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While higher education once encouraged optimism and passion as deciding factors in choosing a major, the Great Recession made a lot of experts in education and staffing rethink how we prepare students for the workforce. Especially when it’s become clear that hard-to-fill positions are stagnating our country’s economic growth.

“The market is at a unique inflection point, and we need to make sure that we’re educating workers to have 21st century skills for 21st century jobs,” says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. “While it’s encouraging to see accelerated participation growth in STEM-related college programs, the slowdown in overall degree completions – especially those tied to developing strong communications and critical-thinking skills – is concerning. Nearly half of employers say they currently have job vacancies but can’t find skilled candidates to fill them. We need to do a better job informing students and workers about which fields are in-demand and growing, and provide them with access to affordable education and training, so the journey to a high-skill job is an achievable one regardless of their socioeconomic situation.”

With that in mind, new research from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl shows that nearly 500,000 more degrees were awarded in 2014 than in 2010, an 11 percent increase. What specializations and opportunities should future graduates keep in mind as the next stage of their career begins? What majors fare fading fast? Here are the college degrees growing and declining post-recession.

College degrees with the most growth
More than half of the top 10 broad programs leading the U.S. in degree completion (2010-2014) were in STEM fields, known for the collection of roles in science, technology, engineering and math. Those college degrees with the most growth include:

1. Science technologies/technicians
+1,521 change
49 percent growth

2. Natural resources and conservation
+7,792 change
45 percent growth

3. Parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies
+18,869 change
44 percent growth

4. Multi/interdisciplinary studies
+24,540 change
36 percent growth

5. Mathematics and statistics
+9,384 change
35 percent growth

6. Public administration and social service professions
+22,683 change
33 percent growth

7. Computer and information sciences and support services
+38,194 change
32 percent growth

8. Precision production
+9,581 change
30 percent growth

9. Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and related protective services
+32,529 change
27 percent growth

10. Engineering
+32,058 change
26 percent growth

College degrees with the greatest decline
The recession refocused the economy on STEM jobs that could lead to further innovation and growth—leaving graduates in the humanities with fewer hard skills to compete with for high-paying jobs. From 2010 to 2014, only nine broad program categories experienced decline, nearly all of which were in humanities and social sciences (and closely related to teaching occupations):

1. Military technologies and applied science
-814 change
30 percent decline

2. Library science
-1,432 change
17 percent decline

3. Education
-33,301 change
9 percent decline

4. History
-3,561 change
8 percent decline

5. Construction trades
-1,980 change
6 percent decline

6. Philosophy and religious studies
-542 change
3 percent decline

7. English language and literature/letters
-1,571 change
2 percent decline

8. Foreign languages, literatures and linguistics:
-683 change
2 percent decline

9. Architecture and related sciences
-217 change
1 percent decline

Factoring in economic trends and the number of graduates you’ll be competing with in certain industries can be what prepares you for a successful career, versus adjusting your career path after trends are already affecting your trajectory. When considering higher education, looking to the future can be the smartest way to start a school year.

Originally posted at http://advice.careerbuilder.com/posts/college-degrees-growing-declining-post-recession

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