The Most Useful College Degrees


Want to earn a degree that could help you look good in a variety of industries? Check out five multi-faceted options.

By Terence Loose

Are you considering going back to school, but aren't quite sure what to study? You might want to choose a versatile degree that could be marketable in more than one area.

"I used to work in human resources and I saw all the mistakes that people made, all the reasons people couldn't get hired," says Mary Jeanne Vincent, a personal career expert and strategist. "One of those mistakes was not having a major that was marketable."

If you want to avoid making a similar mistake, check out these five versatile college degree options.

Versatile Degree #1 - Business Administration

Were you the kid who was more interested in selling lemonade than drinking it? If so, you could be a perfect candidate for a highly versatile bachelor's degree in business administration.

According to the College Board, an organization of colleges and universities that administers tests such as the SAT, business administration and management majors will likely learn how to plan and run a business by taking courses such as business ethics, accounting, and human resources management. Basically, things that help make businesses - and lemonade stands - turn a profit.

Why It's Versatile: "This is a versatile degree because every business needs people who have business sense," says Vincent. In fact, the skills attained in a business program - like creating new products or services and understanding how to make the bottom line count - are often wanted by employers, explains Vincent.

Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program Now.

Possible Careers: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a business degree could help you prepare to pursue careers such as market research analyst, buyer, or commercial loan officer.*

Versatile Degree #2 - Computer Science

Quick, name an industry that doesn't rely on computers and information technology. Stumped, right? That's why a bachelor's degree in computer science is considered by Vincent to be a very versatile credential.

In fact, according to the College Board, computer science majors take an eclectic mix of classes, like artificial intelligence, mathematics for computer science, and the theory of formal languages.

Why It's Versatile: "There are a lot of different directions people can go in with this degree," says Vincent. "Things are always being invented and changing and we're all looking for that next thing. Computers are so woven into the fabric of every business now that these [graduates] will always be marketable."

Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program Now.

Possible Careers: The U.S. Department of Labor says those with a computer science bachelor's degree could pursue careers such as computer programmer and software developer, among others.*

Versatile Degree #3 - Marketing

What do the Los Angeles Lakers, Home Depot, and Buick all have in common? They're all on Facebook. Social media is more than a way to make friends, it's one of the biggest marketing tools among companies of all stripes, says Vincent, making a bachelor's in marketing a very versatile option.

These students study how to get businesses a larger, more dedicated customer base, says the College Board. They could take classes in subjects such as advertising and promotion, marketing communications and research, and consumer behavior.

Why It's Versatile: "People who are well-versed in and know how to use social media are going to be in great demand in the future," says Vincent. "Every business is looking for these people. It's across the board, so a marketing degree is itself very marketable."

Click to Find the Right Marketing Program Now.

Possible Careers: Talk about options: The U.S. Department of Labor notes that marketing courses are helpful and important for a career as a sales manager, market research analyst, or advertising sales agent.*

Versatile Degree #4 - Criminal Justice

Unfortunately, crime is an equal opportunity business - it's everywhere, and affects every industry. On the flip side, this means a criminal justice degree is a versatile choice, according to Vincent.

Even the College Board's description of the major is eclectic. "Criminal justice is an interdisciplinary major, so get ready to study everything: law, psychology, sociology, public administration, and more," it reads. Common courses might include criminology, victimology, and juvenile justice.

Why It's Versatile: "[Criminal justice is] police work, it's law, but a lot of companies have internal security and people with a criminal justice degree may also be very good at risk management or looking for irregularities," says Vincent. "They're trained to spot things that aren't right. I could see those skills used in a wide range of industries."

Click to Find the Right Criminal Justice Program Now.

Possible Careers: A few options for criminal justice bachelor's degree grads, per the U.S. Department of Labor, include probation officer and correctional treatment specialist.*

Versatile Degree #5 - Paralegal Studies

In our litigious society, knowledge of the law is helpful in many places, not just the courtroom. In fact, says Vincent, a degree in paralegal studies can be applicable in a wide range of industries.

So, how do paralegal studies majors gain this versatile knowledge? With help from classes as varied as criminal law and procedure, civil procedure, and ethics, notes the College Board. Paralegal studies students also learn how to do extensive research, keep records, and communicate in writing effectively.

Why It's Versatile: "This degree gives you employable skills even if you don't work in the legal field," says Vincent. "For instance, if you work in risk management or in contracts, that degree gives you an expertise, or certainly some understanding, of contracts and regulations. Businesses in many industries need that."

Click to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Program Now.

Possible Career: The U.S. Department of Labor says that an associate's degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor's degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies, could help you prepare to pursue a career as a paralegal or legal assistant.*

*All possible career information is from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition. The reference may include the Department labeling the degree as being required, preferred, or common for pursuing the particular career - or labeling the classes as being important.

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