What Are The Most Effective Degrees?


Check out these five degrees that experts say could be the most effective for today's job market.

By Terence Loose    

Thinking of going back to school to improve your job prospects? Remember: Some degrees are more valued by employers than others.

In fact, you might be interested to know that different majors have different average salary outlooks - some brighter than others. As one example, the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) October 2011 Salary Survey found that the average starting salary offer to bachelor's degree graduates rose from $48,288 for the class of 2010 to $51,171 for the class of 2011.

Read on to check out five degrees that the experts say provide the best chances at landing a good career.

Effective Degree #1 - Business Administration

Want to earn a degree that you could potentially apply in just about any industry? A bachelor's in business administration is a good fit, says Michael Brandt, chief operating officer of the recruiting software firm BrightMove, Inc.

"When businesses hire, they look for that broad range of basic skill sets that they can build on," Brandt says. Perhaps that's why, as a person who finds people jobs, he says a business administration degree is his number one pick.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Degree Program.

That sentiment seems to be backed up by the NACE Salary Survey. More than 58 percent of the businesses surveyed said they planned to hire business administration grads. And what did they plan to pay them? The average starting salary jumped 5.4 percent to $46,372.

Related Career Paths, Average Salary Potential, and Future Job Growth*

  • Personal Finance Advisor: $91,220, 30 percent
  • Financial Analyst: $86,040, 20 percent

Effective Degree #2 - Psychology

Looking for a degree that's nearly as versatile as business but focused more on the human condition? You might want to check out a bachelor's degree in psychology, says Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., and author of many books on education including "The 10 Best College Majors for Your Personality."

"Psych majors go into fields such as public relations, advertising, and management because they understand something about the way people's minds tick. Also, they learn statistics and that kind of analytical ability is very useful in managerial jobs. I think hiring people realize that," says Shatkin.

Click to Find the Right Psychology Degree Program.

According to the NACE studies, they sure do. NACE's July 2011 Salary Survey reported that psychology bachelor's degree grads saw their average starting salary increase 23.8 percent to $40,069.

Related Career Paths, Average Salary Potential, and Future Job Growth*

  • Market Research Analyst: $66,850, 28 percent
  • Probation Officer: $51,240, 19 percent

Effective Degree #3 - Accounting

If you're a numbers person, get ready to read some very encouraging ones - regarding people earning bachelor's degrees in accounting.

First, the NACE 2012 Job Outlook study found that nearly 60 percent of employers planned to hire grads with accounting degrees. Second, they planned to pay those graduates two percent more, or $49,671, from a year before. Why is accounting such an effective degree?

Click to Find the Right Accounting Degree Program.

"The U.S. Department of Labor is very optimistic about accounting because they've seen that the complexity of business transactions keeps increasing. That means accountants have to keep track of things. Also, people want companies to be answerable to stockholders, and for that they need accountants. So I would say that is one of the more successful majors," says Shatkin.

Related Career Paths, Average Salary Potential, and Future Job Growth*

  • Accountant: $68,960, 22 percent
  • Budget Analyst: $70,660, 15 percent

Effective Degree #4 - Information Technology (IT)

You may have heard that we now live in the information age. So it's no wonder that IT is one of the most effective bachelor's degrees in today's job market.

"There's a whole new platform of smart phones and other devices, like tablets, that mean computers are being used in ways and places that never existed before," says Shatkin. "Also, everything that used to be analog is now digital, so we need people to deal with the systems that support them."

Click to Find the Right Information Technology Degree Program.

Computer and information science grads matched accounting grads at 59.3 percent of the employers planning to recruit them, according to the NACE studies. As for NACE's October 2011 Salary Survey, computer science grads had an average starting salary that increased 9.3 percent to $66,084. Nice numbers indeed.

Related Career Paths, Average Salary Potential, and Future Job Growth*

  • Computer Systems Analyst: $81,250, 20 percent
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrator: $72,200, 23 percent

Effective Degree #5 - Health Care Administration

Are you the efficient, managerial type but also attracted to the health care industry? Consider a bachelor's or master's degree in medical and health services management.

"There's a real need for people with associate's degrees or even certificates in health care administration," says Shatkin. "This is because there are many different insurance companies that doctors need to communicate with, and each has its own set of forms. Look at the typical doctor's office today; half of it is dedicated to the business side."

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, health care is projected to be the fastest growing industry from 2008-2018.

Related Career Paths, Average Salary Potential, and Future Job Growth*

  • Medical Service Manager: $93,670, 16 percent
  • Health Service Manager: $93,670, 16 percent

*Average salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2010 data. All job growth for 2008-2018 is obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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