms.

With a mean annual salary of $83,800, it is among the most highly remunerative job categories on the list.

The career entry pathway is also relatively broad; systems analysts may hold almost any bachelor’s degree. Although a degree in computer or information science may lower barriers to entry-level hiring, it is not specifically a minimum job requirement. Understanding of computer systems, project management, and some experience writing code are just as important to secure a position in this growing field.

8. Management Analysts

Management analysts (sometimes called management consultants) guide organizational executive leadership through the complicated process of enterprise performance improvement.

The mean annual salary for management consultants is $88,070.

While a bachelor’s degree is a standard requirement for entry-level management analyst positions, a master’s in business administration (MBA) or the Certified Management Consultant designation can improve prospects for career advancement and longevity.

9. Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists are responsible for creating, maintaining, protecting, advocating, and shaping messages about individuals, brands, products, or entire enterprises to external audiences, including (but not limited to) media, customers, clients, and investors.

The mean annual salary in the field, counting both corporate and self-employed public relations specialists, is $61,980.

A bachelor’s degree is generally required to enter public relations. Such majors as public relations, communications,

English, journalism, or business are traditionally required for an entry level position. With the growing diversification and specialization of audiences, social science graduates may also find good prospects in the public relations field. Although advanced degrees are not a necessity for entry, many public relations specialists do eventually earn master’s degrees in fields such as public relations or journalism to further develop and enhance their skills and their careers.

10. Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents  reach out to prospective clients to assess their risks and insurance needs, discuss insurance options with them, inform them about the full spectrum of insurance products available, assemble appropriate recommendations, and help them choose which policy or group of policies are best for them.

Our research shows there are 336,740 insurance agents nationwide, earning a mean annual salary of $63,400. Although one third of all insurance sales agents in 2010 reported having at least a bachelor’s degree, only a high school diploma is required for entry to this job—a unique factor among the top ten hot careers. It is more important for an insurance sales agent to have basic business knowledge, people skills, and solid communication abilities.

 

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | October 21, 2013