Degrees That Hiring Managers Want

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Learn why the right college degree can help lead to the right job.

By Chris Kyle

Wondering which degrees can get you hired? Why not ask the people who do the hiring?

We polled a half-dozen HR managers and experts throughout the country to see what college degrees they want to see on the resumes hitting their desks.

The HR professionals work with employees in all industries, from private-sector firms and public agencies to non-profits, and the consensus was simple: now more than ever, your degree does matter.

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"Get this message out to the guidance counselors of America," said Coy Renick, a Virginia-based HR professional. "It's not about getting a degree. It's about getting the right degree."

For info on what degrees are hottest - and why - keep reading. Our HR experts have answers.

#1 Degree - Health Care & Nursing

In a 2010 poll by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 84 percent of HR specialists in the health care industry said they were currently hiring, leading all other sectors of the economy. Echoing that optimism, the U.S. Department of Labor says that 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations through 2018 are health-related.

Tip #1: "Anything related to the aging population is hot," said Roberta Matuson of Massachusetts-based Human Resource Solutions. "Whether it's a nutritionist, nurse, or nursing assistant, many hospitals can't afford to staff as many doctors, so they are bringing in people who can do a lot of the same things but at a lower cost."

Tip #2: "Like it or not, outsourcing is a long-term trend so you have to ask yourself: What jobs can be outsourced and what cannot? Many medical jobs cannot," said Steve Kane, an HR expert and former VP at a Fortune 50 global medical services company.

Popular Degrees:
Medical Assistant
Nursing Assistant
Registered Nurse
Health Care Administration

Potential Career Paths & Average Salaries:*
Home Health Aides: $21,440
Medical Assistants: $28,300
Registered Nurses: $62,450
Health Care Managers: $80,240

Search for Nursing and Health Care programs today!

#2 Degree - Business

When 100 HR professionals were asked what degree is most likely to get you hired in 2010, a business administration degree finished second, just behind health care, according to a poll by corporate consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Finance and accounting were popular choices too.

Tip #1: "A business degree is always going to have real value," said Matuson, an HR pro who helps staff nonprofits and small-to large-sized businesses. Her clients include Best Buy and New York Life.

Tip #2: Having a specialized degree in finance, accounting, or HR can help you find a career more easily than if you had a general business degree, Renick says.

Popular Degrees:
Accounting
Business Administration
Finance
Human Resources
MBA

Potential Career Paths & Average Salaries:*
Employment Specialists: $45,470
Accountants: $59,430
Financial Managers: $99,330

Search for Business programs right now.

#3 Degree - Information Technology (IT)

According to SHRM's 2010 poll of HR professionals, 75 percent of high-tech companies are hiring.

Tip #1: "The hottest industry for me is IT," said Renick, who helps staff companies in western Virginia.

Tip #2: "What's almost always true and is still true today is that computer science majors are still in demand," said Kane, a San Francisco-based HR pro. "It never seems to end."

Popular Degrees:
IT and Information Systems
Networking Administration
Computer Science
Database Technology

Potential Career Paths & Average Salaries:*
Network Administrators: $66,310
Database Administrators: $69,740
Computer Scientists: $97,970

Find online and local IT programs.

#4 Degree - Education & Teaching

While demand for educators isn't skyrocketing, employment for teachers and administrators is rising at a steady clip now and into the foreseeable future, according to the Department of Labor, which cites mathematics, science and bilingual education as the most promising fields.

Tip #1: Vivian Leonard, director of HR for the city of Boston, oversees 17,000 employees, including the local school department. "I'll consider your college degree, internships and any prior work experience," Leonard said. "You must demonstrate knowledge and a true interest."

Tip #2: When it comes to careers, Kane stresses location, location, location: "In cushy suburban locations, there is little demand for teachers. In rural areas, there's an even supply, while in rough, urban locations they are desperate for teachers. Why? Supply and demand."

Popular Degrees:
K-12 Education
Special Education
Teaching Certificate
Education Leadership

Potential Career Paths & Average Salaries:*
Childcare Administrators: $39,940
Elementary School Teachers: $52,240
Middle School Teachers: $52,570
High School Teachers: $54,390
High school Principals: $97,486

#5 Degree - Culinary & Hospitality

There is a "substantial" demand for new hires in the culinary and hospitality industries that isn't expected to let up anytime soon, according to the Department of Labor. They cite a predominately young workforce with a high turnover rate as the main reason for optimism.

Tip #1: "There are some real opportunities in hospitality, especially if you have a bright smile and a positive attitude," Kane said.

Tip #2: Job opportunities for meeting and convention planners will grow by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, reports the Department of Labor.

Popular Degrees:
Culinary Arts
Baking & Pastry
Marketing/Communications
Restaurant Management

Potential Career Paths & Average Salaries:*
Travel Agents: $30,570
Chefs & Head Cooks: $38,770
Meeting & Convention Planners: $44,260
Lodging Managers: $45,800
Food Service Managers: $46,320

Find local Culinary & Hospitality programs right now!

*All salary data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and indicates median 2008 wages.

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