A young woman approached Selingo earlier this year, after he had finished giving a talk about his book on finding a job after college.
"I majored in business marketing," she told him, "because everyone said it would lead to a job after graduation."
Selingo notes she wasn’t wrong in her thinking—“it’s why business is the most popular major on college campuses these days. The academic fields that make up undergraduate business—finance, accounting, marketing, management, and general business—account for about one out of every five bachelor’s degrees awarded each year.”
But while business majors are most popular, it might not be the best decision for a soon-to-be job seeker.
“Research shows that students who major in general business and marketing are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, meaning they hold jobs that don’t require a college degree,” Selingo writes. “They also earn less than those in more math-focused business majors, such as finance and accounting.”
In addition, as Selingo cites, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found in its research that of the top 25 highest-paying majors, all but two (economics and business economics) are in science-, technology-, engineering-, and mathematics-related fields.
The most recent projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics concur that jobs in engineering, and other STEM fields, would likely provide the strongest growth, financial stability and employment opportunity for future job seekers come 2024.
In the decade between 2014 and 2024, engineering industries are expected to add a combined 65,000 jobs, or 4.0 percent total growth, according to the BLS. Broken down into individual specialties, the largest growth in employment comes from biomedical engineers (23.1 percent), environmental engineers (12.4 percent), and civil engineers (8.4 percent).
Click the chart at left for an interactive look at the engineering specialties with the highest projected growth between 2014 and 2024.
For a less visual representation of the BLS data used in the above chart, see below:
While there’s a positive outlook for those entering various occupations within the engineering industry, education outside the classroom remains incredibly important toward successful employment and ensuring a competitive advantage over other job-seekers.
According to Skyfi Labs, a provider of online learning courses for engineers, requirements beyond a degree include knowledge of your specialty’s core subject.
As Skyfi Labs writes, “A mechanical engineer, for example, needs to know the basics of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, machine design, manufacturing processes, CAD/CAE, etc. An awareness of the latest technological developments in your own field of study, like 3-D printing and alternative energy techniques for mechanical engineers, will build your identity as an engineer further.”
In addition to application of knowledge, information literacy and analytical and creative thinking, multi-discipline exposure will help diversify you as a candidate for any potential role.
Because contemporary workplaces make it inevitable for engineers to work in interdisciplinary teams, Skyfi Labs explains, understanding subjects outside of your expertise will help with “projects that involve skills and tasks that are multidisciplinary in nature.”
“For example, an electronics engineer needs to work in a team consisting of computer engineers, designers, project managers and marketing managers, etc. for a project in mobile technology,” the SkyFi Labs’ article says. “A basic understanding of these different divisions in the work will make his/her life easier.”
Beyond interdisciplinary knowledge, familiarity with computers, information technology, and the most recent software relevant to your core areas are key to success within engineering fields. Learning at least one programming language and an in-depth understanding of the internet, software and social media can put you ahead of competing candidates in any role.