The U.S. Department of Labor is starting to give us some good news: Employment projections for the next several years show double-digit growth in many career paths available to people with bachelor's degrees. The post-recession economy holds promise for job seekers in high-demand industries such as technology, health care, and business services.
The following five careers offer chart-topping opportunity for college grads, with employment projected to grow by more than 30 percent in the coming decade.
1. Technology: software engineers and network analysts
Technology is the engine of economic recovery. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the engine of job growth in technology will be centered in networks and software development. Computer software engineers face rosy job stats, with 34 percent growth for applications engineers and 30 percent for systems developers.
Meanwhile, the success story in the IT department is network systems analysts, who can expect 53 percent growth in the same period.
A four-year bachelor's degree offers entry into both of these high-growth professions. Software engineers and network analysts may launch a career with a general degree in computer science, or a more career-focused degree in computer engineering, software development, or management information systems (MIS).
Average salary: software engineers: $87,900 (applications) and $94,520 (systems software); network systems analysts: $73,830
2. Finance: financial examiners and personal financial advisors
Key careers in the financial sector will make a dramatic comeback in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis, predicts the BLS. Opportunities reflect an era of increased financial scrutiny and regulation: financial examiners lead the list of fastest-growing financial careers, at 41 percent growth. Personal financial advisors will tap into an aging population in need of assistance with investment, retirement, and estate planning.
A bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, business, or economics will get you started in one of these high-growth finance careers. Financial examiners also receive on-the-job career training in financial regulations and enforcement protocol.
Average salary: personal financial advisors: $92,970
3. Health care: biomedical engineers
The runaway winner in the ranking of employment growth is biomedical engineers, who should see their ranks grow by an estimated 72 percent between 2008 and 2018. Exciting technological advances and demand for medical services are driving investment in health care innovation. Biomedical scientists develop medical devices and procedures such as prostheses, medical information systems, diagnostic instruments, and care-delivery systems.
A diverse background in mechanical and electrical engineering, medicine, biology, and mathematics prepares you for a career in biomedical research. Access this career training by pursuing a specialized bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering, or a general mechanical or electrical engineering degree with an interdisciplinary science curriculum.
Average salary: biomedical engineers: $81,120
4. Environmental science: environmental engineers
Meanwhile, the "green" economy will also fuel demand for engineering ingenuity. Environmental engineering is expected to grow by about 30 percent in the coming decade. Environmental engineers hold the promise of a solution to our most pressing environmental problems: climate change, greenhouse gases, dwindling energy supplies, and pollution. Specifically, engineers are working to control water and air pollution, dispose of waste safely, develop alternative energy technologies, conserve natural resources, and protect public health.
Environmental engineering is an interdisciplinary field drawing on biology, chemistry, and engineering knowledge. Find the right career training by combining a bachelor's degree in environmental science with engineering courses, or a chemical or mechanical engineering degree with science courses.
Average salary: environmental engineers: $77,970
5. Business administration: marketing survey researchers
Business administration is a mainstay of employment opportunity. Support services such as sales and marketing are a key revenue center for businesses. The U.S. Department of Labor sees expanding roles for college graduates in marketing survey research, with an anticipated 30 percent change in employment through 2018. Marketing survey researchers develop surveys on consumer behavior and preferences. They gather and analyze survey data to help companies develop and position products.
A bachelor's degree in marketing or business administration gets you started in a market research analysis career. To expand your job prospects or advance your marketing career further, consider continuing on to a master's degree in business administration. The MBA is the gold standard of business education, and is widely available as an online degree.
Average salary: survey researchers: $42,060
Grow your career with a college degree
Create your own career comeback with a bachelor's degree. Four years in a college classroom (online study is also an option) can set you up for a career in one of the Department of Labor's top-performing industries. With job growth topping thirty percent in a decade, these career paths are bound to lead you to success.
Source: 2008 mean salary figures reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics