Some business and IT majors in high demand

Employers are willing to pay a premium for graduates with a desirable degree.

by Angela Gray

It is a safe bet most college graduates would like their major to provide them with financial security.

According to the Job Outlook 2005 Survey, the five most in-demand college majors were business administration and management, economics, accounting, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

Post-college graduation, salaries start at $39,480 to $43,653 for business administration and management, economics and accounting careers. Salaries start between $50,175 and $51,773 for mechanical and electrical engineers, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

At the University, faculty members in the Institute of Technology, which includes mechanical and electrical engineering majors, earn on average $97,086 per year, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting.

University faculty members in the Carlson School of Management, which includes business administration and management, economics and accounting majors, earn on average $126,757 per year.

Laureen Maines, accounting professor at Indiana University, said upward mobility and financial security are both large reasons accounting majors are in high demand.

“First of all, the money has always been good, and students want to make money,” she said.

Maines said there were a lot of financial scandals in early 2000 that have sparked students’ interests in business as a whole.

“Crimes and scandals have recently attracted many students, but the financial security and benefits have always been a factor in students choosing accounting as a major,” she said.

Karine Moe, economics professor at Macalester College, said the number of students choosing economics as their major has more than doubled in the past five years.

“In today’s society, many young people want to be able to understand the economy because of its increasing importance in their everyday lives,” she said.

Judy Symon Hanson, assistant director of international programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business, said business majors are becoming more attentive to the fact that business itself in increasingly global.

“Business students need to have more than a business degree to be firsthand picks from company recruiters,” Hanson said. “Companies want business students with global perspectives that are culturally tolerant.”

Hanson said the business school sends 140 students to 13 different countries to gain business experience.

“College kids love to travel, and it’s not just London and Paris anymore. Asia is a new booming market for business, which opens more career opportunities,” she said.

“Business majors are hot because of the money and the market, wherever it is on a globe, is hot,” Hanson said.

Dave Anderson, professor in electrical engineering and computer science at Purdue University, said he has seen the enrollment of electrical engineering majors increase in the past five years.

“I am biased, but I think the broad curriculum initially interests students, and the job security keeps them interested,” he said.

Sean Garrick, University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor, said many students he has worked with have found jobs for large companies that require their expertise.

“I have seen many of my students graduate and end up working for companies like Medtronic, designing gas turbine engines and supersonic combustions for shorter airplane flights,” Garrick said.

Garrick said mechanical engineering has a unique and broad base where students can study in areas such as physics, aerophysics and material science, which expands their résumé.

“With the recent IT boom, there are so many job prospects,” he said.

Karine Moe said students’ interests in economics and other in-demand majors could change.

“The market changes, trends change and what’s hot also changes,” she said. “It’s always a cycle.”