Students often ask me if their major will get them a “good job” – the way things are currently going. Do you need a degree? Which degrees give you the best pay? If you look at pay, job security, and employee satisfaction figures, there is no debate; some degrees are more valuable than others. Certain majors will raise your chance of success, higher pay, and feeling like you at least got something for the time and money you put into your degree. Now more than ever, getting a smart education and thinking about the future job market is critical for a student.
The coronavirus pandemic caused extensive layoffs, some businesses closing for good. Despite all of the horrible, negative COVID news, the pandemic created new opportunities, especially for tech-related business. Some of these are high-paying jobs and the future looks pretty bright for STEM fields. Maybe it’s time to think about modifying your career path?
Tip: The Path to Your Career Goal
I always tell students – the path to their dream job might not be straight or clear. This includes your degree.
For example, if you wanted to be an environmental scientist, it doesn’t necessarily mean get a degree in environmental science as a major choice (although that isn’t wrong). There are chemists, geologists, many different degree/majors that could land you the job.
Try to take interdisciplinary courses that cover more than just a very specific core interest. A diverse educational background can give you more career options.
No doubt, one of the hottest 2022-2023 career fields is currently information technology. Think of all of the hospitals that need tech professionals to manage the network, all of the medical imaging, all of the data security to protect patient information. Think of the pandemic forcing everyone to suddenly work from home, opening an entirely new remote technology market up for business.
In the case of information technology jobs, don’t just focus on computer programming. Include courses on information systems management, cybersecurity, design, development, effective business communication, etc.
Diversify your background. While you’re studying, practice, network with current industry professionals.
The argument about whether education is important or not goes out the door when you think of positions like physician, engineer, or really any healthcare position. These people are critical for supporting life on Earth, each require formal education and certifications – aka some college background – no way around that.
Sure, college is expensive and not all degrees are worth it, but some college or some degree is better than none. Some greedy employers use non-degree candidates because they can use the excuse of lower pay as being due to lack of education or industry “skill” credentials. If you want more options, study, go deeper, learn those skills, and practice them.
There is some data for 2020 we can look at, in order to get an idea of which jobs pay the most. We should also note that the most popular degrees for a year do not necessarily match the hottest career fields for that year. In some cases, someone may have a chemistry degree but may be working as a computer scientist, for example. The best thing to do is consider the highest paying jobs, future demand, and the most valuable degree (employers looked for) to fill that position.
Time are tough. If we look at the worst sector of jobs – customer service, they just don’t pay the bills. You would have to live with someone else and even then live paycheck to paycheck.
The US Government says roughly half of occupations they analyzed in 2020 required some kind of college degree. The top paying jobs involve STEM-related skills.
Physicians and surgeons experienced an annual median wage of $208,000.
Computer systems managers annual median wage was $151,150.
Software developers saw a median annual wage of $110,140.
Web developers were around an annual median wage of $77,200.
Much of the lowest paying jobs did not require a college degree or technical skills.
The lowest paying jobs involved customer service positions, such as cashier and fast-food cooks. For example, a fast-food cook typically made $8.96 hourly, which is well under $20,000 per year.
College is Expensive
An Education Data Initiative report estimated the average cost of college in the US is $35,720 per year for a public institution. Private is even higher.
If that isn’t telling, if you include interest and income issues, a degree could end up costing more than $400,000 (for a bachelor’s degree). That’s because of high interest rates and the fact that most students will find it impossible to fully pay off any student loan, even after 10 years. In fact, some graduate students may find that their ultimate cost for their graduate degree exceeds $500,000. It’s a ticking time bomb, currently being ignored by the government and academia. College costs continue to rise.
Given the cost of degrees, you can see why it’s important as a student to find a valuable degree that will be helpful in gaining good employment opportunities.
It’s no surprise advanced degrees, such as those within medicine offer the highest pay and greatest demand outlook, including at least $208,000 per year median pay, per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Do I need a degree?
Sometimes people wrongfully throw around billionaire (one-in-a-billion) names as an example of college not being necessary for the greatest life success. But this is very misleading because people like Bill Gates didn’t just get rich because they dropped out of college, it’s way more than that.
A meaningful degree that is credible and related to your career choice will give you leverage, especially if you can complement a meaningful degree with industry certifications and some experience. The more reasons you give an employer to hire you, the better your chances will be.
College is overpriced and we do need education reform, but simply writing off all and any college as a total ripoff or unnecessary for success is probably not a good idea.
Try to find government grants and or federal loans, never private loans, to assist with affording it. Hopefully we can get student loan forgiveness and eventually free universal education since it should be a human right and necessary for our survival.
Things are changing. Education is going to need a huge reform, which means some subjects will have to be modified or dropped, replaced by what’s important, urgent, necessary for the economy and our current scientific challenges (required for survival and quality of life). Despite these future changes, science and technology-focused majors that are inline with current industry needs will be the best bang for your buck.
Always plan ahead and also consider diversifying your education, such as multiple science or tech pathways, earning multiple certifications, learning multiple computer languages, software packages, whatever might be in demand in the near future. This will also help set you apart from the competition. Employers will always need unique science and tech professionals, whether entry or advance-level.