Best degrees for the future
One day, not very long from now, when robots and other androids march into our offices, which jobs do you think they will take away first?
Already, accountants, bookkeepers, traders, data-entry operators, and even lawyers and medical service professionals are losing their places to machines.
Employees in many other sectors are anxiously waiting to see when, not whether, algorithms, automation, and artificial intelligence will make them redundant.
But there’s hope that jobs will survive and opportunities in many sectors and professions will continue to come.
In fact, a few of them will even thrive. But you may need to earn certain degrees as insurance for a well-lit career path.
So what are these “best degrees for the future”?
The answer lies in which degrees are most in demand in sectors and disciplines that are growing the fastest. And what are they?
No surprises here. The sectors/disciplines of the future are:
- Engineering (the professionals involved are engineers including hardware and software engineers)
- Information technology (developers to cyber security experts)
- Finance and business (accountants, financial planners, economists)
- Medicine and healthcare (nurses, therapists, healthcare managers)
- Environment/sustainability (environment scientist/consultant)
What are the degrees that these fields require? They are, for example, degrees in computer programing, network management, and information science; business, statistics, finance, and math; nursing, therapy, and healthcare management; and environmental scientist/consultant, to name only very few.
Here we take a look at a few of the best degrees in a few top career fields. Salaries mentioned are figures available from 2017 to 2019 from various online sources such as Payscale and Indeed (some from indirect sources).
Where mentioned, salary range shows the range for the position achieved on the basis of the degree mentioned. Where figures are available, salary ranges for starting to midcareer positions are given.
List of the best degrees for the future
What you learn: Improvement of decides, telecom systems, domestic appliances, computer hardware, maintenance of power grids, power transmission
Roles: Design, build, and improve electronic and electrical devices and appliances, assemble and manage power grids, innovate better transmission, improve telecom
Median annual salary, starting to midcareer: $70,000-$118,000
What you learn: Create and install processors, circuit boards, other computer parts, design and utilize computer programs
Roles: While hardware engineers design, develop, and improve computer systems and components including circuit boards, routers, and networks, software engineers develop and implement software
Median salary, starting to midcareer: Hardware – $73,000-$120,000, software – $69,000-$109,000
Electrical and computer engineering
What you learn: How to develop future technologies, such as advanced medical equipment and environment-friendly power systems
Roles: Research and development of new technologies for a range of sectors
Median salary, mid-career: $114,000
Electronics and communication engineering
What you learn: Communication technologies, creation and maintenance of devices
Roles: Employment in computing, telecommunication, aerospace, electrical engineering industries
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $72,000-$127,000
What you learn: Manufacturing processes that transform organic materials into products such as artificial fiber and gas; other subjects include biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, chemical kinetics, thermodynamics
Roles: Careers in nanotechnology, clothing, alternative energy and other industries
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $72,000-$127,000
Other engineering degrees
|Petroleum engineering||starting-midcareer: $83,000-$184,000|
|Nuclear engineering||starting-midcareer: $71,000-$122,000|
|Systems engineering||median, midcareer: $121,000|
|Mechanical engineering||starting-midcareer: $66,000-$109,000|
|Electrical and electronics engineering||$96,000|
|Industrial engineering||starting-midcareer: $66,000-$111,000|
|Biomedical engineering||starting-midcareer: $66,000-$110,000|
|Civil engineering||starting-midcareer: $60,000-$101,000|
|Aeronautics, aerospace, and
|Architectural engineering||starting-midcareer: $62,000-$96,000|
Information technology degree
What you learn: Functioning of computer hardware, coding languages, digital system design, artificial intelligence, program design
Roles: Computer systems analyst, web/app developer
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $69,000-$114,000
Computer science and engineering
What you learn: How to build your own computer software/hardware
Roles: Software/hardware developers, systems and program builders
Median salary (midcareer): $116,000
Computer science and mathematics
What you learn: How computer science and mathematics intersect, computer tech and mathematical equations on which this tech is based
Roles: Those focused on tech and math; statistician and programmer
Median salary (midcareer): $111,000
Computer science and artificial intelligence
What you learn: Understanding environments, commands, and responding appropriately using computer intelligence
Role: Implementation of AI in smart phones, computers, robotics, healthcare, manufacturing, transport
Median salary (midcareer): $111,000
What you learn: Designing, implementation, and maintenance of computer systems, tech networks, information security
Roles: Network architects, support specialists, research scientists; designing, installation and management of computer systems, networks
Median salary (midcareer): $101,000
Management information systems
What you learn: Information networks, databases, sociology, psychology, Internet ethics, project management
Roles: Information systems manager, computer systems analyst, implement and use databases and systems such that they most fruitfully serve business and customers
Median annual salary (starting-midcareer): $60,000-$104,000
Other IT degrees: Data analytics and business intelligence ($82,000), app development ($104,000), IT and cyber security ($96,000), robotics and mechanical engineering ($86,000), drone training/piloting ($52,000), virtual reality ($83,000), mechatronics and electrical/mechanical engineering ($84,000-$96,000),
Finance / business degree
What you learn: Corporate/individual finance and investment topics such as venture capital and private equity, accounting, management, and economics
Roles: Finance and investment manager and consultant, financial analyst, personal financial advisor
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $56,000-$97,000
What you learn: Management of funds nationally, internationally, how individuals and businesses manage money, the factors that influence the economy
Roles: Economist, financial manager, financial consultant, risk analyst, expert providing insights into economic models and plans
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $57,000-$106,000
What you learn: Keeping track of income and expenditure of businesses and individuals, allocating employee salary, checking sales figures
Roles: Accountant, auditor, budget analyst, risk assessor
Median salary, midcareer: $67,000
What you learn: International finance regulations and tax laws, traditional areas of business and finance degree courses
Roles: Business analytics manager, management analyst, logistics manager, banking manager, marketing manager
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $96,000-$130,000
What you learn: Sales, finance, marketing, operations, HR
Roles: Manager/consultant in a variety of business areas
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $80,000-$150,000
Finance and economics
What you learn: Theoretical overview of trade in money, economic models, marketing and management skills
Roles: Employment in banking and insurance sectors, financial analysts
Median salary, midcareer: $82,000
What you learn: Marketing, accounting, negotiation, entrepreneurship
Roles: Various careers in marketing, sales, financial services
Median salary, midcareer: $186,000
Other finance/business degrees: Business administration (starting-midcareer: $49,000-$79,000), actuarial science (starting-midcareer: $63,000-$124,000), behavioral economics ($62,000 for market research analysts)
Medicine / healthcare degree
What you learn: Drugs and their interactions
Roles: Positions in pharmaceutical laboratories, pharmacies, hospitals
Median salary, midcareer: $105,000
What you learn: Biology, anatomy, other areas of health sciences
Roles: Careers in hospitals, rehabilitation centers
Median salary, midcareer: $60,000
What you learn: Anatomy, biology, microbiology, nutrition, chemistry, nursing practice and theory
Roles: Careers in hospitals and clinics, treating the sick, offering emotional support to patients and their families, paperwork, helping doctors diagnose patients, providing advice and follow-up care
Median salary, starting to midcareer: $61,000-$78,000
What you learn: Biology, chemistry, clinical laboratory functions
Roles: Jobs in hospitals and laboratories
Median salary, midcareer: $71,000
What you learn: Psychology and human behavior in work environments
Roles: Specialized psychologists in industrial houses, coaching employees, identifying development needs, optimizing work life, developing criteria for performance evaluation
Median salary, midcareer: $103,000
Sustainability and renewable energy
What you learn: Conserving energy, developing alternative energy sources, recycling, reducing pollution, energy-saving buildings, manufacturing, sustainable transport
Roles: Clean-car engineers, sustainability professionals/builders, renewable project engineers, energy engineer, turbine technicians
Median salary: $85,000
What you learn: Ways to enhance energy efficiency, implement alternative energy sources, deal with environmental pollution
Roles: Roles in developing and implementing sustainable business practices, water quality scientist, environmental engineer/consultant, marine biologist, nature conservation officer, landscape architect, toxicologist
Median salary: $49,000-$53,000 (of environmental scientist/specialist)
Other degrees for the future
|Material science||starting-midcareer: $$68,000-$106,000|
|Physics and mathematics||$110,000|
|Food science||starting-midcareer: $50,000-$86,000|
|Game design and art||$71,000|
|Classics, liberal arts||starting-midcareer: $47,000-$85,000|
|Construction management||starting-midcareer: $59,000-$100,000|
|Educational instructional design||$70,000|
Future-proof degrees: reality or myth?
Degrees in law, media and advertising, human resources, and education, not just those in STEM, can also lay stable career paths well into the future. The much-disparaged degrees in arts, humanities, and social sciences may survive, too.
No less a resource than Harvard Business Review has pointed out that to solve the biggest social and technological challenges, “we need to think critically about their human context, something that humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do.”
Surveys have found that though the arts, humanities, and social sciences are often thought of as less practical education choices for the future, this is only a misconception.
For example, humanities, it appears from studies, prepare students to become CEOs better than the usual degree choices. The arts teach us to think in the human context, which is worth its weight in gold in today’s tech-focused world.
So, no industrial sector or career field can afford to neglect any of these “finer” and “more creative” subjects or let them decline and die.
This would suggest that all degrees are, or ought to be, “future-proof,” as all sectors will need all of these subjects, and that it is a myth that only certain degrees or majors are “future-proof.”
Job prospects will continue to depend on your academic performance, the school where you graduate, and the city where you work.
The best insurance for your future career is to research the best degrees in your field according to potential and your interests, earn a degree, and work hard to be the best professional you can possibly be.
But yes, it might pay to keep an eye on those humanoids and make sure they are not looking your way.