Degrees that teach skills for in-demand jobs


These degrees can teach you valuable skills that could translate to on-the-job success.

By Terence Loose

Are you considering going back to school, but want to make sure you earn a degree that will give you in-demand, marketable skills that prepare you for a shot at a good career?

Well, good news. We did some homework that might just save you a little of your own.

First, we asked experts to weigh in on various popular bachelor's degree programs, telling us what marketable skills they might teach students. Then we matched those skills with careers that the U.S. Department of Labor predicts will have a higher than average growth rate from 2010 to 2020. That average, by the way, is 14 percent, according to the Department of Labor itself.

So read on to see what we found.

Degree #1: Computer Science

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Here's a degree that teaches both specific and general skills that are applicable to a wide variety of careers, says David Bakke, an editor at, a career and financial advice website. And the coursework, while rigorous, does pay off in marketability, he says.

Earning the Degree: Typical classes taken by computer science majors might include digital system design, computer system organization, artificial intelligence, and data structures and algorithms, says the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education.

Depending on the specific program, Bakke says a computer science degree could teach any number of specific computer-related skills such as programming, data management, and graphics.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

These programs also often develop students' analytic and problem-solving skills, as well as their ability to lead or be part of a team, working toward a common goal, he says. This is often how those new apps or software programs are developed, he says.

Potential Career:* Software Developer

Projected Job Growth, 2010 to 2020:** 30 percent

These are the creative minds behind those fancy computer and phone applications you have open in other tabs at the moment - which explains why the U.S. Department of Labor suggests the following skills for potential applicants: creativity, analytical ability, problem-solving, and teamwork.

The Department of Labor says that software developers typically have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field.

Degree #2: Health Care Administration

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Whether you watch CNN, Fox News, or even Comedy Central, you've no doubt noticed a lot of talk about the future of health care. That's because it's the country's fastest growing industry and will be one of the biggest recruiters of college graduates in the next decade, says Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

Earning the Degree: Health care administration majors might study everything from accounting and health care law to health care ethics and epidemiology, says the College Board.

Debra Wheatman, a certified professional career coach (CPCC) and president of Careers Done Write, a career coaching agency, says this degree is valuable, because it teaches complex problem-solving and communication, as well as specific skills in areas like human resources and management.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

"Graduates should come out with the ability to look at a problem from many different perspectives and come to a solution that is best for all parties," she says. In the case of the medical industry, that's important to employers, because there's a lot on the line - money, but also patients' health.

Potential Career: Medical and Health Services Manager

Projected Job Growth, 2010 to 2020: 22 percent

These professionals manage health care facilities large and small, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Problem-solving and communication skills are important in this career.

The Department of Labor also says that "prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration." However, they also note that master's degrees are also common, in fields such as health services, business administration, public health, public administration, and long-term care administration.

Degree #3: Business Administration

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Here's a perennial favorite degree that offers a very eclectic set of skills, says Ryan S. Himmel, president and CEO of BIDaWiz, Inc., a financial advice website and company. He says that's because the coursework in this degree covers a broad range of business topics.

Earning the Degree: The College Board says a business administration and management major typically takes a course load that might include operations management, financial management, economics, business ethics and law, and marketing.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

"Some skills you'll get with this degree are management, communication, and analytical skills," adds Himmel. "And these are key to success in the management of any business."

Potential Career: Financial Analyst

Projected Job Growth, 2010 to 2020: 23 percent

These finance experts study stocks, bonds, and other types of investments and make investment recommendations to businesses and individuals, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They say it is important for these pros to have analytical, communication, decision-making, and other similar skills.

The Department of Labor says a bachelor's degree in business administration, accounting, economics, finance, or statistics is required for many financial analyst positions.

Degree #4: IT and Information Science

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With Big Data - the accumulation of massive amounts of information about consumers by large companies - fast becoming the buzz word in the big business world, a degree in information technology (IT) or information science could be very valuable, says Bakke.

Earning the Degree: IT majors could take courses such as computer networking, computer systems and architecture, systems analysis and design, and web technologies.

Bakke says some of the key skills you'll acquire in these classes and by pursuing this degree are information storage and database management - two things crucial to working with Big Data.

Next step: Click to Find the Right IT and Information Systems Program.

Other, equally important skills Bakke says IT students pick up are analytical, problem-solving, and teamwork skills.

Potential Career: Computer Systems Analyst

Projected Job Growth, 2010 to 2020: 22 percent

These tech-savvy pros help make more efficient and productive computer systems for companies, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They add that it is important for computer systems analysts to have analytical, creative, and teamwork skills.

The Department of Labor says most of these professionals have a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field.

Degree #5: Accounting

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Looking for a practical degree that offers real-world skills that will be in demand for the foreseeable future? Look no further than a bachelor's in accounting, says Susan Heathfield, who has more than two decades of experience in the human resources field and writes for

Earning the Degree: The College Board says an accounting major typically takes classes like business law, cost accounting, government and not-for-profit accounting, and accounting information systems.

"This degree is in my top three for giving skills employers are looking for," says Heathfield. She does have one caveat: Because the entire world is now reliant on computers, accounting majors should gain computing skills as well as the more traditional accounting skills.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Math, organizational, communication, and interpersonal skills, are a few of the in-demand skills this degree provides, she says. "Following the financial crisis, accountants are now very important to companies and need to be able to communicate risks to management clearly," she says.

Potential Career: Accountant

Projected Job Growth, 2010 to 2020: 16 percent

Accountants not only make sure a company's financial books are in order, they also prepare taxes and sometimes offer financial advice to management, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor says these pros should have analytical, communication, organizational, and other similar skills.

While a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is needed for most accountant positions, some employers might prefer those with a master's degree in accounting, or in business administration with a concentration in accounting, says the Department.

* All potential careers listed from the 2012-2013 U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Department of Labor cites the associated degrees as common, required, preferred, or one of a number of degrees acceptable as preparation for the potential career. In some instances, candidates might require further schooling, professional certifications, or experience, before being qualified to pursue the career.

** All projected job growth rates come from the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition.

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