Earning Potential Rises for Class of 2011

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See which degrees are leading to a boost in income potential for this year's graduating class.

By Chris Kyle    

In what can only be good news for the economy, the average starting salary offer for the class of 2011 is on the rise for the first time in three years.

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average job offer to a bachelor's degree graduate this year is $50,034, up 3.5 percent over last year.

Hot fields enjoying a boost in starting offers include accounting, finance, business, and computer science.

Keep reading to learn about these degrees and see why they are helping students find work while sparking an economic turnaround:

Hot Degree #1 - Accounting
Average Starting Offer: $49,022*

The recent recession was a financial wake-up call for everyone from Wall Street to Main Street. As a result, accountants are in demand like never before to help balance budgets.

Curriculum: By earning your degree in accounting, you'll learn about generally accepted accounting principles and study courses like statistics, tax planning, auditing, corporate valuation, and accounting for mergers & acquisitions.

Potential Career Paths: Some students choose accounting to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, but an accounting degree can lead to a surprisingly wide range of careers.

According to North Carolina State University's accounting department website, your business card could eventually read accountant, financial analyst, real estate assessor, or even forensic actuary.

Find the Right Accounting School for You

Hot Degree #2 - Finance
Average Starting Offer: $50,535

While the study of accounting deals more specifically with the preparation and analysis of financial statements, finance majors focus more intently on the markets and learn about financial portfolios and investments, as well as the money that's needed to start and keep a company afloat. These are skills that corporations need right now.

Curriculum: While working your way toward a degree in finance, you're likely to study courses like macroeconomics, international banking, fixed income securities, investment management, and financial derivatives.

Potential Career Paths: Financial analyst is certainly one occupation that links up well with a finance degree. There are plenty of careers that require financially savvy professionals, including buying, selling and managing commercial real estate, as well as software sales for the financial services industry.

Many finance graduates find positions within the finance departments of firms; with banks, mutual funds, and other kinds of financial institutions; in government; or in a charitable organization, according to the Princeton Review's website.

Find Finance Schools Now

Hot Degree #3 - Business
Average Starting Offer: $48,089

Today's global economy is a key reason why a business degree is a popular choice for students worldwide. To use just a couple examples, you might study different theories on how to build and operate a business, and learn how to market a whole host of products - as well as how to market yourself.

Curriculum: While getting your business degree, you're likely to build a strong foundation of skills in areas like accounting, communications, economics, finance, leadership, management, and marketing.

Potential Career Paths: Students may choose to enter marketing, sales, operations, or finance. Other possibilities include human resources (HR) and public relations (PR).

According to Washington State University's online business degree program, possible careers include:

  • Global logistics and transportation
  • Import-export positions
  • Multinational product management, advertising, and sales
  • Travel and tourism
  • International consulting
  • Electronic commerce

Find the Right Business Degree Program for You

Hot Degree #4 - Computer Science
Average Starting Offer: $61,783

Computer science plays a huge role in every industry imaginable, from medicine and entertainment to finance and disaster recovery. Though its graduates sometimes work behind-the-scenes, they're often compensated well for their efforts, and companies like Google have changed the way people think about these experts. Computer geeks, as they are often affectionately called, are most definitely chic!

Curriculum: While earning your computer science degree, you'll likely study programming and the principles of computing, data structures and algorithms, information technology (IT), cloud computing, and network systems design.

Potential Career Paths: Common careers for computer science graduates include database and systems analysts, software engineers, and computer programmers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A computer-related degree is often paired with high starting salary offers, according to a 2010 article in "Network World", an IT-related publication and website. "Here's a tip for incoming and current college students: If you want to have a high-paying job on graduation day, study computer science," said the article.

Find Computer Science and IT programs now

*All salary information comes from the National Association of Colleges and Employers' Winter 2011 Salary Survey.

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