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by Emily

Colleges across the country have had to make sweeping budget cuts to cope with substantial endowment losses and reductions in state funding sustained as a result of the recession. In many places, these cuts have led to fewer instructors, larger class sizes, and fewer course offerings. In addition to potentially reducing the quality of instruction students receive (even as they see their tuition continuing to rise dramatically), these factors are also making it harder for students to graduate on time.

An Associated Press article details the struggles some students at state colleges are facing trying to finish their educational careers. Despite the limits placed on freshmen and transfer enrollment this year, upperclassmen in California, as well as other states facing large-scale financial difficulties, are finding it nearly impossible to get into the classes they need to complete their plans of study.

Some students are able to only enroll part-time, jeopardizing their financial aid eligibility, while others are spending money on classes that basically amount to filler, at least as far as education requirements are concerned. Still other students may be choosing to take a semester or more off from school when faced with the prospect of being unable to enroll in any of the classes they want or need to take. Even more frustrating for students who need to take specific courses to graduate is that along with overstuffing sections of popular classes, universities are more likely to cut sections and courses (and even departments) with low enrollments to conserve resources, potentially leaving even more students high and dry.

Aside from analyzing every possible approach to fulfilling their degree requirements; petitioning professors, colleges, and department heads to grant exceptions in the wake of overflowing classrooms; and being sure to register as early as possible for next semester, there are few other options available to undergraduate students caught in this situation. However, students who are in the midst of their college searches can take steps to protect themselves against canceled classes and prolonged stays in college. A growing number of schools offer four-year graduation guarantees and accelerated degree programs, allowing students who can make the commitments required to avoid frustrations and minimize their time to degree.


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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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by Emily

So, you want to be a teacher? Students pursuing degrees in the liberal arts are all too familiar with this question. It can seem at times like no one around you can fathom a career beyond teaching high school English or history, or some other subject that may have little beyond a name in common with your actual college goals. But the follow-up, "what do you want to do, then?" can also be a cause for uncertainty. The widespread assumption exists that four years of interesting classes inevitably lead to a lifetime of low salaries and limited career prospects.

However, that doesn't have to be the case. In a commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education, author Katharine S. Brooks shares some stories from her 20-some years of experience in career services of liberal arts education leading to career success, which is encouraging for students just beginning to think about how their degree can aid them in the job search. Examples she gives include a philosophy major whose logic class helped him score a perfect 180 on the LSAT, and a student whose knowledge gained in a film class helped him turn an internship into a job offer. Other stories abound. A liberal arts education is remarkably useful in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Her article focuses on encouraging colleges to provide better career services to liberal arts majors, but for students whose schools don't yet offer these services, she also has good advice. Instead of simply taking your English degree and assuming you need to work in writing or publishing because that's what you've learned to do, Brooks urges pausing to think about the skills you've learned and interests you have and trying to find meaningful connections among them. In the end, you'll have a more complete picture of yourself as a student and as a potential worker. In addition to writing, perhaps your major has given you great skills with finding, interpreting, and evaluating vast amounts of information quickly. Skills like those can easily be applied to a wide variety of careers, and you can use your inventoried interests to focus your search.

Evaluating your interests and experiences is a must for students nearing the end of college, especially in majors that aren't clear-cut paths to a particular career. Students in the humanities and social sciences have gained college experiences that can lead them in a number of different directions. In addition to adapting their interests and experiences to the corporate environment, they also have potential to further their knowledge of their field as graduate students, to enter into a public service profession, to earn a teaching certificate and become an educator, or to puruse their interests in whatever ways they find appealing. Which direction you choose depends less on the limitations of your major than on your personal preferences and abilities to seek out and seize opportunities-and based on what your degree has taught you, those should be quite well developed.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Not everyone can or wants to become a chemical engineer or mathematician, but the White House wants to make sure the country's doing all it can to give students the opportunity to explore all of their options before they're ready to make decisions about their future career paths.

President Obama announced a new campaign Monday called "Educate to Innovate" that aims to encourage more middle and high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math. (His remarks can be read here, courtesy of the Washington Post.) The program will call on outside organizations to spend their own money and time to educate students on the kinds of things they could do in those fields, and improve their skill sets in those areas. It's no secret that the United States has lagged behind other countries in math- and science-based fields, despite the kinds of resources already available in those fields. (Another government initiative, the Race to the Top Fund, was announced last July to in part provide more money to states for innovative science programs.)

If you're good at math or science and are still undecided about what you'd like to be when you grow up, consider this: the vast majority of highest-paying college majors involve some degree of math or science skill. Those fields of study tend to be more specialized - not everyone can be a computer engineer, for example, and often require some study beyond that undergraduate degree. But in addition to the generous salaries, advances in many of those fields make it an exciting time to pursue a career as a researcher or scientist.

There's also plenty of scholarship money to go around if you're planning on or already pursuing a math or science field. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retail Talent (SMART) Grant is awarded to undergraduates in their third or fourth year. Eligible recipients must already be Pell recipients, and the maximum award is $4,000. If you're interested in competitions, the Intel Science Talent Search targets high school seniors with original research. Scholarships.com also awards Area of Study College Scholarships to students interested in computer science, engineering, technology, and general science. To see whether you qualify for any of these or thousands of other scholarships, many of them related to the maths or sciences, conduct a free scholarship search to see the kind of awards you're eligible for.


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by Emily

Even as many colleges cut course offerings in the wake of budget crises, "green" college majors are booming. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, more than 100 majors, minors, and certificates in programs related to energy and sustainability were created in 2009.

The growth has been partly attributed to employer demand, as more companies and individuals show an interest in pursuing greater environmental-friendliness and sustainability in their work. The Obama administration has been promoting green jobs and predicts a growth of 52% in energy and environmental-related occupations through 2016, compared to a projected 14% growth rate for other occupations. With added incentives at the state and federal level for going green, and the prospect of major environmental policy changes on the horizon, there's a growing demand for workers trained in a variety of fields that can contribute to these efforts.

Students, especially those whose plans have been changed by the current job market, are also increasingly interested in training for green careers, partially because it appears to be a growth industry. Beyond economic interest, a personal interest in sustainability is also driving demand. According to a survey by the Higher Education Research Institute, protecting the environment was one of the issues with broadest support among college freshmen in 2008. In 2007, the College Sustainability Report Card was launched to help students choose eco-friendly colleges. Green scholarships also are increasingly popular college-funding options. Students at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania can even earn up to $40,000 by taking time off before school to help the environment.

With all the growth in green education options, there is some skepticism. Critics have long accused corporations of "greenwashing," declaring things environmentally-friendly to tap into the green movement, without actually making a significant contribution to sustainability. A post on the Wallet Pop blog wonders whether colleges might be doing the same with their new green programs and encourages students to investigate whether the new green majors are truly new, and whether they're really able to prepare students for good, green jobs. It's good advice for students truly interested in both sustainability and employability-a thorough college search can ensure that you get a good education at a school that fits your needs and helps you meet your college goals.


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by Emily

Thinking about graduate school? You now have more options than ever, including several varieties of specialized master's degrees for growing industries.

The New York Times recently profiled ten of these new programs, giving a run down on who offers them and what graduates can do with them. If you're thinking of pursuing an advanced degree and want to consider something a little outside the box, you might want to check out the "Ten Master's of the New Universe." Ranging from programs that fill a current demand for workers to programs aimed more at enhancing participants' current jobs or anticipating future needs, the degrees profiled provide an interesting cross-section of new graduate programs.

If you're looking for a graduate degree that will make you more immediately marketable to a growing industry, you may want to consider homeland security, cybersecurity, or education leadership. Programs in these areas have largely been created to meet new demands: keeping the country safe, keeping information on the Web private, and running innovative new schools. These degrees can help you get hired in growth industries, or help you move up within them. However, there are many other valid paths to careers in these fields, so while specialized degree programs can give you an advantage over other candidates, a degree alone may not be enough to get you hired.

Many new master's programs are also focusing on more specialized areas of long-standing fields, or on intersections of different disciplines. For example, Columbia University offers a Master of Science in narrative medicine, which promotes a better understanding of patients as people through a better understanding of literature involving illness. Master's degrees in sustainable cultures and urban environment also blend ideas from multiple fields to address more specific problems in their own. While none of these degrees translate into a direct career demand, they allow professionals and students to gain new perspectives on their disciplines and the problems that interest them.

Finally, there are master's programs that you may have never imagined could exist or have a market. From degree programs in construction management to social networking, highly specialized master's degrees are giving candidates an edge in the business world by providing in-depth training that puts job candidates on the cutting edge of developments in their field. Specialized MBA programs are part of this trend. If you know exactly what you want to do in the business world, you may want to skip the generalized degree and go straight for a graduate education tailored for your job, such as the MBA in pharmaceutical management at Rutgers University.

As a warning, master's programs in general, but especially somewhat esoteric ones, are unlikely to come with large financial aid awards. If you're interesting in pursuing a master's degree in one of the fields above, be prepared to shell out a significant amount of cash or throw some serious effort into your scholarship search.


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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

President Obama announced a renewed focus on "Educate to Innovate" yesterday, this time targeting the need for more math and science teachers. As part of the most recent developments involving that initiative, leaders representing more than 120 public universities pledged to do their part to increase the total number of math and science teachers from 7,500 to 10,000 by 2015. Of those who pledged that promise to the White House, 41 said they would double the number of teachers they trained in that same period.

"Educate to Innovate" was first announced last November. The program was first announced with the aims to encourage more middle and high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The program called on outside organizations to spend their own money and time to educate students on the kinds of things they could do in those fields, and improve their skill sets in those areas. This time around, the focus was on the colleges. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities has admitted it could do more to not only get more students interested in the maths and sciences, but to better prepare those who do pursue those fields to make the United States more competitive on the international scene in those disciplines.

The White House also announced that the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Math and Science program would be expanded to include Michigan and Ohio, the National Math + Science Initiative's UTeach program would be expanded to include 20 additional universities, and that NASA, in partnership with companies, non-profits, and states, will launch a pilot program to enhance learning opportunities in STEM fields for students during the summer.

If you're already interested in science and math, make sure you know about all of the scholarship opportunities that could be available to you. As more emphasis is placed those fields of study, the incentives to pursue those disciplines will grow, so the time is now to apply for funding to pursue a degree in a STEM field. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retail Talent (SMART) Grant is awarded to undergraduates in their third or fourth year. Eligible recipients must already be Pell recipients, and the maximum award is $4,000. If you’re interested in competitions, the Intel Science Talent Search targets high school seniors with original research. To see whether you qualify for any of these or thousands of other scholarships, many of them related to the maths or sciences, conduct a free scholarship search to see the kind of awards you’re eligible for.


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by Agnes Jasinski

High school seniors preparing for college and the task of choosing a major may be more aware now than ever before about the repercussions of choosing one field of study over another. Sure, the economy is looking like it could rebound this year, but all of those who lost their jobs in the crisis - many of whom have quite a bit more experience to boast than a recent college graduate - will be causing more competitiveness on the job market for years to come.

Should you sacrifice where your interests are for what you think may be a more secure, safe major? An opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week says "no." Obviously you need to exhibit some marketable skills to land a job post-graduation, but many of those skills are things you're able to pick up on your own. (The article gives the example of computer science majors. Many of the things you'll learn as a computer science major could be obsolete in the real world by the time you graduate, as those technologies are typically very fast-paced and ever-changing.)

It's also probably not a good idea to go into a field you have no interest in just because your parents think that major will land you an impressive salary later on. If you don't have a knack for a particular field of study, chances are greater that you won't do well in your core classes, and potentially even flunk out of school. You really won't be making that great salary if "college dropout" is a part of your resume. If you're interested in English, go for it. You'd be surprised to learn the premium employers place on good writing and communication skills. And if you're at the University of Texas at Austin, the course "The English Major in the Workplace" will offer you tips on building a resume, interviewing, and networking - skills that are important in all fields of study.

On the other side is the idea of "careerism," or that intense desire to succeed professionally. Schools are beginning to see this as a good thing, introducing ways to improve their graduates' chances when they're ready to start looking for jobs and to help those students worried about what they're going to do with their degrees. An article in the New York Times recently discussed ways colleges were adapting to a difficult economy by making drastic changes to their curricula. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has gotten rid of its philosophy major; Michigan State University did the same with American studies and classics. Declining enrollments in those fields suggested the students, at those schools, not administrators, were looking to more practical majors that would make them more marketable job candidates.

If you're able to, dabble a bit. You may not even know what you want to major in as soon as you get on campus. Reflect on where you'd like to see yourself after college, and what your goals are while you're in college. For some a high-paying major may be just the ticket. Others may not be left-brained enough to become engineers and computer technicians. It's fine to take some time to think about what you'd like to spend the next two to four years doing.


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