You know that in order to be more marketable and improve your career and earning power you need some sort of skill or education.

One way to do that is to go to college. However, it’s important to note that going to college doesn’t automatically result in a better-paying job. A diploma doesn’t guarantee that you will end up with a high-paying job doing what you love. In fact, there are certain degrees that are “worth” more than others when it comes to marketability after college.


Which Degrees are “Hot” Right Now?

According to a piece on Yahoo! Finance and U.S. News & World Report, the four most useful degrees for this year and the near future include:

  1. Computer/Information Sciences
  2. Business Administration/Management
  3. Accounting/Finance
  4. Marketing

Additionally, the piece points out that there is demand in the following industries:

  • Retail trade
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Finance
  • Chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Professional services
  • Management consulting

If you are qualified with these skills, there is a good chance that you will be able to find a job more easily — and enjoy higher pay.

As much as it might be fun to do something you love, the reality is that, if you want to get paid, and your idea of a career path takes you through college, these are the areas you will need to focus on if you want employment.

While in college a boyfriend told me that the advice some had given him was this: Major in something that will make you money; you can minor in something you like. That stuck with me. In the current economy, even though there are opportunities, by and large many of those who choose a more traditional path aren’t going to make a lot of money following their hearts. (If you don’t care about a lot of money, though, this may not matter.)

Do You HAVE to Get a Four-Year Degree?

Of course, you don’t have to get a four-year degree if you don’t think it will work for you. There are many alternatives to going to a traditional university and graduating with a degree that allows you a white-collar office job.

In fact, if you get professional training instead, you might be able to finish in one to three years, and begin a career making a good middle class income while those earning four-year degrees have years in entry-level positions and struggles to pay of student loan debt to look forward to.

There are some profesional designations and associate’s degrees that offer you a number of options that you won’t see with a traditional four-year degree. Attending a community college or a vocational school can give you the skills that are demand right now to do a number of jobs.

Dental hygienists, radiologists, air traffic controllers, plumbers, welders, and others make decent money, and have much lower education costs. While an earnings gap can open up later on, as those with bachelor’s degrees catch up and surpass those who didn’t go to school for as long, for many, what they make in a shorter program is enough to make them happy.

Figure Out What Works for You

Your best option is to figure out what works for you, and consider your priorities. In some cases, that might even mean that you don’t get a degree at all. There are those who have vision, talent, and support and can make things happen with a lot of hard work — no degree needed.

Be realistic about where you stand, and what is likely to work best for your situation. Whether that is a four-year degree, a stint in grad school, a trade, an associate’s degree, or serial entrepreneurship, you need to decide how you want to proceed, and make a plan.

There are a lot more options now than in the past. Consider the paths available to you, and choose what is most likely to help you accomplish your goals.

What degrees do you think are the most useful? Do you think a degree is even necessary?

Photo by Kyle James.