Refer to CareerCast.com’s annual Jobs Rated report, and it’s no coincidence so many of the best jobs require postsecondary education. A college degree still carries paramount value in the labor market, but certain programs offer clearer paths to career success than others.
A philosophical quandary for anyone making a decision about her or his career is what to prioritize: income potential? Employment prospects? Personal passion? Because the third isn’t a quantifiable metric, CareerCast.com evaluates the best college majors by salary and hiring outlooks -- two of the same core criteria used when evaluating careers for the Jobs Rated report.
One clear indicator of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report “Condition of Education in 2019” is that pursuing a degree in Education is a gateway to strong employment prospects.
Of seven degree programs with unemployment for recent graduates below 2%, three are in education. General Education graduates boasted the lowest at 1%. For context, the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Population Survey for 2019 reports collective unemployment among recent graduates at 3.8%.
The favorable market for graduating teachers is reflected both in percent growth, and sheer numbers.
Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is expected to be more than 76,000 new High School Teachers hired by 2026, more than 116,000 Elementary School Teachers, and more than 47,000 Middle School Teachers.
Starting pay for newly graduated educators skews to the lower end; the median annual income for a new General Education grad is $40,300. Over the course of a career, the median annual salary increases by roughly 50%, and is reflective of nationwide figures. Education salaries fluctuate widely by state, with a median above $85,000 in New York, and almost half that in Mississippi.
Contrast the relatively low entry pay for Teachers with that of an Electrical Engineer, which earns the highest median annual salary among new bachelor’s degree recipients at $72,600.
A high starting wage sets the tone for a career-long median income of $99,070, and doesn’t have the same fluctuation in pay based on region education typically has. For example, an Electrical Engineer in California earns $114,170 annually; in Arkansas, where wages for the field are lowest, remain a robust $82,200. Electrical Engineers also have a favorable, long-term market forecast at 7% growth by 2026.
Interestingly, though, competition for jobs among new graduates is tough with an unemployment rate of 3%, closer to the average among all bachelor’s degree recipients.
Two examples of programs that track on the higher end of pay, and the lower end of unemployment are related: Accounting and Finance. Accounting has a reported recent-graduate unemployment rate of 2.2%, with a starting median salary of $57,700. For Finance, those figures are 2.9% and $63,700.
Likewise, Nursing averages $57,300 in recent-graduate median salary, with unemployment of just 1.6%. Registered Nurse regularly ranks among the best careers tracked int he annual Jobs Rated report, too, so the career-long forecast in the field is outstanding.
In contrast, other highly ranked Jobs Rated fields may not necessarily be the best for very recent graduates. Careers in mathematics, like Data Scientist and Statistician, routinely rank in the Top 10. However, Mathematics surprisingly has one of the higher unemployment rates for recent bachelor’s degree recipients.
The recommended level of education for acquiring certain high-paying, high-growth outlook jobs in these fields is a Master’s degree -- which underscores the importance of understanding just how much education and training beyond the classroom is necessary to maximize a career’s potential.
To that same end, some degree programs may be more generalized: Two such examples, Computer and Information Systems and General Medical & Health Services, may offer specializations within.
Information Security Analyst programs within IT educational departments are becoming increasingly popular, for example. And a General Medical & Health Services background, coupled with studies in business, offer a potential pathway to the highly attractive field of Medical Services Manager.