Degrees that teach skills for in-demand jobs


In today's fast-moving career world, not all degrees can leave you with valuable, real-world skills employers want. Here are six degrees that can.

By Andrea Duchon

From accounting to theater to chemistry, there are countless degrees out there that you could earn. But it's true that some degrees may have more value than others in the eyes of an employer. So how can you determine what degrees could help you prepare for a career better than others?

Laura London, executive director of education at Noodle, a website that provides information on colleges, says one key is doing your research.

"Students looking to enter a degree program should do some research and find out the degrees that employers see value in. By focusing their efforts on in-demand degrees, they'll be in a better position to find a job post-graduation," she says.

Wondering which degrees make you a vital necessity at an organization? Keep reading to learn about six you can earn that could make you indispensable to your employer.

Degree #1: Bachelor's in Computer Science

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If you've always been fascinated with computers and computer software, a bachelor's degree in computer science could be a good fit for you, and for a future employer.

According to the College Board, a not-for-profit membership organization committed to excellence and equity in education, computer science majors typically study courses like artificial intelligence, digital system design, and software engineering. These students also learn about computer systems and the way humans interact with computers.

Why It Makes You Indispensable: No degree prepares you for the post-recession economy like a degree in computer science, says London.

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

Jan Sikorsky, vice president of education at Envision, a leading experiential education organization dedicated to enabling students of all ages to explore their interests and gain learning experiences beyond the classroom, agrees: "Computer science degrees give graduates technical abilities that, when combined with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, are absolutely necessary to help businesses succeed in today's digital age."

Potential Careers*:

Degree #2: Bachelor's in Accounting

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Calling all number crunchers! Earning your bachelor's degree in accounting could help put you on the top of the pack for hiring employers.

Along with taking typical courses like accounting, business law, and auditing, the College Board also says you'll learn how to analyze financial information and risks within an organization.

Why It Makes You Indispensable: "As laws and regulations continue to change, companies will continue to need people who can help them stay ahead and stay compliant," says London. "That also means that the demand for financial talent will continue to rise."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Brian Stanko, department chair and professor of accounting at Loyola University Chicago's Quinlan School of Business says that accounting encompasses many financial areas that require good knowledge and more are continuously being added.

"Consider, for example, corporate financial reporting, audit and attestation, tax, and business advisory services. These are all accounting staples. Now add in sustainability reporting and international reporting, and you have a profession that continues to seek new, highly educated, and dynamic talent," he says.

Potential Careers:

Degree #3: Bachelor's in Elementary Education

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Have you always loved kids? Perhaps a bachelor's degree in elementary education could put you on the right path in your career and have employers chomping at the bit to get you on their team.

Typical courses include child development and learning, educational psychology, and reading fundamentals, according to the College Board. It also notes that student teaching and creating lesson plans are also typically part of this major.

Why It Makes You Indispensable: London says that the education landscape is changing, and slowly but surely entering the digital age.

Next step: Click to Find the Right K-12 Education Program.

"We need a new kind of teacher, administrator, and policymaker who can use technology to prepare students for the digital age," she adds. "Earning a degree in education puts a graduate in the right position to handle that kind of work and makes them a valuable - and indispensable - asset in the education landscape."

Potential Career:

Degree #4: Bachelor's in Finance

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Similar to accounting, this degree is highly sought-after by employers. But while it revolves around numbers, the specific focus in finance is slightly different.

The College Board says that students majoring in finance learn how to make financial decisions for organizations, as well as how to make wise investments or raise funds. Students can expect to take courses in subjects like investments, international finance, and accounting and statistics for financial analysis.

Why It Makes You Indispensable: As business models continue to change and go global, companies will continue to need people who can help them stay innovative and in compliance, London advises. "A financial background can prepare students for an increasing number of professional opportunities."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

"Why is a degree in finance so important today?" asks Serhat Cicekoglu, lecturer and director of the Center for Risk Management at Loyola University Chicago's Quinlan School of Business.

"Just look back to 2008. Being able to master the market is one thing; you need people who are well prepared to mitigate risk with sound, ethical decision-making. Learning from the past and hands-on skills for the application of financial theory are essential to the long-term success of a company," he says.

Potential Careers:

Degree #5: Bachelor's in Graphic Design

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Take a look around the Internet, glance up at a billboard, or admire your favorite company's logo, and you're looking at the work of a graphic designer. By earning your degree in graphic design, you could make yourself indispensable to future employers.

Graphic design students may study courses like typography, Photoshop for designers, and graphic design techniques, according to the College Board. This program prepares them to learn the design and computer skills necessary to create the look for websites, magazines, posters, and books.

Why It Makes You Indispensable: Graphic design is important, because today's customers have high expectations for design, London notes.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Graphic Design Program.

"Companies without a sleek web presence, whether it be a website or ads, are at a huge disadvantage," she says. "That's why students who graduate with a graphic design degree are in a great place post-graduation." Why? London says that they've been trained with the skills that companies are looking for, which is a need that will only continue to grow as companies seek to define their brands and stake out their places on the web.

Potential Careers:

Degree #6: Associate's in Dental Assisting

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Looking for a way to increase your career prospects after graduation and get into the health care industry? A degree in dental assisting could be just the ticket you need.

According to the College Board, dental assisting majors learn how to assist dentists with administrative and basic clinical tasks. Typical courses could include oral anatomy, clinical practice, and dental records.

Why It Makes You Indispensable: A degree in dental assisting can increase an employee's value in many ways, says Dorothea Cavallucci, director of the Dental Assisting and EFDA programs at Harcum College.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.

"Earning a degree in dental assisting puts the student at an advantage once they're searching for work. During their studies, they're learning about a variety of procedures that include exposing and processing radiographs, mixing different types of dental materials, taking impressions, retracting and oral evacuation, and performing four-handed dentistry. Without this specialized skill set, a dentist's office would be unable to function," she says.

She adds that all of that makes it possible for a dentist to work more efficiently and thereby be more productive, which is an invaluable asset at any office.

Potential Career:

* All potential careers listed from the 2012-2013 U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Department of Labor cites the associated degrees as common, required, preferred, or one of a number of degrees acceptable as preparation for the potential career. In some instances, candidates might require further schooling, professional certifications, or experience, before being qualified to pursue the career.

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