Degrees That Can Wow Employers

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Knowing your career objective as you earn a college degree could help impress employers.

By Tony Moton

Want to wow potential employers? Career experts say having a college degree could help you stand out.

But how can a degree impress potential employers?

"First, a degree lets an employer know you know how to learn," says Susan Wise Miller, a Los Angeles-based career counselor and owner of California Career Services. "You take classes, you write papers, and you demonstrate that you can take feedback from someone about what you've learned."

But beyond that, earning a degree could wow employers if a student has made an effort to tailor his or her studies to potential career paths. In fact, Miller says the degree serves as something of a highlighter to show an employer why a degree holder is a good fit for the job.

"Education is the short-term goal on the way to the long-range goal of a career," Miller says. "It's helpful during college that the coursework relates to the job you are going after. You want to have some real focus. It helps if you have a sense of direction."

To give you a better idea of how earning a degree could knock the socks off hiring managers, we've examined five degree programs and matched them with potential career paths.

Degree #1 - Business Administration and Management

Earning a bachelor's degree in business administration and management has the potential to show you mean business when it comes to your career.

According to the College Board, an organization that promotes education and administers the SAT exam, a business administration and management degree program could "prepare students to plan, organize, direct, and control an organization's activities." Common courses might include accounting, business statistics, economics, and business ethics and law.

Wow Factor: According to Miller, earning a bachelor's degree in business administration with a particular concentration or sub-major could wow potential employers - you could gain knowledge that is more suited for a specific position.

In addition, Miller says potential job candidates must demonstrate they are well informed about the kind of problems they might have to solve in a particular industry.

Bottom line: "You want to match your degree with the job," according to Miller.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

For example, "If you plan on applying for hotel jobs, maybe you might want to minor in hospitality," Miller says. "If you are in business (as a major) and want to work in the oil industry, take classes where you study the oil industry."

Potential Careers:*

  • Human Resources Manager
  • Financial Analyst
  • Revenue Agent

Degree #2 - Accounting

Are you hoping to get the attention of employers who need people with number-crunching abilities? Consider earning a bachelor's degree in accounting and you might get the chance to win them over.

If you decide to pursue this degree, you'll likely learn how to record, evaluate, and interpret financial information for companies and individuals, says the College Board. Courses could include subjects like business law, auditing, cost accounting, and tax accounting.

Wow Factor: Accounting degree holders with technical skills could wow employers with their grasp of the latest accounting software programs, according to Miller.

"You want to take classes with common Ledger and QuickBooks programs," Miller says. "You want to demonstrate to employers you have that kind of knowledge."

Deb Chereck, the University of Oregon's career center director, adds that organizational competency - being able to deal with a wide range of information - could also impress employers.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

"Business will always be based on the bottom line," says Chereck. "There is always going to be a need for someone who can double-check information. It's a very good choice if this is something you happen to be interested in."

Potential Careers:*

  • Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Tax Examiner or Collector

Degree #3 - Communications

Hoping to impress employers with your professional communication skills? Consider earning a bachelor's degree in communications.

According to the College Board, you could learn about the wide-ranging field of communications from television to the Internet to other forms of mass media. Courses could cover topics such as persuasion, writing, rhetorical criticism, and research methods.

Wow Factor: Miller says communications majors in the age of the Internet could wow employers by being well-versed on how to get the word out with today's use of technology.

And she adds that a communications degree can also help impress employers looking for candidates with strong writing skills. If you can put words together, there's a chance that hiring bosses will take notice.

Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

"If you are interested in public relations, you want to be an expert on social media," Miller says. "You also want to know how to put a press kit or website together. Content knowledge in public relations is what employers want these days, so you want to take classes (pertaining) to the job you want to go after."

Potential Careers:*

  • Reporter, Correspondent, or Broadcast News Analyst
  • Public Relations Manager
  • Editor

Degree #4 - Computer Science

Want an opportunity to grab an employer's attention with your computer know-how? Pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science could be a good choice for you.

With common courses in subjects like artificial intelligence, digital system design, and software engineering, computer science majors could "learn about computer systems and the way humans and computers interact from a scientific perspective," according to the College Board.

Wow Factor: Are you always on top of the computer industry's rapid changes in technology? According to Chereck, this is one way to impress employers if you have a bachelor's degree in computer science.

"Because technology is moving so fast, there's always a need for new technology and the next generation to be created," Chereck says.

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Plus, Chereck adds that creativity and problem-solving skills are traits that computer science degree holders might want to emphasize when trying to stand out with employers.

Potential Careers:*

  • Software Developer
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager

Degree #5 - Engineering

Interested in a degree program that could have the wow factor for employers? A bachelor's degree in engineering might be a good option to consider.

Although the degree program depends on your specific engineering field, general engineering majors typically learn to use science and math to solve practical problems and to help create new ways to make things work, according to the College Board. Classes might include subjects such as chemistry, physics, engineering law, and scientific visualization.

Wow Factor: A bachelor's degree with a specific engineering major could give degree holders a chance to wow employers who might be looking for candidates that can focus on specific kinds of projects, according to Miller.

Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

"If you are going into the oil business, you want to go into chemical engineering," Miller says. "Engineers are involved in creating problem solving, so you have to be able to think creatively. If you can talk to (potential employers) about the kind of projects you've worked on as a student, that could make a big difference."

Chereck says students majoring in software engineering, for example, can impress hiring bosses with an ability to figure out complex design issues.

Potential Careers:*

  • Chemical Engineer (bachelor's in chemical engineering)
  • Software Engineer (bachelor's in software engineering)
  • Civil Engineer (bachelor's in civil engineering)

*All potential careers information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition (visited July 25, 2012).

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