This question is sometimes difficult to answer because colleges and the workforce do not always speak the same language. That is the bad news.
The good news is that you can translate between the CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) codes used by colleges and SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) codes used in the labor market.
Sometimes the translation is obvious—for example, B.S. in Electrical Engineering to Electrical Engineer. Other times it is more complicated. Consider a degree in Communications, which will not get you a job as a Communicator. So what will it get you?
Unfortunately, you may find more matches than you expected. For example, the crosswalk lists more than 20 different types of communication degrees. So you will have to choose the one that makes the most sense to you.
Of course, in the world of the job seeker, we just crossed the street without looking where we are going. You would do better to look before you cross. What I mean is that you would really benefit from choosing your desired job (or at least the job family or industry cluster) first and then finding a degree program that will get you safely to your destination.
What skills do you need to succeed in the field of Information Technology (IT)? Do you really need a bachelor’s degree in computer science? Or is work experience enough? Is your degree still valid 10 years down the road? What about industry-recognized certifications?
I have found that seasoned career counselors and even experienced IT professionals struggle to answer these questions. So can you ask a college admissions advisor for help? One local career college claims that their associate’s degree in computer information science—programming will qualify you for a job as a database administrator. However, according to survey results published on http://www.onetonline.org, 60% of respondents working in this occupation have a bachelor’s degree.
Perhaps a trusted source of labor market information, such as O*NET Online referenced above, can guide you in the right direction. Unfortunately, O*NET’s job classifications do not always correspond to an employer’s description of the job. For example, just what is a computer user support specialist? Does anyone really have such a job title?
To help clear up some of the confusion, the RochesterWorks! Career Center has scheduled an IT Careers Panel during the month of March. I look forward to learning from local employers and other experts about what it takes to get hired and advance in the field. IT Careers Panel 3-2-12
Should everyone be a nurse? At first it might make sense. The Long-Term Occupational Projections show that there are 4,980 openings per year for registered nurses in New York State. It is practically a guaranteed job for anyone who passes the state licensing exam.
So let us suppose that all of New York’s 760,000 unemployed jobseekers focus on occupations with 1,000 or more annual openings. There are 56 different job titles that fall into that category. Given the variety of interests, talents, and educational levels that people have, is a list of 56 in-demand occupations too restrictive? What if I told you that only 13 of the top jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and four of those titles are teachers? Now does the list sound a bit restrictive? It might if you have a college degree.
On the other hand, what if you were to focus on the list of jobs with fewer than 100 yearly openings statewide? We have data on a full 303 occupations in that category. Would the small number of openings translate into an unacceptable risk of not being hired? That depends on who is competing with you for those jobs and whether you can market yourself as the best candidate for the job.
Together the bottom 303 jobs have an impressive 11,110 openings per year. So someone is getting hired for those jobs. They include such high growth occupations as biochemists and biophysicists, diagnostic medical sonographers, and environmental engineering technicians.
Of course there is some risk in preparing for a career with few job openings. Can you realistically say that you would be a strong candidate for one of those jobs? Can you tolerate a lengthier and more difficult job search? If so, a job with few openings may be for you.
Did you know that if you have an associate’s degree you will earn $7,332 more per year, on average, than someone with only a high school diploma (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey, 2010 data, http://www.bls.gov/cps/)? If you go on and get a bachelor’s degree, you will earn a whopping $21,424 more per year than your neighbor with only a high school diploma.
So does your college major matter, or would any bachelor’s degree earn you upwards of $50,000 per year? According to one survey, your salary can vary widely, depending on your choice of college major (see the 2011-2012 Payscale College Salary Report, http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges/degrees.asp). Eighteen of the top 20 entries on the list are for majors in engineering, science, or mathematics. With a degree in chemical engineering you could start at $64,500 per year. In contrast, a degree in elementary education will start you at $32,400 per year.
Thinking of majoring in business? You would start at $41,000 per year. You might do better to major in economics ($47,300 per year), finance ($46,500 per year), or accounting ($44,700 per year).