With a growing and dynamic job marketplace and advancements in science, medicine, and the arts, jobs are becoming more diverse. Previously non-existent careers are starting to thrive, and many require specific types of study. New jobs are taking root—like personal brand advisers, drone pilots, and others—that past generations may never have imagined.
Every career path requires some form of education to make the workforce as efficient as possible. Whether it’s learning how to operate machinery or how to analyze data, you need the right education in order to be a competitive job candidate.
The Liberal Arts
Many employers are changing what they’re looking for in employees. In the past, companies often cared more about how many technical skills a candidate had than they did about soft skills, such as time management, effective communication, and a strong work ethic. This often led to candidates with liberal arts degrees being hired less frequently than those with technically focused degrees. As the market changes, however, businesses are coming to grips with the consequences of lacking soft skills in the workforce,and a significant decline in job productivity.
A liberal arts education introduces you to many different subjects. Liberal arts degrees encourage you to take courses in foreign languages, art history, humanities, world literature, differing levels of English and mathematics, and political science. As you complete assignments and collaborate with classmates, you develop soft skills that they can later carry into the workplace. By engaging in group projects, for example, you learn effective communication and delegation skills. By writing essays, you become more attuned to grammar, language, and the general flow of information between people.
Because of the soft skills developed through a liberal arts program, many companies will hire candidates with this type of degree, even for highly technical positions. They’ve learned that workers with only a highly specific trade skill tend to have difficulties with communication, adaptability, and diversity.
The Value of College Degrees
College degrees give you a chance to develop meaningful careers that they can be passionate about. With a college degree, you also have more access to job search resources and higher lifetime earnings than those without degrees. Training that equips you with only one highly specific skill limits you to that field, while a college degree opens new opportunities to change professions and build on previously learned skills.
College also offers many opportunities that a trade school or high school may not offer. Internships, apprenticeships, and practicums allow you to dive into the workforce and get experience while earning your degree. Internships, for instance, often lead directly to jobs and allow you to begin networking within your chosen industry.
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As a job candidate, you need to be able to show you are teachable, adaptable, have a strong work ethic, can be a contributing team member, and communicate effectively. Earning a postsecondary degree can help you nurture those attributes and demonstrate your elevated skills to prospective employers.
What’s it Like to Earn a Degree Online?
Many modern college students are no longer recent high school graduates. In fact, according to a 2016 report conducted by The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research, the average age for online undergraduate students is 29, while the average age for online graduate students is 33. As more people realize the value of earning a college degree, they are going back to school after years of navigating the workforce with only a high school diploma.
With more than 5.9 million students taking courses online according to the National Center for Education Statistics, online schools are becoming more cost-effective and practical for older students than the traditional residential model. Many students already working full-time jobs can attend online classes during evenings or in their spare time. This model gives you an opportunity to earn a college degree without having to sacrifice your career, an option open to few people just a decade or two ago.
But what’s it like to earn a degree online? Most courses consist of regular reading, writing, and communication requirements. Textbooks are still a necessary part of the curriculum in online programs, but many of them will be online or open educational resources will be used. Professors are typically highly interactive and responsive to students, grading tests and papers individually and assessing needs based on performance. Often, online courses also include discussion boards that give you a chance to discuss the subject matter.
The Cost of an Online Degree
One pressing concern for anyone considering a college education is cost. You may be restricted in choosing a school because of the tuition, or you may rely solely on scholarships and other forms of aid to cover costs. Online schooling is typically much cheaper than the traditional brick-and-mortar residential plan. Tuition may be the same, but other costs plunge for online students. All schools are different, however, and charge their own rates per credit hour. Cost may also depend on degree level. For example, paying for bachelor’s program is typically cheaper than a graduate program.
With traditional on-campus education, you end up paying for more than just tuition. Fees related to campus housing, transportation, dining, and extracurricular activities can add up, as well as the time investment. With online schooling, these costs are unnecessary. You can pay for tuition, fees, and textbooks at a fraction of the total budget you need for an on-campus degree.
Career Fields That Require College Degrees
Though many types of careers reward employees who hold a college degree, a few jobs require a formal education that extends beyond trade schools and high school diplomas.
Note that all job data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Social workers help diagnose, treat, and solve behavioral and mental health problems. They may provide direct cognitive therapy for a family in crisis, help a child obtain special educational services, or manage the cases of children living in foster care. Social work encompasses a broad and rapidly growing field of service. The BLS has projected that social work professions will grow by 16% between 2016 and 2026, more than twice the national average for all occupations. Social workers earn a median annual salary of $47,980, but that number increases significantly for those who work in hospitals or for the federal government.
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Three societal macro-trends may contribute to the growth of social work as a profession: an aging population, rapid urbanization, and growing inequality between rich and poor. By the year 2030, the U.S. will be home to more senior citizens than children, according to the AARP. A large population of senior adults presents new public health, technology, and quality of life challenges for social workers to address. About 80% of Americans live in urban areas, and this number continues to grow. The social, economic, and relational effects of rapid urbanization may strain existing public resources, thus expanding the need for social workers. Finally, rising inequality may pull the safety net from under the nation’s marginalized populations, meaning social workers need to help low-income people advocate for their rights and privileges.
Social workers must hold a bachelor’s degree, and many pursue a Master of Social Work degree. They also need to pass state exams and criminal background checks to receive a license to practice. A growing number of social workers are earning doctorates in the field, too.
|Social Workers||Help people solve everyday problems related to mental health||$47,980||16%|
|Marriage & Family Therapists||Assist couples and families with overcoming problems||$48,790||23%|
|Probation Officers||Provide oversight to people on probation||$51,410||6%|
|School Counselors||Offer mental health and behavioral therapy to students in K-12 schools||$55,410||13%|
|Social and Community Service Managers||Lead community organizations and socially focused nonprofits||$64,100||18%|
Nurses provide direct patient care and educate patients and the public about general health and wellness. The reshaping of American healthcare has allowed advanced practice nurses, such as nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists, to practice medicine in a way that was once reserved for physicians. Aging, advances in medical care, and new insurance structures are creating a wealth of opportunities for new nurses. The BLS has projected a 15% growth in the number of registered nurse positions available between 2016 and 2026, and advanced practice nurses will see a 31% increase in the same timeframe. Depending on their educational background and skills, nurses can earn between $45,000 and $165,000 per year.
Nurses can enter their profession with an associate or bachelor’s degree. To earn more lucrative salaries, however, they need a master’s degree in the field. Professionals with a degree in another subject area can usually transfer credits into a bachelor’s in nursing and use it as a point of entry into the field. Nurses who enjoy the more cerebral elements of their careers can go beyond the master’s degree level to earn a doctorate or Ph.D. in order to do research or teach at the postsecondary level. As the population of senior adults continues to grow, the need for nurses will also likely expand.
|Registered Nurses||Coordinate patient care and educate both patients and the public about health and wellness||$70,000||15%|
|Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners||Provide specialized and advanced care||$110,930||31%|
|Physician Assistants||Practice medicine, including diagnosis and treatment, as part of a medical team||$104,860||37%|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||Provide basic patient care under the direction of an RN||$45,030||12%|
Every industry needs qualified managers. These are the people who mobilize the resources and staff to ensure that projects get completed on time and within budget. The BLS projects that management jobs will grow by 8% between 2016 and 2026, adding 807,300 new positions to the field. The breadth and scope of management means these professionals can direct their careers toward their interests and ambitions. Industries such as education, natural sciences, computer systems, sales, architecture, and finance all need managers. The average salary in these fields can range from $46,890 for preschool and childcare center directors to $139,220 for computer and information systems managers.
Some management professions, such as food service or farm management, may require an associate degree from a technical college, while others, such as natural science management and computer systems management, need at least a master’s degree.
|Sales Managers||Manage the sales team, including setting goals, training staff, and analyzing data||$121,060||7%|
|Top Executives||Establish the policies and strategic direction of an entire enterprise||$104,700||8%|
|Training and Development Managers||Oversee the planning, directing, and execution of an organizations employee education programs||$108,250||10%|
|Natural Sciences Managers||Manage the research and development work of natural scientists, including chemists, biologists, and physicists||$118,970||10%|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||Oversee an organizations IT and/or OT planning, staff, and execution||$139,220||12%|
Marketing has grown and transformed as an industry in the last 20 years. Today, most marketing activities happen in the digital space. Marketers put focus less on local television advertisements and print publications. Instead, they emphasize tactics like content marketing, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, social media marketing, retargeting, pay-per-click ads, and influencer marketing.
Salaries for jobs in marketing can range from an average of $54,000 for a survey researcher to $142,000 for a marketing manager in a technical or scientific company. Most marketing jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing. With happenings in the digital world becoming increasingly interconnected with those in the physical world, companies need to understand and analyze their consumer base carefully, meaning marketers need to be highly skilled in creative output, customer psychology, and marketing analytics.
|Public Relations and Fundraising Managers||Planning and creating material and events to enhance the reputation or raise money for an organization||$111,280||10%|
|Art Directors||Manage the style and visual elements of a publication||$92,500||5%|
|Editors||Plan, review, and revise a publications content||$58,770||-1%|
|Graphic Designers||Create visual concepts for a variety of media outlets||$48,700||4%|
|Market Research Analysts||Study market conditions to determine what buyers will purchase and for how much||$63,230||23%|
People who work in human resources help others enjoy a more productive and fulfilling work life. As a career, human resources is all about supporting and educating people at work. There is an increasing need for human resources professionals who can manage regulatory compliance, oversee complex human-computer interaction, and help management work effectively with an emerging generation of new employees. The BLS predicts that human resources will grow by about 9% between 2016 and 2026.
Human resources professionals can earn an annual salary of $32,000 for an entry-level assistant position to $120,000 for a compensation and benefits manager. Nearly every industry needs human resources professionals.
|Administrative Services Managers||Take responsibility for leading the support services team at an organization||$94,202||10%|
|Human Resources Specialists||Handle various elements of human resources, including recruitment, interviewing, placement, benefits, and employee satisfaction||$60,350||7%|
|Training and Development Specialists||Plan, design, and implement curricula and experiences to help increase employee knowledge and performance||$60,360||9%|
|Human Resources Managers||Lead human resources teams and manage the HR component of a location or organization||$110,120||9%|
|Compensation and Benefits Managers||Plan, develop, and oversee benefits and compensation plans for employees||$119,120||5%|
Accountants help companies track where their money comes from and where it’s going in order to improve business outcomes and maintain compliance with laws and regulations. Some accountants specialize in public, management, or government accounting. Others work as auditors or work in a particular industry, such as healthcare accounting. The BLS projects that this profession will grow by 10%, slightly faster than the average for all occupations. Accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $69,350, but specialists can earn more. Using an accounting degree and background to become a personal financial adviser can net professionals a median wage of more than $90,000. Accountants need a bachelor’s degree for almost every entry-level profession in the field, and many go on to earn their master’s degrees in accounting or business to advance their careers.
|Accountants and Auditors||Examine financial records to assure accuracy and compliance||$69,350||10%|
|Management Analysts||Consult with organizations to determine strategies to improve profitability||$82,450||14%|
|Cost Estimators||Collect and analyze data to understand the entire cost of producing a product or service||$63,110||11%|
|Budget Analysts||Help organizations organize their finances by improving institutional spending||$75,240||7%|
|Personal Financial Advisers||Aid individuals with financial planning and investment for retirement, college funds, or other life goals||$90,640||15%|
As the national and global economies expand, companies will need financial experts to help forecast, track, and analyze their ledgers and accounts. Financial professionals can serve as investment brokers, insurance underwriters, financial examiners, or financial managers. These employees often face challenging, detailed assignments as they help companies navigate regulations, business realities, and complex forecasts, but their work can pay off for both them and their employers. The BLS estimates that business and financial careers will grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026, putting them slightly ahead of the average profession’s growth rate for all occupations. These professions pay between $63,000 and $125,000 per year. Finance jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree, and many companies only promote professionals with graduate education or extensive professional training.
|Financial Analysts||Assess investment performance to help organizations and individual improve their investment strategy||$84,300||11%|
|Financial Examiners||Review financial tracking documents to ensure compliance with regulatory law||$81,690||10%|
|Insurance Underwriters||Evaluate insurance applications to determine what insurance should be provided, at what cost, and to whom||$69,760||-5%|
|Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents||Work in the financial markets, connecting buyers with sellers||$63,780||6%|
|Financial Managers||Oversee the financial component of an organization, including devising strategies, recommending investments, and analyzing financial health||$125,080||19%|
Emerging professionals can take advantage of many new opportunities to work in engaging, fulfilling, and lucrative professions. Having the right educational background can help you achieve your professional goals.