Top Six College Degrees Trending Now

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Looking for a degree that's highly coveted by both students and employers? Check out these six top picks.

By Terence Loose

Are you thinking of going back to school, but want to make sure you choose a degree that's popular among your friends and employers?

You're not alone, says Cathy Summa-Wolfe, communications director at the College of Marin in the San Francisco Bay area. "I think more than ever students are being more practical in their approach to a major. They want a degree that has a good chance of landing them a job soon after graduation," she says.

If you're nodding your head in agreement, you might want to read on about six degrees that are trending now.

Trending Degree #1: Bachelor's in Business Administration

Not sure if you've heard, but making money is trendy. Everybody wants to do it, not least of which businesses. So it shouldn't be any surprise that Summa-Wolfe says a bachelor's in business administration is popular among students and employers.

Why? Because it's a very versatile degree that teaches skills applicable in a variety of industries. Courses for a business administration and management degree certainly cover a wide range, from subjects like financial management to business policy and strategy, ethics and law, and human resources management, according to the College Board, a nonprofit organization that conducts standardized tests like the SAT.

Trending Traits: Vicki Lynn, senior vice president of Universum, a global talent recruiting company that works with many Fortune 500 companies, says her clients hire a lot of business majors because they already have the basics down and only need to learn the specifics of their employer's industry.

Perhaps that's why a 2012 job outlook survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that nearly half (48.5 percent) of responding employers planned to hire business administration/management degree graduates.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program Now.

Potential Career: One, among many, interesting career choices for business majors is personal financial advisor, for which a bachelor's degree in business is good preparation, says the U.S. Department of Labor. In this career, you might advise people about investments, taxes, insurance, and other important financial matters.*


Trending Degree #2: Bachelor's in Computer Science

In today's technology-driven world, mobile apps and computer-based smartphones allow us to elevate a topic from zero to trendy overnight. So it's no surprise that computer science is currently trending in its own right.

Just consider what you could learn with this major. According to the College Board, students typically take courses in software engineering, digital system design, the theory of formal languages, and more. These courses will hopefully help students master the way computers and humans interact, from a scientific perspective.

Trending Traits: Lynn says that computer science majors are at a premium right now in the marketplace. Every company she advises is in need of employees with this background, as almost all companies in today's world rely heavily on computers.

You don't have to look further than the NACE's study for evidence that corroborates Lynn's point. A bachelor's in computer science and information sciences tied for second in the in-demand degree category, with 59.3 percent of responding employers saying they planned to recruit these degree holders.

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Potential Career: Are you ready to design the next trending computer program? That's what software developers do, says the U.S. Department of Labor. These professionals usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field.*


Trending Degree #3: Associate's in Medical Assisting

You know the nice people who show you to the exam room and take your vital signs when you go to the doctor? They're called medical assistants, and their numbers are growing in the health care industry. If you've ever thought about working in a medical office, then a trending associate's degree in medical assisting could be for you.

In these programs, medical assisting majors learn how to keep doctors' offices and clinics running smoothly, says the College Board. As a medical assisting student, you would basically study how to be the glue that holds the health care industry together - from completing insurance forms to changing patient dressings.

Trending Traits: "Just about any field associated with health care is going to be in demand, and we certainly see that with medical assisting," says Lynn. Even better, Lynn expects the trend to continue.

The U.S. Department of Labor seems just as optimistic; it projects a 31 percent job growth rate in the medical assisting profession from 2010 to 2020.

Click to Find the Right Medical Assisting Program Now.

Potential Career: With an associate's degree in medical assisting, you could pursue the career of medical assistant. While in most states there are no formal education requirements for this job, notes the Department of Labor, employers may prefer candidates with relevant preparation, such as a certificate or associate's degree.*


Trending Degree #4: Bachelor's in Accounting

If you've watched the news for more than, say, five minutes during the last five years, you've probably heard about the financial crisis and wave of corporate scandals. Well, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, these recent developments have led to an increased emphasis on accounting by employers. In other words, accounting is trendy - possibly for the first time ever.

As an accounting major, the College Board says coursework, in addition to a lot of accounting courses, could include things like business law, auditing, and accounting information systems. Such courses try to prepare you to analyze financial information, prepare a business's tax documents, and even consult with upper management.

Trending Traits: Lynn says that accounting is one of the best majors she could think of. Why? Employers in today's market need accountants desperately.

That NACE's job report seems to be in line with this thinking: accounting tied for second in the top degrees in-demand category. More than 59 percent of responding employers said they planned to recruit students with a bachelor's in accounting.

Click to Find the Right Accounting Program Now.

Potential Careers: If you see yourself helping businesses keep a healthy bottom line or stay within the rules and regulations, the position of accountant or auditor could be for you. These professionals usually need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, says the Department of Labor.*


Trending Degree #5: Associate's in Nursing

Want a degree that's trending and in a trending industry? An associate's in nursing could be the ticket. This degree could help you pursue a position in the field of health care and social assistance, an industry that the U.S. Department of Labor expects to be the number one creator of jobs (5.7 million) from 2010 to 2020.

This subject could be as fulfilling as it is trending, too. According to the College Board, by studying nursing you could learn how to "care for, educate, and enhance the lives of patients every day." Typical coursework includes classes like health assessment, pathophysiology, nutrition, pharmacology, and more.

Trending Traits: Summa-Wolfe says that because nursing is a popular major, it's also very competitive. "But if you get through it, there are a lot of jobs and they tend to pay pretty well," she says.

A 2012 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce titled "Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal" seems to support that statement. It found that recent college nursing grads had an unemployment rate of just 4 percent (the lowest in the study); recent nursing grads with full-time employment earned an average salary of $48,000.

Click to Find the Right Nursing Program Now.

Potential Career: The Department of Labor says that an associate's degree in nursing is one of the paths to a career as a registered nurse. All states require registered nurses to have a nursing license. Nurses, of course, coordinate patient care in a variety of settings, from doctor's offices to large hospitals, says the Department.*


Trending Degree #6: Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

Here's a no-brainer: getting promoted to upper management is trendy. Maybe that's why Summa-Wolfe says people with bachelor's degrees in various areas are returning to school to earn a master's in business administration. They're hoping that an MBA might help their chances at career advancement, she says.

MBA programs, says Summa-Wolfe, teach students who usually have some real-world business knowledge how to "take it to the next level." They learn everything from finance and accounting to marketing and human resources. MBA programs also help students "develop analytical skills and learn financial analysis methods and software," adds the U.S. Department of Labor.

Trending Traits: "Many students who have a degree in another area such as engineering or IT actually come back to get an [MBA] in business to enhance their opportunities in their company," says Summa-Wolfe. "It allows them to take that next step into management positions."

Click to Find the Right MBA Program Now.

Potential Career: Do you see yourself in the boardroom or directing the finances of a Fortune 500 company? If so, you could make a great financial manager. According to the Department of Labor, employers recruiting for this position "seek candidates with a master's degree, preferably in business administration, finance, or economics."*

* All potential career information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition. Potential careers were determined on the basis of the Handbook, which referenced the degree as being either required, preferred, or good preparation for the career.

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