Best Degrees for Career Flexibility

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Experts reveal which college degrees have the potential to lead to the most career opportunities.

By Chris Kyle   

Do you want to earn a degree that could keep your career options open? Here's a tip: don't specialize.

Majoring in areas like statistics or e-commerce - as popular and effective as they might be in preparing students for certain careers - have a more narrow focus than, say, a subject like business administration.

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In fact, a more specialized degree can potentially limit your options after graduation, according to Mary Pribyl, HR director for Profiles International, a global HR management company.

"Degrees that offer great career flexibility are those which are broad-based," says Steven Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, a job board aimed at students and recent graduates.

To select our best degrees for career flexibility, we combed through the U.S. Department of Labor to see which degrees were recommended for a variety of careers.

Keep reading to see which degrees have the potential to lead to the most career flexibility...

Degree #1 - Business Administration

Business administration is an all-purpose degree that can help open the door to opportunities in many different companies, not to mention industries. Some business curriculums offer concentrations in areas like marketing, management or finance so this flexible degree could turn you into a specialist too.

"Business degrees are always a safe bet and can be plugged in to the widest number of opportunities in almost any business or geographical setting," says Pribyl, who has over 25 years of experience in human resources, administrative management, and business development.

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Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*

  • Advertising Sales Agent: $55,020
  • Budget Analyst: $70,660
  • Financial Analyst: $86,040
  • HR Specialist: $57,830
  • Insurance Sales Agent: $62,520
  • Insurance Underwriter: $65,220
  • Marketing Specialist: $66,850
  • Purchasing Agent: $60,160
  • Real Estate Broker and Sales Agent: $76,060

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Degree #2 - Communications

It's hard to imagine a degree with a broader application than communications. "Probably the biggest complaint that I hear from employers about students and graduates is their lack of oral and written communication skills," says Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com.

In school you'll likely study everything from oral communication in the workplace to public relations and social media. Knowing how to best communicate could make you a better leader and team player in whatever career you choose.

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Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*

  • Advertising Sales Agent: $55,020
  • Announcer: $37,840
  • Author and Writer: $65,960
  • Broadcast News Analyst: $72,710
  • Editor: $59,340
  • Public Relations Specialist: $59,150
  • Reporter: $43,780
  • Sales Representative, Wholesale and Manufacturing: $62,720
  • Technical Writer: $66,240

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Degree #3 - Accounting

Accounting is a much more flexible degree than you may think because accounting curriculum often covers more general areas like business, finance, and economics. As a result, becoming a certified public accountant is just one of many different career paths open to accounting grads.

"You don't need to work for an accounting firm preparing tax returns simply because you're an accountant," Rothberg says. "Accountants, for example, are valued by consulting firms, accounting firms, and just about every corporation of any size."

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Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*

  • Accountant: $68,960
  • Auditing Clerk: $35,340
  • Budget Analyst: $70,660
  • Financial Analyst: $86,040
  • Insurance Underwriter: $65,220
  • Personal Financial Advisor: $91,220
  • Real Estate Broker and Sales Agent: $76,060
  • Sales Worker Supervisor (non-retail): $81,120
  • Tax Examiner: $54,830

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Degree #4 - MBA

Whether you are looking to get a promotion in a specific field, switch careers, or simply gain management skills, there is no better catch-all graduate degree than an MBA. You can specialize in an area like health care or human resources or stick with the core business administration curriculum.

While Pribyl admits that an MBA isn't for everyone, she says it can sometimes help you get hired. "If you're competing for a position with others who have only a bachelor's degree, you could be the candidate who is way out in front," she says.

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Potential Career Paths & Average Earning Potential*

  • Administrative Services Manager: $84,390
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager: $123,280
  • Financial Manager: $116,970
  • General and Operations Manager: $113,100
  • Human Resources Manager: $108,600
  • Marketing Manager: $122,720
  • Medical and Health Services Manager: $93,670
  • Promotions Manager: $98,720
  • Public Relations Manager: $104,390

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*All average earning potential information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using 2010 salary data.

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