-by Thomas Hauck
Years ago, a liberal arts education was designed to prepare a young person to be a productive and informed member of society. With the scramble for entry-level jobs getting tougher, many college students are focusing their studies with an eye toward their employability after graduation. Students are increasingly asking themselves which college majors are the most sought-after by employers.
Now there is an answer. CollegeGrad.com, an Internet entry-level job site, recently surveyed employers and revealed the most in-demand majors for today’s college grads. Among surveyed employers, accounting majors are the most sought-after grads in 2008. Employers reported that accounting students and grads will comprise 24% of master’s level hires, 23% of entry-level hires, and nearly one-third (30%) of all hires in 2008.
The second most employable major was engineering (all variations together, including electrical and mechanical), followed by marketing. The number four major was computer science, and number five was business administration.
Why Companies Need These Majors
Positions such as accounting and engineering require a specific skill set, typically met only by grads with specialized training. The industries needing these workers are big, and consequently the number of openings is high.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, during the current decade from 2006 to 2016 employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow by 18 percent, a rate faster than the average for all occupations. This occupation will have almost 226,000 new jobs created over the projections decade.
Despite the economic slowdown, in 2008 the Big Four accounting firms are expected to hire up to 13,000 college grads, and most of these hires will be accounting majors. Financial firms, mid-size and smaller accounting firms, banking firms, and even non-accounting firms will add to the number of accounting grads hired. Big companies make a wide variety of products and offer many services to their customers, but most of them need in-house accountants whose skills are transferable from one industry to another.
As for engineers, there are many specialties and each will experience different employment growth rates. According to the Department of Labor, environmental engineers should experience fast growth, while civil engineers, already a big field, should see the largest employment increase. Engineers can expect to be hired by high-tech and aerospace firms such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.
Of course, plenty of companies outside of the accounting and engineering fields hire thousands of grads, but those jobs are divided among a variety of majors. The required skill sets for general business openings are typically more diversified than those for accounting and aerospace firms, and more easily filled by a variety of majors.
Students are cautioned that a GPA and the right major are not always enough. Tony Gibert, Recruiting Director for NAVSEA Warfare Center, says that even in technical fields, new college hires need to understand that their attractiveness to employers depends upon a variety of factors. Aside from their academic knowledge, these include their leadership and communication skills; their understanding of social, economic, and political factors; and their professionalism.