What Should I Study in College? Hot Majors, Hot Jobs

Finding and getting into the college of your choice is tough enough, but the process can get even more demanding if you also figure in the next question: What do I study?

If you do your research, you might at least be able to narrow the selections.

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One place to start is the Princeton Review’s “Top 10 Most Popular Majors” list, which asked colleges across the country to list the majors they offer, and report which three had the highest undergrad enrollment. Based on that cumulative response, here are the 10 most popular majors:

1. Business Administration and Management

2. Psychology

3. Elementary Education

4. Biology

5. Nursing

6. Education

7. English

8. Communications

9. Computer Science

10. Political Science

The Job Hunt: How to Start a Successful Career

It’s no surprise that business appears to be America’s No. 1 college major. Alice Reinarz, assistant provost for enrollment at Texas A&M University, believes students have a fascination with “corporate America.”

Majors such as accounting and finance, she said, “provide a more technical curriculum that is directly transferable to the workplace.”

Students taking the business route often have an easier time transitioning into the job market, yielding a double graduation bonus: a paycheck, plus no graduate school bills.

The amount of your paycheck can also get a boost by majoring in business. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Summer 2006 Salary Survey reports that the current average starting salary for graduates with an accounting degree is $45,518 — quite a feast for a starving college student. The NACE survey also produced a Top 10 Jobs and average starting salaries for the class of 2006:

1. Field Engineering -- $51,162

2. Consulting -- $50,657

3. Project Engineering -- $49,888

4. Design/Construction Engineer -- $48,025

5. Financial/Treasury Analysis -- $46,448

6. Accounting (Public) -- $45,518

7. Accounting (Private) -- $44,240

8. Management Trainee (Entry) -- $39,501

9. Sales -- $38,343

10. Teaching -- $31,408

Business degrees should continue to increase in value, at least for the next four years, according to a forecast survey conducted by FastCompany.com, which compiled its findings in a Top 25 Jobs for 2005-09. The survey found that engineering and health/medical degrees also are good choices for today’s undergraduates.

The path to the corner office, however, isn’t on everyone’s postgraduate agenda.

“I chose my major because I enjoy working with children,” said Andrea Stern, a Brooklyn College junior majoring in elementary education. “I feel that it is very important to help children start off their education on the right foot because education is the key to success.”

While entering the teaching world often requires specific coursework or certification, some non-education graduates enter the classroom immediately after college through the “Teach for America” program, a highly selective program that places graduates willing to commit to a certain number of years teaching in an urban or rural public school. College graduates from all academic majors with minimum cumulative undergraduate GPAs of 2.50 (out of 4.0) and higher are eligible to apply.

Many undergraduates also choose to major in the sciences, often with ambitions of becoming a doctor, which requires many years of post-graduate education. There are, however, many growing opportunities in the health care industry for medical assistants, physician assistants, nurses, chiropractors and other various occupations, none of which requiring a graduate or doctorate degree.

On the high-tech side of the health industry, biology majors are looking into jobs in genetics and biochemistry, which Michael Cahill, director of the Center for Career Services at Syracuse University, identifies as among the most rapidly expanding industries. Cahill also believes graduates will find growing opportunities in social services, software engineering and network systems.

Whatever major a student chooses, Mike Mazzone, a 2005 graduate of Ithaca College, put the choice into perspective: “The most popular goal among students in college is to be able to walk out with a job.”

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