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by Emily

Still trying to choose a college, or perhaps a college major? Now, more than ever, quality job prospects are likely to figure into that decision. Work opportunities that come with a generous salary and great potential for growth, yet allow you to have the quality of life you want are the holy grail of employment and it's understandable to want to tailor your college goals towards obtaining such a job. To help make your decision a little easier, Money Magazine and PayScale.com put together a list of 50 lines of work that come with all of the features mentioned above, entitled Best Jobs in America.

CNNMoney.com has the results online already, with the print version appearing in the November issue of Money. The full top 50 are listed in order (along with another 50 high-ranking jobs), with detailed descriptions available for the top ten, and additional lists of top paying, most job growth, and best quality of life also posted online. This year's top ten are Systems Engineer, Physician Assistant, College Professor, Nurse Practitioner, Information Technology Project Manager, Certified Public Accountant, Physical Therapist, Network Security Consultant, Intelligence Analyst, and Sales Director. The top ten best jobs primarily consist of careers that may appeal to students pursuing medical or technology degrees, but students with virtually any academic interest are likely to find something in the list appealing.

To arrive at their selections, Money and PayScale started with career fields in which the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates growth 10% or more over the next decade and that require a college degree. They focused on jobs with median pay above $65,000 for workers with 2-7 years of experience and more than 10,000 positions nationwide and weeded out jobs that did poorly during the recession to arrive at a list of top 100 jobs. To arrive at the top 50 and top 10, data from a survey asking 35,000 workers to rate their jobs on quality of life (flexibility, stress, personal satisfaction, etc.) was used, along with data on current employment, long-term growth, pay, security, and projected openings. Finally, industry experts were interviewed to determine top 10.

Top jobs require different levels of training and candidates face different levels of competition. Many require additional training beyond a bachelor's degree, ranging from one-year certification programs to PhD and possibly post-doctoral experience. These top jobs are also not entry-level positions, so workers starting out in these industries may not see high pay or low stress immediately. So don't get discouraged if the career you want to pursue isn't on this list. Ultimately, the best job for you will be one you like to do and are able to do well.  That's also good advice for choosing a college major.


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by Emily

High school students face a lot of pressure when it comes to planning their future. There's a persistent idea that if you don't have your entire life mapped out by the end of 11th grade, you're somehow doomed to a life of vagrancy or doing whatever job your parents pick out for you. If you're a high school senior still uncertain about choosing a college major and setting career goals, a career Q&A that appeared in the New York Times earlier this week might help. It primarily offers advice to parents, but can also serve as a road map for high school students who are thinking about potential college majors and post-college careers.

Focus on Strengths and Interests: Rather than starting out by exploring careers and seeing which one you can fit into, begin by thinking about what you're good at and what you like doing. Maybe you're amazing at math and like to build things in your spare time, or maybe you get joy out of helping your classmates edit their English papers. Think about what you like doing and what environments you prefer to work in. Then begin looking for careers that play to those strengths. By focusing on both what you enjoy and what you excel at, you stand a much better chance of finding a major or a job you can enjoy doing.

Research Potential Careers Now: Don't wait until your final year of college to decide whether or not you like the professions you found fascinating in high school. Look for opportunities to learn more about potential careers and the people who pursue them. Internships, volunteer experiences, and job shadowing can be great ways to do this. If you know any adults whose job sounds interesting, see if you can arrange to talk to them about it, observe them at work, or even help out after school. Consider reading books about careers you find interesting, as well, but be sure to balance glamorized or fictionalized accounts with real-world observations and experiences to avoid disappointment. Career exploration and research don't have to stop in high school, either. You don't need to go to college with a career plan set in stone, nor do you need to wait for your department or advisor to take the lead on preparing you for a career or showing you what options exist. Feel free to choose classes that interest you and find time outside of school to continue to learn about what people with your degree can do and take advantage of opportunities to gain exposure to and experience in fields you find interesting.

Don't Feel Forced: Finally, and most importantly, don't worry if nothing comes to mind right away, or you're still hearing nothing from your parents and teachers but "you're good at math! Be an accountant!" It's normal to be undecided for awhile or to change your mind later, and you likely have a lot more talents and interests than what you can recall immediately as a high school student. College students switch majors and adults switch careers and both groups do so successfully. So don't feel like you have to make a lifelong commitment to the first idea that appeals to you or those around you. If you keep your mind open and have some strategies in place, you'll eventually come across something that will stick.


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Top 200 Jobs for 2010

January 7, 2010

by Emily

If you're a college senior starting the job search, or a high school student or college undergraduate in the process of choosing a major, you probably want to try to find a good career. While there's no real way to know whether you'll like your job until you're doing it, there are a number of resources that can help give you some idea.

Based on a matrix of salaries, employment outlooks, and working conditions, the job site CareerCast.com has ranked 200 jobs from best to worst. Their 2010 second annual report provides a rank and a brief description for all 200 jobs, in addition to more detailed top 10 and bottom 10 lists.

For 2010, the top job in America was Actuary. In addition to high earning potential, the job also offers a very good hiring outlook, low physical demands, a good work environment, and relatively low stress. By contrast, the worst job in America was Roustabout--not only do they risk life and limb working on oil rigs in the middle of nowhere, but they don't even get paid very much to do so. With a national push toward green energy, the job outlook is supposed to be particularly bad for this field.

The full top ten were:

  1. Actuary
  2. Software Engineer
  3. Computer Systems Analyst
  4. Biologist
  5. Historian
  6. Mathematician
  7. Paralegal Assistant
  8. Statistician
  9. Accountant
  10. Dental Hygienist

For the most part, the top 10 jobs all require a bachelor's degree or higher and all require at least some level of postsecondary education. By contrast, most of the bottom 10 jobs require little if any postsecondary education, with an emphasis instead on physical labor. Lumberjacks, ironworkers, dairy farmers, and welders follow roustabouts to make up the bottom five.

You can find the full list on CareerCast's website or reprinted in the Wall Street Journal. If you'd like to check out other highly-rated jobs, late in 2009, CNNMoney.com released a similar ranking of the 50 best jobs in America. Beyond browsing lists of the best and highest-paying jobs, there are many other strategies for exploring potential careers and choosing a college major. The best advice is to consider a wide range of criteria and decide what ultimately will make you happiest. Doing a college internship or two in promising careers couldn't hurt, either.


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by Agnes Jasinski

You may remember a recent initiative begun by Lansing Community College that guaranteed students jobs post-graduation if they completed programs in high-demand fields at the school. The idea of offering incoming freshmen guarantees in exchange for their enrollment in a particular school has caught on, with more schools, especially those with low enrollments, providing students with promises of clearer career paths and timely graduations.

Albion College, also in Michigan, recently unveiled a new program called “The Albion Advantage,” which aims to get students career-ready as soon as they step onto the school’s campus. Students will now be provided with a higher degree of professional services early on, with career planning weaved into the private liberal arts school’s curriculum and assessments that analyze students’ strengths and weaknesses to provide them with a better idea of which careers they would be most successful in. The biggest change, however, is the school’s new post-graduation guarantee. Students who graduate with a 3.0 GPA but are unable to find jobs in their major areas after they graduate are eligible to receive assistance from the school in the form of internships and research assistant opportunities on and off campus, more professional development services until they land jobs, and a free, noncredit semester at Albion.

A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education took a look at the Albion’s program and the reasoning behind it. Administrators at the school say the college decided something had to be done after the previous year’s enrollment numbers came in. Albion had planned to enroll 475 to 500 new students; 434 freshmen enrolled instead. The cost of attending the school (about $40,000 per year) may have been a factor in the decrease in applicants, as students are looking for better deals elsewhere through state colleges or vocational schools where they may learn a skill or trade and enter the workforce. Michigan is also the state with the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Elsewhere, colleges are using different guarantees to get students interested in their schools. The University of Maine at Farmington introduced the "Farmington in Four" program earlier this year. That program promises incoming freshmen that if they don’t graduate from the school within four years, they will be able to complete their remaining coursework free of charge. (According to the U.S. Department of Education, a little more than half of all students at four-year colleges graduate within six years. Private colleges have the highest graduation rates, according to U.S. News and World Report’s recent rankings of the “best colleges” in the country.)


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by Agnes Jasinski

For-profit colleges have been the talk of the town in Washington over the last week, with legislators concerned by their rapid growth and what they consider a resulting lack of oversight. 

Yesterday, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for a federal review of for-profit colleges, their recruitment strategies, and the value of what they provide students. In the letter they sent to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers were especially concerned about the fact that the for-profit sector accounts for less than 10 percent of total enrollments but about 25 percent of federal financial aid disbursements. According to an article in The New York Times this week, for-profit colleges collected $26.5 billion in federal funding last year, compared to $4.6 billion in 2000.

The letter came just after the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal that for-profit colleges be more forthright about students’ potential loan debt relative to their incomes, even going so far as to propose limiting federal aid to those colleges with the most uneven debt-income ratios. The for-profit colleges themselves have said that they would be comfortable with disclosing graduation- and job-placement rates and median debt levels, but that limiting federal aid would certainly force many of them into insolvency.

One case in Illinois serves as a cautionary tale, and an example of what is so troubling to legislators. The Illinois State Board of Education has launched an investigation of the Illinois School of Health Careers’ patient care technician program in Chicago after a group of students decided to file a class-action lawsuit against the institution. The students say they were misled into thinking that they would be able to take the state’s certified nursing assistant exams upon completion of the program. In fact, the program lacks the proper approvals from the Illinois Department of Public Health, leaving students with student loan debt and instruction in a field they say offers few, if any, job prospects.

Supporters of for-profit colleges say the schools are important in serving a population looking to learn a particular trade or get out into the workforce more quickly. Republican lawmakers on the other side of the issue have said Congress should be more concerned about looking for ways to monitor the bad eggs among the bunch and not be so skeptical of an entire industry, according to The New York Times article. Representatives for the Career College Association have said accredited institutions that focus on career-preparedness are critical in meeting President Obama’s goal of getting the United States on top in terms of higher education by 2020.

Most for-profit schools don’t report the kinds of dissatisfaction felt by those students at the Chicago school described above and are a good option for many students, especially those seeking flexible alternatives. The key is quality control. If you’re interested in a career college or an online degree university, do your own research. Make sure your intended school is accredited, as this means it meets a set of standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education. Make sure the college you’ll be paying for—and may be paying for years down the line, even after graduation—is not only legitimate but worth paying for.


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Study Abroad Overhaul

October 18, 2010

Study Abroad Overhaul

by Alexis Mattera

Studying abroad for a semester can be a rewarding experience for college students but do those benefits translate to potential employers? For a long time, they haven't – many have dismissed time overseas as an excuse to backpack and party in multiple countries – but Cheryl Matherly is setting out to change that.

Matherly, the associate dean for global education at the University of Tulsa, is designing a series of workshops and seminars to help students discuss their time studying abroad in a way meaningful to employers. The common perception – that studying abroad is a perk for wealthier students, typically white females in the humanities or social sciences packing their bags for Europe – is exactly what Matherly is attempting to reverse and show to employers that the students who studied abroad may actually be better assets to their companies. "The value isn't that you had the abroad experience itself," she says. "It's what you learned overseas that allows you to work in a cross-cultural environment. Students have to learn how to talk about that experience in terms of transferrable skills, how it relates to what an employer wants."

Much of the blame for this falls on the schools themselves, as the paths of study abroad and career counselors rarely cross, and Martin Tillman, a former associate director of career services at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, stresses the importance of deliberate efforts to build connections. The University of Michigan offers panel discussions each year on what it calls "international career pathways” and the Georgia Institute of Technology touts a Work Abroad Program to place students in international internships and jobs and advises them throughout the process. Some schools are even bringing in third-party providers, like Cultural Experiences Abroad, to help students translate their study-abroad experience into terms employers can understand. CEA has createda semester-long career development course which includes pre-arrival reading assignments, Webinars with career consultants and regular meetings that incorporate experiential exercises and journal writing.

I knew a number of people who studied abroad in college (I didn’t because I couldn't find the right program for my major and regret it to this day) and I’m sure they would have benefited from programs like the ones detailed above. Any graduates in the same boat? And for current college students considering studying in another country, do you think you’d take advantage of these resources if they were readily available to you?


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Businessweek’s Top Undergrad Business Schools

by Suada Kolovic

Interested in a career in business? You’re not alone. Year after year, Business Management and Administration are reported to be among the most popular college majors with students today. Why? Because not only is it a profitable major, but a business education can lead to a broad range of careers. So, if you're interested in a career that is in high demand and practical, check out the top undergrad business schools according to Businessweek.

The rankings are based on student satisfaction, post graduation outcomes and academic quality. Businessweek surveyed approximately 28,000 students from 113 institutions to describe their experiences. Then asked 246 recruiters to identify which institutions provide the best new hires and have the most innovative programs. From more information on this survey and the complete list of institutions ranked check out Businessweek. And if you’re concerned about how you’re going to pay for this lucrative education in business, conduct a free scholarship search today!


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Unusual (but Useful!) College Majors

by Alexis Mattera

You know the most popular college majors and the majors with the highest earning potential. You are even aware of some of the more unusual classes students can take while attending college...but can unique translate into useful in the real world?

As it turns out, some of the most out-there-sounding majors are producing satisfied graduates making real contributions to their fields of choice after graduation. What are these majors and where can interested students find them? Here’s an abridged guide:

  • Packaging. University of Wisconsin-Stout packaging majors don’t think outside the box. They think about the box, specifically how to create “economically, aesthetically, environmentally and technically sound” packaging. And they’ve got it in the bag: A 2009 survey showed 95 percent of packaging graduates were employed by major companies like Frito-Lay and FedEx, no less!
  • Viticulture and enology. Graduates from Cornell’s program could soon be giving Dionysus a run for his money. Though it only recently became an official major, coordinator Kari Richards said the majority of graduates are involved in the industry. "Some have continued enology-related studies in graduate school, others travel worldwide to gain experience in harvest and crush, [and a] few will or have returned to the home winery/vineyard," she said.
  • Puppetry. UConn’s not just known for basketball but for being one of only two schools in the U.S. offering undergraduate degrees in puppetry arts...and the only one offering a graduate program in the field. It’s selective – enrollment is limited to 22 students – but graduates have gone on to work and perform in theatres, television shows and films. Guess being green isn’t so difficult after all!

The complete list of unusual college majors can be found here. Wondering if the school of your dreams offers them? Check out our college search!


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Oregon Students’ Nutty (and Delicious) Idea

Non-Business Majors Find Success with Peanut Butter Start-Up

May 10, 2011

Oregon Students’ Nutty (and Delicious) Idea

by Alexis Mattera

When dining halls are closed and hunger strikes, college students with limited funds find some pretty creative ways to prevent their stomach growls from waking their roommates. However, this is the most interesting way I’ve heard yet...not to mention the most lucrative and delicious.

University of Oregon students Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh found themselves in a quandary this past January when they ran out of peanut butter but instead of heading to the store for a jar, the pair threw some whole peanuts and other pantry items (raisins, chocolate and cinnamon) into their food processor. When the mixture elicited mmmmmmms instead of ewwwwwwws from friends, Tillotson and Welsh launched Flying Squirrel Peanut Butter into the universe. And it looks like it’s sticking around.

Tillotson, a journalism major, and Welsh, an environmental studies and Spanish major, claim they didn’t set out to create a business – “We’re filling a niche we didn’t know existed,” Tillotson said; adds Welsh, “We have so much faith in our product.” – but now their plans include full-fledged careers after college filled with cafés, ice creams and additional flavors of their signature product.

Have an equally creative idea that’s yet to take flight? Let Tillotson and Welsh be your inspiration! Learn more about Flying Squirrel here, here and here; just try not to drool on your keyboard.

P.S. I’m totally ordering some.


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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Jacquelene Bennett

by Jacquelene Bennett

Hey yo! I am Jacquelene Bennett and come September, I will be a senior at the University of Redlands. I am double majoring in creative writing and government as well as minoring in religious studies – a lot of work, I know but as an aspiring writer/political journalist, I have found these subjects to be the most important and demanding issues in today’s world. Plus, these subjects (and the classes that accompany them) are intensely thought-provoking and fun; in fact, last semester, I wrote a short story about Marilyn Monroe for my fiction workshop!

I chose the University of Redlands mainly for its location. Born and raised in Southern California, I wanted to go to a school that was both close to home but far away enough that I could have a true “college experience.” Also, the U of R is in the heart of SoCal, so I am literally just an hour away (actual timing really depends on traffic here) from Los Angeles, San Diego, Disneyland, the Santa Monica Pier and Joshua Tree National Park. Since I began attending school, however, I have found the campus itself to be a treasure trove of beautiful scenery, fun events and wonderful people. True story: The U of R is one of only three California universities to be named a “Tree Campus” by the Arbor Day Foundation.

As I find myself getting closer and closer to graduation, I find that I have less and less spare time but in the rare moments that I am free, I like to listen to music, catch up on celebrity gossip and eat gummy bears and Fruit Gushers. Also, I like to say "cool beans."

From my freshman year up until now, I have built a repertoire of college knowledge and experiences just hoping that I would one day have the opportunity to share it with other people of the world. Well, it looks like that day has come and I am psyched!


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