Decoding Emerging College Majors

Dawn Papandrea | September 2, 2009

I love reading articles about college major trends because that’s a good way to gauge which career fields are up-and-coming and eager to hire. Lucky for us, writers at The Chronicle of Higher Education did some legwork in yesterday’s story, “5 College Majors on the Rise.”

Not surprisingly, all of the majors they list have something to do with making ourselves and/or the environment a little healthier, and finding new ways to solve problems. In fact, each field can be classified as “higher” education in some way, since they each have a higher purpose than just simply memorizing facts, performing calculations, or appreciating some type of art.

Take a look…

Sustainability — A few weeks ago, I actually had to look this up — no joke! That’s how new an idea this is when it comes to education and business. If you’re wondering what it is (which is nothing to be ashamed of), I’ll tell you. It’s the concept of making something more “green” or ecofriendly. Many businesses today are sustainable businesses. So college students, be sure to at least take a class on this because it’s the hottest buzzword in the workplace today!

Service Science — This is another buzzword that may not be what you think it is. The article describes it as cultivating “‘deep problem solvers’ who understand the economic, human, and technical dimensions of complex systems.” Yikes! That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? The idea is to improve productivity and encourage innovation in various service industries. In other words, these grads will help find more efficient ways of doing things. That sure is a good skill set to have.

Health informatics — The idea is to take each person’s tons of health data and digitalize it. The Feds are totally behind this initiative, and so a new field has emerged that will demand lots of technological know-how with a health care twist.

Computational science — Math meet science. Science meet math. Together, you’ll solve problems. At least that’s the gist of what computational science is all about. I’m not a techie or a number cruncher so it’s a bit beyond me, honestly, but the article says this: “Companies have used computational analysis to increase the absorbency of disposable diapers and to tweak the shape of potato chips so they drop into packages rather than fly off the conveyor belt.” OK then, moving on…

Public health – If the swine flu epidemic has taught us anything, it’s that public health is an expansive field. Students who merge the biology stuff with the public policy stuff will be huge commodities in our society.

Intrigued by any of these up-and-coming fields? They are definitely worth paying attention to for anyone interested in entering a viable industry. One day, they may even be as commonplace as English literature or psychology, so get studying!

-Dawn Papandrea