Understanding the Job Market
If your primary reason for going to college is to get a job, then your section of a major should be heavily influenced by the job market. How do you know where the jobs are?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) (www.bls.gov/ooh/) which can be very helpful in checking out different job possibilities. On this site, you’ll find information on degrees required for different jobs, job openings for the next decade, pay rates, percent growth in the job market, and related information.
When you use this website, you should consider the following:
- A particular degree can be used in several different occupations so you’ll need to look for similar occupations. On the OOH site, you’ll find a link for this information.
- Look at the degree requirements. In many cases, you will need more than a Bachelor’s degree to pursue a career path you are considering.
- Look at the total job openings. These are nationwide. Then think about how many graduates there will be in those fields. In some popular fields of study, the number of graduates nationwide in a major each year far exceed the number of job openings over 10 years.
- Be wary of majors that are popular because of television or other societal trends. In most cases, the number of graduates each year will far exceed the number of openings.
- Think of trends that are likely to affect the job market. The OOH site is a ten-year forecast. But it can’t anticipate major changes in society. For example, a major shift in federal policy or funding could dramatically impact the job market for majors that work in government services.
- Think of the flexibility of a major. Does a major have a fairly limited number of places where it can be applied? Is it connected to a specific industry? If so, your future job prospects will be influenced by that sector of the economy.
- Think of the opportunities to advance to higher level positions. Is the major one where organizations look for future leaders of the organization?
- Think of how competitive you will be with a degree in this major. Do you have some inherent advantage that distinguishes you from others who are in the major. This is especially important for those majors where the number of graduates far exceeds the number of jobs.
While job prospects shouldn’t be the only consideration in pursuing a specific major, you can’t ignore job prospects either. .