With the overall unemployment rate ranging consistently between 9% and 10% for much of 2011, it was a worrying time for both independent business owners and job seekers alike. The final quarter of 2011 saw the beginnings of a recovery, however, with December's figures revealing an overall unemployment rate of just 8.5%. It appears as though students and job seekers can start to make genuine plans for future prosperity. (For more, check out How To Combat Youth Unemployment.)

TUTORIAL: Economic Indicators

Computer Science
With fresh hope for job seekers of all ages in 2012, what educational degrees should students and adult learners be targeting? Well, in terms of gaining a diverse qualification that can be utilized across several potential industries and market sectors, a degree in computer science stands as one of the most viable options. Job prospects for those with a computer science degree or Ph.D. are excellent and expected to improve still further, with a 24% rise in employment opportunities having been forecast between 2008 and 2018.

Finding the niche market that will play a prominent role in these rising opportunities is also important. The research sector is one that provides great opportunities for those educated in computer science, as it is becoming harder to correlate and understand the vast quantities of research data that is now accessible. The relentless advancement in networking technology and computing speed is also having a significant impact on new computer system design, so there is an especially high demand for emerging graduates with the relevant skills.

Business and Finance
We live in an age where accepted working methods are changing, as networking technology continues to improve to allow businesses to save money through outsourcing. This not only creates the opportunity for skilled workers to market themselves independently, but also to establish a service-based professional business that can thrive within its market sector. With this in mind, a business degree can teach you the ability to manage the financial and operational aspects of commerce, which will allow your marketable skill to thrive in 2012 and beyond.

A business degree has other benefits. It emerged as one of the most popular online degrees in 2009, according to Eduventures, as more than 250,000 students undertook business courses to help create a diverse skill set. In addition to this, a business degree helps graduates understand professional ethics and provides a well rounded and meaningful education that can be applied to any work place or industry. (To learn more, see Should You Head Back To Business School?)

Petroleum Engineering
While some degree courses have an established reputation for providing excellent salaries and long-term job prospects, others emerge as a consequence of changing economic and social factors. Undertaking a degree in petroleum engineering may not be everyone's immediate choice when choosing a major, but there are several factors that make this course one of most beneficial to students across the U.S. According to PayScale, salaries start at approximately $97,000 per year and can rise to more than $150,000 once graduates have established themselves. It certainly stands as one of the most financially rewarding degrees.

Aside from these significant and immediate financial rewards, the global demand for energy makes a career as a petroleum engineer one that affords an opportunity for travel and an enhanced level of job security. As a specialist industry, it also boasts a relatively low turnover of staff, with the result that many of its current employees have held a long and distinguished career. With a high number of the sector's workers set to retire between now and 2021, graduates can not only look forward to immediate career opportunities but also positions of long-term employment.

The Bottom Line
As we can see, there are many different factors that define a degree's overall worth, and more specifically its value to you and your individual range of skills and interests. However, it's important that both young and mature students remember that any degree course that they choose must have relevance in the modern employment market, and relate to thriving sectors that offer long-term career opportunities and stability. (For more on school, see The Declining Value Of A College Degree.)

Related Articles
  1. Entrepreneurship

    Elon Musk Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Read more about Elon Musk, the South African immigrant turned technology and engineering entrepreneur and inventor worth $13.6 billion.
  2. Savings

    Using Your 529 Savings to Study Abroad

    With studying abroad no longer cheap, families may find that a 529 plan college-savings account can fund educational travel. Tip: Read the fine print.
  3. Savings

    Which Gets Priority: Retirement or College Fund?

    On a tight budget? Wondering which to contribute to – your retirement or your kid's college fund? Here's expert help on how best to allocate your savings.
  4. Savings

    College Tuition vs. Investing: Is It Worth It?

    With the rising cost of college and questionable career prospects awaiting college graduates, some are wondering if a college education is still worth it.
  5. Personal Finance

    Does It Pay To Go To College?

    College or not? There are smarter or lamer ways to decide, but this cool calculation shows the basic college boost to career earnings is a big one.
  6. Investing Basics

    10 Reasons Google Is One Of The Best Employers

    Find out more about Google Incorporated and reasons why Google was named to Fortune magazine's list of the best companies to work for.
  7. Investing Basics

    The Top 5 Skills Every Actuary Needs

    The actuary profession is growing fast. Here's a look at the majors and top skills one needs to become a successful actuary.
  8. Credit & Loans

    Should You Care About The Rising Cost Of College?

    It’s nearly graduation season, so it’s time to weigh in on why you should care about rising college costs, paying for tuition and back student loans.
  9. Personal Finance

    Best Websites For Tech & IT Jobs

    If you're headed for a tech job, you've chosen a field packed with opportunity. Here's how to locate the jobs that are the best fit for your skills.
  10. Personal Finance

    Masters Degree Vs. Work Experience: Which One Is More Valuable?

    Some argue that a master's degree only worsens student's financial situations, but future earnings data shows there can be a real financial benefit.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Whartonite

    A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University ...
  2. Society of Actuaries (SOA)

    The SOA is a professional organization for actuaries in the U.S., ...
  3. Certified Commercial Investment ...

    A professional designation awarded by the Certified Commercial ...
  4. Saber Currency

    A proposed Brazilian currency that would be handed out by the ...
  5. Institute For Supply Management ...

    A non-profit organization that serves professionals, who are ...
  6. B-School

    Abbreviation of business school, an educational institution that ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What are the best MBA programs for corporate finance?

    Opinions vary based on which publications you consult, but the best MBA programs for a career in corporate finance are at ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the relationship between research and development and innovation?

    Although it's possible to achieve innovation without research and development and it's possible to conduct research and development ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. For which kind of jobs is having Magnum Cum Laude most important?

    Having a magna cum laude degree is most important for jobs in the fields of finance, management consulting and engineering. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are some common functions of business intelligence technologies?

    Although business intelligence technologies have some common functions, their main function is to support a company's decision-making ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!