College is no longer a foregone conclusion for many and those who do go must consider carefully whether their chosen career field is going to be able to bring enough money to pay off massive student loan bills. Gone are the carefree days when those attending college could drift from one major to another on a whim, confident they’d be able to get a well-paying job, even if it wasn’t in their degree field. Those days, like the whimsical family sitcoms of the 70s, are over.
Today those attending college have to do so with an eye on the bottom line and where the job market is going to be four and five years out. It’s with that in mind that we take a look at the areas of study that are most and least likely to provide productive incomes. The good news is that pathways to prosperity are fairly diverse. There’s a decent career that pays well in many different fields.
Winners: Physician Assistants, Science, Engineering
These days when you go to the doctor, you’re more likely to be seeing a PA or Physician Assistant. A PA can handle the routine matters and operate under a doctor’s supervision. If you’ve gone to a walk-in medical service recently, it’s likely you’ve been dealing almost exclusively with PAs rather than MDs. With a median salary of $90,000 a year, being a PA is a career path that will pay off.
Other winners include the science and engineering fields and computer technology, in particular mobile devices.
Losers: Education, History, Philosophy, English
Sadly, education is one of the big career losers in the years ahead. It’s a trend that has been in place since the Great Recession and just keeps on going. Budget cuts are decimating our educational system and students are abandoning the field on college campuses. If you’re dreaming about being a school teacher, forget it. Seriously, do something else. English majors accept up front they’re going to have difficulty getting jobs but with the budget slashing that’s going on in the publishing and entertainment industries, it’s getting tougher to make degrees in English, advertising and marketing pay off.
Companies like Kenworth practically have to beg people to consider being diesel mechanics. Another reason to consider a trade is as robots and diagnostic machinery become more complex, the greater will be the need for skilled mechanics who can fix them when they break. When an x-ray machine at a doctor or dentist office goes offline, that’s money down the drain. People who can get those machines back up and running are worth their weight in gold.
But Not Trades In The Energy Sector
Another sector to avoid is the energy sector. With Saudi Arabia dumping crude on world markets and driving prices down to $40 a barrel, this is not the time to be job hunting in the energy sector. As many as 86,000 jobs could be lost in oil and gas over the next few years. Those able to hang on to their jobs are being forced to accept pay cuts.
If you’re at all inclined to work with people, the medical profession may provide the best opportunities going forward. It’s not possible to outsource hands on jobs and, as America’s population continues to age, there will be a greater need for medical services. After that, anything in the science field will give you the best shot at paying back those killer student loan bills.