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Students: Not all degrees are created equal!

  • 37% of students who graduated between 2006 and 2011 wish they had been more careful when choosing a major
  • College Board offers advice on choosing a major that fits you
Students: Not all degrees are created equal!

A lot of students may associate the month of August more with the return of football season than the return to the classroom. But as young people prepare to enter an increasingly tough job market, they should really take a good look at what they’re studying in school before it’s too late. Many industries are becoming less and less conducive to a lack of experience, and students who aren’t adequately prepared when they enter the “real world” may have a harder time than others.

For seasoned working adults, your college major may have absolutely nothing to do with how successful (or unsuccessful) you are today. Or maybe the path you frivolously chose when you were 19 years old turned out to be a gold mine. But for today’s graduates, job offers can be slim pickins, and if they want to snag one, their major could play a big role.

The first thing HLN Money Expert Clark Howard would tell you when you’re deciding what to study isn’t necessarily to pick something that will immediately make you money. The first thing to consider is what you’re interested in and what would make you happy, and then from there you should look at what industries are offering good opportunities for young people today.

On the bright side, the class that graduated college back in June entered the strongest job market since 2008, and graduates with backgrounds in computer science, engineering and accounting are who employers were going after the most, according to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And while the group’s data shows that employers planned to hire 10.2% more graduates this year than they did last year, not all majors are reaping the benefits of that increase, as they would have in pre-recession years.

The study’s authors said this year’s graduates “with certain skill sets are doing quite well,” while those with backgrounds in areas like liberal arts, humanities and education aren’t so lucky.

A report on recruiting strategies and hiring by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University revealed that employers are after engineering, computer science, selected science, accounting and finance majors. A little more than 36% of employers are recruiting from all majors.

The fact that employers are hiring more college graduates is a sign of a slowly improving labor market, but for those graduating with nontechnical majors, it could be a while before they benefit from those improvements.

So the reality is, until the job market makes a complete recovery, college students need to look further into the future than just next semester. In fact, 39% of students who graduated between 2006 and 2011 say they thought about job opportunities when they chose a field of study, according to a report by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.  On top of that, 37% actually wish they had been just a little more careful when they chose a major.

For some students, it may be too late for a new major, but a positive attitude can actually be what sets you apart from other candidates in your field, according to personal branding experts. Employers are looking to hire people who are optimistic and eager, so make sure you’re taking control of what you can.

The College Board, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping students succeed in and after college, offers advice and ideas on its website for students who aren’t sure what they want to study. The site helps students find colleges that fit them and their lifestyle, as well as tips on choosing the right major. If you have a child who isn’t sure what to study, or if you think you may want to study something different, check out College Board’s various guides to get some ideas.

We have plenty more back-to-school coverage coming your way, so don't miss it!

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