2016 brings optimistic job news for college graduates and prospective grad students. Surveys show that companies are becoming more optimistic about making new hires than they have been the past few years. The number of employers conducting internship and job interviews at university and college career centers is up, and employers are making more, and more attractive, offers to graduates. The greatest difficulty facing many recent college grads this year may be whether to put off graduate study in order to take advantage of current job offerings, or whether to commit to grad study now in order to pursue even better career prospects.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the fields with the greatest demand for new professionals over the next decade include health care, education, management and professional services, information, and financial services. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that accounting, electrical and mechanical engineering, economics and finance, business administration/management, marketing, and computer and information science are all fields that are actively hiring.
The health care category includes many occupations in high demand. Demand for medical and health care services managers, including public health professionals, is expected to grow faster than average. Although the market for dental services is not expected to grow in the near future, there should be many opportunities for young dental school graduates to take over practices from retiring dentists. Employment opportunities for psychologists are expected to expand, especially in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, substance abuse treatment centers, and consulting firms.
Demand for teachers is expected to remain high. There will be especially high demand for math, science, bilingual, and foreign language teachers.
Despite concern about technology jobs being outsourced to overseas companies, there is still a strong demand in the U.S. for professionals with information technology skills. Graduates who have internships or other practical experience under their belts, and those who can demonstrate good personal communication and management skills in addition to technical ability, are especially well-placed to take advantage of opportunities presented by the recovering job market. Demand for computer software engineers, computer systems analysts, and network and computer system administrators is expected to be especially high.
Managers of all kinds are in demand, especially at consulting firms and financial service companies. Demand for accountants and financial specialists is already high and continuing to grow. Financial engineering appears to be an increasingly looked-for specialty. Opportunities in marketing and communications also look good.
There are always job opportunities for engineering graduates, given the perennial shortage of qualified professionals in the U.S. Graduate or continuing education is increasingly important as engineers need to keep up-to-date with technical developments. Some observers believe that technical engineering work may be outsourced overseas in coming years. They advise U.S. engineers to develop their managerial skills in order to remain competitive in the domestic job market. Several colleges and universities offer graduate management programs tailored to the needs and interests of engineers.
If you don’t see the field you’re interested in listed above, don’t worry. Some occupations will never show up in occupational outlook surveys because their numbers are so small. That doesn’t mean that dedicated and talented individuals can’t make a rewarding life for themselves by working in that field. In choosing a graduate program you should pay more attention to what you want to spend your life doing rather than what the marketplace is rewarding at any particular point in time.
In any event, there’s no question that education pays off. A 2012 Commerce Department study showed the difference that higher education makes in lifetime earnings. A high school graduate can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million in their lifetime. That number increases to $2.1 million for someone with a bachelor’s degree, $2.5 million for someone with a master’s, and $3.4 million for someone with a doctorate. Persons with professional degrees, such as law, medicine, dentistry, and business, did best of all, with average lifetime earnings of $4.4 million.