As approximately 2.9 million young men and women begin their postsecondary education, many are pondering ways they might be able to avoid the high rate of unemployment and underemployment facing the most recent crop of graduates. They might consider the advice of human resource executives, about half of whom said in a recent survey that they would advise college freshmen to pursue degrees in engineering, computer science or healthcare.
According to the survey, which was conducted in August among about 150 human resource executives by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc, the career paths to avoid included law, marketing/advertising and, ironically, human resources.
This recession may have many freshmen second-guessing career plans. Certainly, those who were contemplating a future in financial services or home building may be looking for new options.
Prepare to Be Flexible
It is impossible to predict what the job market will look like in four years. Young people entering college this fall could graduate into a job market that is still recovering from recession. With so much uncertainty, it is best to seek skills that are flexible and highly transferable between various industries.
The areas recommended by human resource executives, while appearing to be relatively specialized on the surface, actually provide future graduates with a great amount of flexibility to pursue careers in a wide range of fields that are emerging now or could emerge over the next two decades.
In the survey, computer science/information technology edged out engineering as the most-recommended field of study. It was selected by 16 percent of survey respondents, who were instructed to select just one of the 11 fields provided. Engineering was favored among 15 percent of human resource executives, while medicine/healthcare was recommended by 14.3 percent.
The legal profession was at the bottom of the list, selected by just 1.4 percent of respondents. Slightly more than two percent felt their own career of choice (human resources) would be worth pursuing in college.
Government Jobs Plentiful, But . . .
Fewer than five percent of respondents recommended public service (government/nonprofit) as the best career path to pursue. While the survey did not seek the reasoning behind the responses, it may be due to the fact that many government entities are cutting programs and positions to balance budgets, and respondents see little evidence that the public service sector is growing.
The federal government could be a very fruitful source of jobs in the coming years, as many departments will see their staffs depleted from retirements. However, despite the increasing need for replacement workers, the government has done little to streamline the hiring process or improve its image when it comes to being a great place to work.
High Demand, High Wages
For those who choose one of the top-three recommended fields, there should be ample job opportunities regardless of the economy’s health. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that computer scientist will be one of the fastest growing occupations over the next decade. Employment among computer and information scientists is expected to grow 22 percent between 2006 and 2016. The number of network systems and data communications analysts is forecast to increase 53 percent.
Meanwhile, the healthcare sector is expected to add three million new jobs by 2016, more than any other industry. This growth is spurred, in part, by the huge population of baby boomers, who will require more and more medical services as they age.
Employment in the engineering sector is expected to grow 11 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, some specialties will grow at double that rate. The number of biomedical engineers is projected to increase by 21 percent; environmental engineers by 25 percent; and industrial engineers by 20 percent.
We are already seeing growth in some of these areas, despite the recession. The trend toward ‘green’ technologies is creating jobs in engineering and computer science. Certain areas in the healthcare sector are having trouble filling positions due to a lack of skilled candidates. And more jobs may be created by healthcare reform, if Congress is able to get a bill passed.