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. Credit & Loans

    College Loans: Private vs. Federal

    Not all student loans are the same. Know what you're getting into before signing on the dotted line.
  2. Credit & Loans

    Student Loan Debt: Is Consolidation The Answer?

    Consolidating student loans entails taking out a new loan to pay off existing loans. It sounds simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
  3. Professionals

    Top 5 Post-Grad Degrees That Lead To High Pay

    Although completing a post-grad degree is tough, the payoff is usually worth it. These five jobs typically pay well over $100,000 a year.
  4. Professionals

    Increase Your Odds of Getting a Job After College

    Economists still say college is the best path to a high-paying job. Nowadays, it just requires a little more thought before heading off to the university.
  5. Professionals

    What To Expect On The CFA Level III Exam

    The Chartered Financial Analyst Level III exam, which is only offered in June, is the last in the series of three tests that CFA candidates must pass.
  6. Professionals

    The Real Cost Of An MBA

    Completing an MBA can cost as much as buying a house, so deciding whether to pursue one is a choice that requires much deliberation.
  7. Professionals

    What To Expect On The CFA Level I Exam

    Becoming a chartered financial analyst requires the passing of three grueling exams covering an array of topics.
  8. Professionals

    The Highest-Paying Engineering Careers

    Learn more about some of the highest-paying jobs in field of engineering. With just a bachelor's degree, most engineers in these jobs make well over $100,000.
  9. Professionals

    Career Advice: Accounting Vs. Law

    Identify the key differences between working in accounting and working in law. Understand which specific skills make you better-suited for each career.
  10. Professionals

    Want to Be High-Earner? Avoid these College Majors

    Why these college majors might offer a poor chance of paying off those student loans sooner rather than later.
  1. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. 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 >>
  4. 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 >>
  5. 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 >>
  6. 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 >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Cyber Monday

    An expression used in online retailing to describe the Monday following U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday is generally ...
  2. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  3. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  4. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  5. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  6. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
Trading Center