What Will My Degree Be Worth?
According to the analysis of this year's application data conducted by Educatio LLC, the tendency in the popularity of majors that has been observed over several years is continuing. Accordingly, the number of applicants generally increased further in the educational fields also preferred by official higher education policy, e.g. technical and information technology, and a number of majors belonging here strengthened their positions in the popularity ranking. This, however, is far from a total rearrangement on the top list of majors, since many of the most popular majors of recent years are still attractive to young people, especially in the field of economy and social sciences.
Similarly to last year, the popularity list of majors is lead by tourism and catering in 2009 and is followed by majors in economy and management. The major in engineering - information technology moved forward from the fourth to the third position; finance and accounting also demands a higher place leaping forward from 9th to 5th position. For years now increasing numbers have chosen mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering has also become more popular. The former stepped from 10th to 7th place, while the latter moved up from 13th to 11th position.
A major in psychology has lost some of its popularity (falling from 6th to 10th position), however, it is still in the top ten. The other major in humanities, andragogy (in essence the old cultural manager major) was chosen by over twenty percent more people this year, although it has not resulted in a higher position (15). Communication, about which many have been pulling faces these days, fell back one position but remains one of the most popular majors (4).
Amongst other things, it is the unabated popularity of the social sciences and humanities majors that shows that the career choices of young people are not only influenced by the current supposed or actual-albeit in the long term unpredictable-labour market processes. Another good example of this is the nursing and medical attendance major which has increased its number of applicants by close to fifty percent despite the problems seen in health care.
In addition to the complexity in the motivations of applicants, the "direction" of employment is not clear in many educational fields either: certain majors do not offer an automatic entry to particular traditional positions; these majors rather offer employment opportunities in several directions. The new, changed requirements in the employment of university and college graduates particularly justifies graduate career tracking at national and institutional level as well. The Graduate Career Tracking System (GCT) supports this, also facilitating information access for future students: they think that if a degree costs millions, then they need to know which profession to study for and choose a career on the basis of that and ultimately what they can do with their degree.
Career choices are built on a different basis at the moment. Whether one becomes an engineer, a pharmacist, a marketing expert or a journalist depends on what parents deal with, what the picture of the profession appearing in the media is and whether the applicant likes the school subjects required in the entrance exam in addition to the focus of their interests. GCT will help conscious choice-making by showing the marketability of the degree, too.
Where are the others going?
Of course we can always ask friends about where we can find employment with what degree. We can also read official descriptions of majors, to see what knowledge the given degree gives, and what fields may be considered in looking for a job.
But before making a decision, it may help to ask the opinion of human resources experts, head-hunters, HR consultants and careers consultants about present demand, and the skills and competencies required for a marketable start after graduation.
Getting information while studying
However, admission to a university or college does not yet determine an exact career path. It can be already be formed by participating in various training courses, study abroad, adapting to employer demands and clever choices in the place of internship. Higher education job fairs and the analysis of the tests made there are useful in orientation. We can learn, for example, who it is that companies are looking for, to whom they make offers, and what remuneration they provide. However, there are limits here, since the companies present at job fairs only represent one segment of the labour market: typically the large, multinational companies.
Graduate career tracking: career planner filling gaps
It would make career starts easier if young people could see in numbers and figures where earlier graduates found jobs. For example: where do foreign language major graduates in humanities work? Do they teach in state schools or private language schools? Or do they potentially work for the telephone customer services department of a multinational company? Or do they make a living as travel guides? Do they try to work abroad? In what direction do they start towards certain opportunities? Unfortunately, research does not cover all higher education institutions yet. Although it would make things easier for applicants (and their parents), make university/college career more predictable, and missing competencies would also be easier to find if there was a summary providing information about the employment chances of the given majors, and also the proportion of graduates can find jobs at the moment and in which majors. The Graduate Career Tracking System will provide answers to these questions, and thus with more thorough knowledge career choice decisions can be made, the sphere of training can be formulated, and majors generating over-education can be identified and adjusted. This will also mean that higher education will not train expensive professionals that the market does not require.
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