6 Majors for a Changing World

A degree in one of these six occupations can prepare you for careers that are expected to grow in coming years

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

6 Best College Degrees
6 Best College Degrees

It seems every day brings a new advance in technology – or a new way to use existing technology – as the world marches ahead more rapidly than ever before.

Those changes are helping usher in jobs of the future that may have not existed a decade or so in the past.

Healthcare, science and security have always been rich career paths and they will continue generating good jobs for the future but in ever-expanding ways.

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Colleges and universities are working to increase their programs to meet the changing demands of the workplace and provide the best degrees for the future needs of students.

Some of the best jobs for the future can be found in these six areas.

Homeland Security

Before 9/11, the federal Department of Homeland Security didn’t exist. By 2012 its budget topped $56 billion, which can pay for nearly 250,000 jobs, according to the USAjobs.gov website.

Its varied tasks and rocketing growth require an array of professionals in fields ranging from law enforcement to logistics, covering 22 federal agencies from FEMA to Customs.

Homeland security has become specialized enough to be a college major. The U.S. Navy Postgraduate School and Department of Homeland Security list 86 colleges and universities with bachelor’s degrees related to homeland security. The site lists 91 institutions offering master’s degrees, another 10 with doctorates and 54 offering associate’s degrees.

Some of the jobs at Homeland Security, and their average salary, include: policy analyst, $90,000; IT specialist, $65,000; program analyst, $76,000; and intelligence officer, $82,000.

Job growth in the homeland security field is expected to continue and careers also include private companies and jobs at local and state levels.

Cyber Security

Sometimes called information security analysts, this is another rapidly growing career. The Department of Homeland Security is actively recruiting professionals while private industry has an even larger need.

Cyber security workers protect computer networks from hackers, viruses, attacks from hostile governments or organizations.

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Most employers need workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many want someone with a master’s degree.

The BLS lists the median pay at $75,000. A survey cited by the BLS put the estimated the salary between $89,000 and $121,500.

Job growth is projected at 22%, according to the BLS, but it could be higher. An article on The Washington Post website said government needs 10,000 cyber security experts and private companies need 40,000. A private security firm hired 3,000 between 2010 and 2012.

Environmental Scientist

An environmental scientist’s main job is protecting the environment and people against environmental hazards.

The job can include collecting and analyzing environmental data such as air or water pollution, reporting findings to agencies and business, and reviewing environmental permits and regulations. In addition, an environmental scientist also may work on reclaiming polluted land, examine the impact of construction projects or identify how to change human actions to reduce environmental damage, according to the BLS.

Some entry level jobs may be available with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is usually needed, according to the BLS. Courses include biology, chemistry, geology and physics with specialties including hydrology, waste management and fluid mechanics.

The median pay is about $62,000, though the BLS salary range runs from $38,000 to $108,000. Jobs are projected to grow at 19%, mostly with private consulting firms with growth fueled by more environmental regulations and companies trying to cut pollution.

Public Health

Professionals in the public health field fill a variety of jobs such as research, prevention, program administration and outreach services, according to the publichealthcareer.org website. Some careers could include administration, clinical researcher, epidemiologist and government health departments.

Jobs for public health administrators typically involve managing public or private health organizations such as for hospitals, research agencies or non-profit organizations. Administrative jobs with government health departments can range from local to federal or organizations such as the American Cancer Society.

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The field requires at least a bachelor’s degree in health administration, though workers often have master’s degrees in areas such as health services or public health, the BLS said. The median pay is about $84,000 but can go up to $114,000.

A clinical researcher will examine disease and ways to curb it. The job can command an average salary of $91,000, according to salary.com, and generally requires a master’s degree. The BLS estimates job growth in the field at about 14%.

Epidemiologists seek causes of diseases and how to keep them from spreading or happening again. At least a master’s degree is required and most have a master’s in public health. The profession pays about $63,000 and is expected to grow at 24%.


This is the science of using matter so small the thickness of a sheet of paper would be a mountain range, according to Nano.gov, the website for the National Nanotechnology Institute. A nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter, or about as fast as your fingernail grows in a second.

The field hit a milestone in 1989 when scientists manipulated 35 xenon atoms to spell out the IBM logo, the website said.

A career in the field is heavily scientific and spreads into a number of disciplines including biology, physics, medicine, engineering and chemistry, according to the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network website.

Nano.gov lists 13 college programs offering bachelor’s degrees in nanoscience, 13 master’s degrees and 47 offering doctorate degrees. If a school doesn’t offer a degree in nanoscience, you should initially go into chemistry, physics, engineering, biology or IT, the site says.

There are jobs in the field for levels of education from associate’s degrees through a doctorate. A National Science Foundation study said 2 million nanotechnology workers will be needed by 2020 and 6 million worldwide, according to Nano.gov.

Salaries could range from $30,000 to $50,000 for an associate’s degree to $65,000 for a bachelor’s, $80,000 for a master’s and $100,000 for a doctorate, according to the infrastructure network website.

Health Informatics

This is a growing field where healthcare meets IT.

It involves information technology, electronic health and medical records, information exchange and even portable devices for data collection. People can enter the field through the medical side as nurses, administrators, physicians or clinicians or as IT workers with an interest in health information systems, according to information from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Education requirements can run from associate’s degrees to master’s degree programs. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management lists more than 60 bachelor’s and master’s programs on its website.

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The average pay for the broad field is just over $64,000. An article published on the Healthcare Informatics website cited a study that showed nearly half the hospitals, 39% of pharmaceutical companies and 70% of health insurers plan to increase hiring in the field. The same study said health organizations worry about a lack of skilled professionals to handle increasing demands for the skills, the article said.

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