Best Careers for College Grads

Picking a college major? Here are some careers to keep in mind! We’ve used EMSI’s powerful labor market data to select the 10 best careers for college graduates at both the BA and the AA level.

These careers stand out for a couple of reasons. First, they’ve had strong national growth since the recession; look at the total number of jobs in 2014 and see how many of those were added just since 2010. (Note: The number of jobs in 2014 doesn’t refer to job openings, but to actual jobs held by actual people.) Second, these careers pay well; check out their average hourly wages.

And since this is all about planning your future, we’ve also included the most common programs that employees took in college to get to where they are now. Explore the lists below!

Best Careers for BA College Grads

The best careers for college students graduating with a four-year degree are in management, business/finance, and computer/math. You’ll notice that several of the popular programs show up multiple times on this list—such as computer science, information technology, and business administration & management, general. What this means is that if you get a degree in one of these fields, you’ve got several options for a solid career.

1. General and operations managers

11-1021_general and operations managersWhat they do: Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of public or private sector organizations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources, but are too diverse and general in nature to be classified in any one functional area of management or administration, such as personnel, purchasing, or administrative services. (This career category is very broad. Some common job titles would be store manager, general manager, operations manager, and even president.)

2014 jobs: 2.1 million
New jobs since 2010: 150K (8% growth)
Average hourly wages: $56
Popular programs: Business administration and management, general. Business/commerce, general. Public administration.

2. Software developers, applications

15-1132_software developers, applicationsWhat they do: Develop, create, and modify general computer applications software or specialized utility programs. Analyze user needs and develop software solutions. Design software or customize software for client use with the aim of optimizing operational efficiency. May analyze and design databases within an application area, working individually or coordinating database development as part of a team. May supervise computer programmers.

2014 jobs: 692K
New jobs since 2010: 91K (15% growth)
Average hourly wages: $48
Popular programs: Computer science. Information technology. Computer engineering, general.

3. Accountants and auditors

13-2011_accountants and auditorsWhat they do: Examine, analyze, and interpret accounting records to prepare financial statements, give advice, or audit and evaluate statements prepared by others. Install or advise on systems of recording costs or other financial and budgetary data. (This doesn’t include tax examiners and collectors or revenue agents.)

2014 jobs: 1.2 million
New jobs since 2010: 88K (8% growth)
Average hourly wages: $35
Popular programs: Accounting. Accounting and business/management.

4. Market research analysts and marketing specialists

13-1161_market research analysts and marketing specialistsWhat they do: Research market conditions in local, regional, or national areas, or gather information to determine potential sales of a product or service, or create a marketing campaign. May gather information on competitors, prices, sales, and methods of marketing and distribution.

2014 jobs: 473K
New jobs since 2010: 67K (17% growth)
Average hourly wages: $33
Popular program: Marketing/marketing management, general.

5. Computer systems analysts

15-1121_computer systems analystsWhat they do: Analyze science, engineering, business, and other data processing problems to implement and improve computer systems. Analyze user requirements, procedures, and problems to automate or improve existing systems and review computer system capabilities, workflow, and scheduling limitations. May analyze or recommend commercially available software.

2014 jobs: 532K
New jobs since 2010: 62K (13% growth)
Average hourly wages: $42
Popular programs: Computer and information sciences, general. Information technology. Computer systems networking and telecommunications.

6. Management analysts

13-1111_management analystsWhat they do: Conduct organizational studies and evaluations, design systems and procedures, conduct work simplification and measurement studies, and prepare operations and procedures manuals to assist management in operating more efficiently and effectively. Includes program analysts and management consultants.

2014 jobs: 600K
New jobs since 2010: 42K (8% growth)
Average hourly wages: $44
Popular programs: Business administration and management, general. Business/commerce, general.

7. Software developers, systems software

15-1133_software developers, systems sotwareWhat they do: Research, design, develop, and test operating systems-level software, compilers, and network distribution software for medical, industrial, military, communications, aerospace, business, scientific, and general computing applications. Set operational specifications and formulate and analyze software requirements. May design embedded systems software. Apply principles and techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis.

2014 jobs: 385K
New jobs since 2010: 39K (11% growth)
Average hourly wages: $51
Popular programs: Computer science. Information technology. Information science/studies.

8. Computer and information systems managers

11-3021_computer and information systems managersWhat they do: Plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis, and computer programming.

2014 jobs: 335K
New jobs since 2010: 30K (10% growth)
Average hourly wages: $65
Popular programs: Computer and information sciences, general. Computer science. Information science/studies.

9. Human resources specialists

13-1071_human resources specialistsWhat they do: Perform activities in the human resource area. Includes employment specialists who screen, recruit, interview, and place workers.

2014 jobs: 468K
New jobs since 2010: 30K (7% growth)
Average hourly wages: $30
Popular programs: Human resources management/personnel administration, general. Organizational behavior studies.

10. Computer programmers

15-1131_computer programmersWhat they do: Create, modify, and test the code, forms, and script that allow computer applications to run. Work from specifications drawn up by software developers or other individuals. May assist software developers by analyzing user needs and designing software solutions. May develop and write computer programs to store, locate, and retrieve specific documents, data, and information.

2014 jobs: 304K
New jobs since 2010: 26K (9% growth)
Average hourly wages: $40
Popular programs: Computer science. Management information systems, general. Computer programming/programmer, general.

Best Careers for AA College Grads

The best careers for students graduating with an associate degree are in computer/math, legal, and healthcare. Bear in mind—employees in these careers very well might have more than associate degree, but these are careers where an associate degree for first-time workers is typical.

1. Web developers

15-1134_web developerWhat they do: Design, create, and modify websites. Analyze user needs to implement website content, graphics, performance, and capacity. May integrate websites with other computer applications. May convert written, graphic, audio, and video components to compatible web formats by using software designed to facilitate the creation of web and multimedia content.

2014 jobs: 124K
New jobs since 2010: 16K (15% growth)
Average hourly wages: $33
Popular programs: Computer science. Information technology.

2. Computer network support specialists

15-1152_computer network support specialistWhat they do: Analyze, test, troubleshoot, and evaluate existing network systems, such as local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), and Internet systems or a segment of a network system. Perform network maintenance to ensure networks operate correctly with minimal interruption.

2014 jobs: 187K
New jobs since 2010: 9K (5% growth)
Average hourly wages: $32
Popular programs: Computer science. Computer systems networking and telecommunications.

4. Mechanical engineering technicians

17-3027_mechanical engineering techniciansWhat they do: Apply theory and principles of mechanical engineering to modify, develop, test, or calibrate machinery and equipment under direction of engineering staff or physical scientists.

2014 jobs: 48K
New jobs since 2010: 4K (9% growth)
Average hourly wages: $27
Popular programs: Engineering technology, general. Engineering technology/mechanical technology/technician

4. Chemical technicians

19-4031_chemical techniciansWhat they do: Conduct chemical and physical laboratory tests to assist scientists in making qualitative and quantitative analyses of solids, liquids, and gaseous materials for research and development of new products or processes, quality control, maintenance of environmental standards, and other work involving experimental, theoretical, or practical application of chemistry and related sciences.

2014 jobs: 64K
New jobs since 2010: 4K (7% growth)
Average hourly wages: $23
Popular programs: Food science. Chemical technology/technician.

5. Paralegals and legal assistants

23-2011_paralegals and legal assistantsWhat they do: Assist lawyers by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, or researching legal precedent. Conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defense, or to initiate legal action. (This doesn’t include legal secretaries.)

2014 jobs: 274K
New jobs since 2010: 11K (4% growth)
Average hourly wages: $25
Popular program: Legal assistant/paralegal.

6. Dental hygienists

29-2021_dental hygienistsWhat they do: Clean teeth and examine oral areas, head, and neck for signs of oral disease. May educate patients on oral hygiene, take and develop x rays, or apply fluoride or sealants.

2014 jobs: 196K
New jobs since 2010: 15K (8% growth)
Average hourly wages: $35
Popular programs: Health services/allied health/health sciences, general. Dental hygiene/hygienist.

7. Diagnostic medical sonographers

29-2032_diagnostic medical sonographersWhat they do: Produce ultrasonic recordings of internal organs for use by physicians.

2014 jobs: 60K
New jobs since 2010: 7K (14% growth)
Average hourly wages: $33
Popular programs: Health services/allied health/health sciences, general. Diagnostic medical sonography/sonographer and ultrasound technician

8. Occupational therapy assistants

31-2011_occupational therapy assistantsWhat they do: Assist occupational therapists in providing occupational therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with state laws, assist in development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, direct activity programs, and document the progress of treatments. Generally requires formal training.

2014 jobs: 32K
New jobs since 2010: 4K (14% growth)
Average hourly wages: $28
Popular programs: Health services/allied health/health sciences, general. Occupational therapist assistant.

9. Physical therapist assistants

31-2021_physical therapist assistantsWhat they do: Assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with state laws, assist in the development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, document the progress of treatment, and modify specific treatments in accordance with patient status and within the scope of treatment plans established by a physical therapist. Generally requires formal training.

2014 jobs: 77K
New jobs since 2010: 8K (12% growth)
Average hourly wages: $26
Popular programs: Health services/allied health/health sciences, general. Physical therapist technician/assistant.

10. Medical equipment repairers

49-9062_medical equipment repairersWhat they do: Test, adjust, or repair biomedical or electromedical equipment.

2014 jobs: 41K
New jobs since 2010: 4K (11% growth)
Average hourly wages: $29
Popular program: Biomedical technology/technician.

Questions about careers? Want to know more about Find Your Calling? Contact us at fcy@economicmodeling.com.

Leave a Reply