Careers to Look for in 2012: Which Majors Get You to Work, Which Don’t and Which Hot Jobs are on the Horizon

January 3rd, 2012 by rebeccac

The tradition of seeing the start of a new year as a chance for a fresh start has many people reconsidering their job situation. Some would just like to find one; others want to find a different one that pays better or makes them happier. But in this tough economy (and here’s hoping for a year where that phrase becomes a little less common), it’s important to do your research. Not all fields are worth the educational investment that they require, and not all industries are going to stay hot with the start of 2012.

Majors That Get You to Work
Lynn O’Shaughnessy put together quite a list back in November, building off of Georgetown University’s report on the unemployment rates of 173 college majors. O’Shaughnessy, in turn, cross-referenced that with the 100 most popular colleges majors and came up with a list of popular choices that are the most likely to get graduates out the door and into jobs.

So what are your safest educational bets? Unsurprisingly, healthcare is a big one, with medical-related jobs making up 20% of the list. Education and engineering are also big contenders, as are science- and math-centric majors like industrial and transportation technologies, agriculture production, physics, communications sciences, management information systems, and finance.

There were some outliers as well that were less easily categorized; things like theology and religious vocations, criminal justice and fire protection, and parks and recreation.

See the full list here.

Majors That Leave You Hanging
In a companion piece to the one above, O’Shaughnessy took the same tactic to find the most popular majors that are less likely to lead to employment, and the unemployment rates for many of these are eye-opening. In fact, the top 10 majors on the list “boast” an average post-graduation unemployment rate of 12.74%. The number one major on the list actually pulls in an unemployment rate just shy of 20%.

So which educational pursuits aren’t worth the trouble? Psychology, despite (or, perhaps, become of) its being the fifth most popular major. Clinical psychology tops the list, and four others show up in there as well, including educational, industrial and organizational, social, and miscellaneous psychology.

The rest of the list includes a lot of liberal arts and sciences, like fine arts, comparative literature, visual and performing arts, humanities, social sciences, studio art, philosophy, journalism, and sociology. Also in there are things like architecture, U.S. history, library science, international business and pre-law studies.

See the full list here.

Hot Jobs on the Horizon
So say you’re not an 18-year-old trying to choose a major – say instead you’ve got a lot of marketable skills and you’re just trying to figure out a stable industry in which to apply them. Well, CNNMoney forecasted 10 industries that are looking at major job openings in 2012, job openings that you could be filling if you cultivate the right skills. Here are the ones to keep an eye on.

  • Information technology: Is this one really that surprising? Employers are looking for people who can work HTML5, program applications and develop software.
  • Healthcare professionals: We’re not just talking doctors. In fact, get beyond doctors. We’re going to be in desperate need of nurses, physical therapists, dental hygienists and the like.
  • Healthcare management and support: It should be obvious, but many people think, “Healthcare = patient care. I’m not cut out for that.” But there are a lot of administrative opportunities out there.
  • Engineers: The Society of Human Resource Management released a poll that showed that over 80% of employers are having trouble finding enough engineers to fire.
  • Industrial skills: This doesn’t just include manufacturing, but also logistics and management as well as trades like electrician, welding and HVAC.
  • Life sciences and biotech: Loosely linked with the healthcare boom, the need to medical innovators and research scientists is predicted to shoot up the charts.
  • Salespeople: Already a fairly recession-proof career, expect to see more sales openings as companies bring on staff to help reverse financial fortunes.
  • Accounting and finance: If you’re at all math-inclined, think accounting, accounting, accounting. Companies are on the lookout for those who can help them manage their money effectively.
  • Discount retailers: Think big, national stores like, oh for instance, Wal-Mart, who keep on hiring managers and personnel. Obviously, not Sears/K-Mart.
  • Private equity firms: If you already have a lot of management talent and experience, jumping into a role bringing up portfolio companies could be a challenging task with big potential payoff.

See their breakdown here.

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