Hot degrees to pursue in 2014 and beyond

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If you're planning on going back to school in 2014, make sure you choose a degree that employers love.

By Terence Loose

Are you thinking of improving your career choices by going back to school for your bachelor's degree?

While that might be a good plan, you want to make sure the degree you choose will be in demand in the future. Because, frankly, some degrees are going to be hot, and some are just not.

And choosing the right degree is just as important as having relevant work experience and skills, says Marie Zimenoff, a career management, job search strategist, and certified résumé writer at A Strategic Advantage, a career coaching company.

"The competition [will be] stiff," says Zimenoff. "So be ready to show innovation and initiative in your résumé, at an interview, and on the job to be successful."

Fortunately, we asked her and another career expert which degrees will be hot in 2014. So read on to get a jumpstart on what degrees and skills add up in the success equation.

Hot Degree #1: Bachelor's in Finance

Some say love makes the world go round, but business leaders usually say it's money. And that's one reason a degree in finance will be in high demand well into the future, says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's career expert and the author of "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success."

Why It'll Be Hot in 2014 and Beyond: "Finance is a degree that can be used in a myriad of different professions and is a discipline that benefits anyone, regardless of where they land in terms of their specific job," says Williams.

She adds that finance not only teaches you how to analyze and interpret financial numbers, it also gives you an integrated understanding of how business works - a skill that you could apply in fields as diverse as law and marketing.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Typical Courses: Choose finance as a major and you'll likely take courses such as investments, analysis of financial statements, international finance, and financial management, according to the College Board, a nonprofit research organization that promotes higher education.

Potential Career: Financial Analyst. These professionals assess the performance of investments, such as stocks and bonds, to give businesses financial advice, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Financial analysts typically need a bachelor's degree in a field such as business administration, accounting, economics, or finance. The Department of Labor expects this occupation to grow by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Hot Degree #2: Bachelor's in Computer Science

If you're into tech, a degree in computer science could be a good call, says Williams. It will be in high demand from employers, resulting in high pay, she says.

Why It'll Be Hot in 2014 and Beyond: "All businesses, regardless of the industry, are relying more and more heavily on technology to do everything from recruiting, marketing, networking, selling, and delivering products and services," says Williams.

This degree teaches specific computer skills like programming, computer languages, and network design and engineering, all of which companies need for their computer networks, she adds. Finally, Williams says, "This degree also teaches broad skills such as problem solving and working within a team."

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

Typical Courses: The College Board says computer science majors take classes like digital system design, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and the theory of formal languages.

Potential Career: Software Developer. Does designing computer applications sound fun? That's what these creative minds do, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Software developers usually have a bachelor's in computer science. According to the Department of Labor, the projected job growth for software developers from 2010 to 2020 is 30 percent.

Hot Degree #3: Bachelor's in Marketing

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that in today's world, marketing is crucial to the success of any business. And that's why Williams says this degree is a good bet for the future.

Why It'll Be Hot in 2014 and Beyond: "We're all selling something, and that's an industry that will never die. There will always be people willing to spend money to get their messages out there," says Williams. She adds that social media is the buzzword for employers in marketing, but employers will also seek out these individuals for their strong writing, communication, and interpersonal skills.

Zimenoff says marketing students gain valuable skills in market research, branding, marketing strategy, and product life cycles, as well as currently hot skills like web and graphic design.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Marketing Program.

Typical Courses: Advertising and promotion, international marketing, marketing management, and consumer behavior are just a few of the typical courses in this major listed by the College Board.

Potential Careers: Advertising, Promotions, or Marketing Manager. These people create and manage advertising campaigns to generate interest in products and services, says the U.S. Department of Labor. A bachelor's degree is required for most of these positions, and courses in finance, accounting, management, statistics, and business law are helpful for pursuing this career. The Department of Labor adds that this job is expected to grow by 14 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Hot Degree #4: Bachelor's in Accounting

Like crunching numbers? This degree might be for you. And if it is, consider yourself lucky, because Zimenoff says employers will seek accounting majors in 2014 and far beyond.

Why It'll Be Hot in 2014 and Beyond: "Similar to finance, accounting is in demand because businesses need to be able to track and analyze their financial transactions to make the best business decisions," says Zimenoff. "They are also facing ever-increasing regulations and need employees who can meet these requirements while also providing business intelligence."

Williams says accounting majors learn the advanced accounting skills needed to meet the demands of today's sophisticated financial world, such as more complicated rules and regulations. "The old stereotype of the brainy but quiet accountant doesn't fit anymore. You'll also develop communication and presentations skills."

Next step: Click to Find the Accounting Program.

Typical Courses: As an accounting major, coursework could include accounting information systems, business law, cost accounting, tax accounting, and auditing, says the College Board.

Potential Careers: Accountant or Auditor. Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records, ensuring that taxes are paid properly and on time, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. The Department of Labor projects that job growth for accountants and auditors will be 16 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Hot Degree #5: Bachelor's in Health Care Administration

Want a degree in what Williams describes as one of the hottest industries going forward? Try a bachelor's in health care management, which Williams says will likely offer opportunities in many different jobs and clear roads to advancement.

Why It'll Be Hot in 2014 and Beyond: "This degree will be more in demand because of rapid and extended growth in the industry as health care becomes increasingly critical for an aging and health-conscious population," says Williams. Zimenoff agrees, adding that older students who already have some work experience combined with this degree will be most competitive.

Williams says this degree will give you skills that mirror the complex health care world. You'll study everything from accounting and technology to human resources and marketing, she says.

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

Typical Courses: The College Board says health care administration majors take courses as diverse as accounting, health care ethics, human resources management, and anatomy and physiology.

Potential Career: Medical Health Services Manager. These are the professionals who work closely with doctors, nurses, and other health care staff while managing a specific department or an entire facility, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration. According to the Department of Labor, this occupation is projected to have 22 percent job growth from 2010 to 2020.

Hot Degree #6: Bachelor's in Business Administration

Here's a versatile degree that gives you a broad range of knowledge that will fit into virtually any industry, says Zimenoff. But she warns that although this degree will remain a good, practical choice in the future, graduates will have to distinguish themselves from others with the same degree.

Why It'll Be Hot in 2014 and Beyond: "Although it may be in demand, new graduates with a business degree may struggle if they don't have a specialty or experience in a certain direction," says Zimenoff. "With their degree of breadth in business knowledge, they will need to be able to pull the pieces together and demonstrate their relevance in a specific position or industry."

She says getting work experience while in school is key, because that's what employers want - the core business and management skills this degree offers coupled with practical skills in areas like marketing, human resources, and even leadership. "Fortunately, most business programs push internships hard, and students with these experiences will find their job search [to be] much shorter," she says.

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

Typical Courses: Choose a business major, and the College Board says you'll likely take these courses: accounting, human resources management, operations management, and financial management.

Potential Careers: Personal Financial Advisor. These professionals help individuals with financial decisions regarding taxes, investments, and insurance, says the U.S. Department of Labor. A bachelor's degree is needed for most of these positions, and while no specific major is required, a degree in business, finance, economics, accounting, mathematics, or law is good preparation for this career. The Department of Labor also notes that this occupation is expected to grow by 32 percent from 2010 to 2020.

* Projected job growth rates from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition.

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