High school graduation is fast approaching.
And if you’re like many seniors, you have no idea what to major in when you get to college.
Or, you have an idea, but it’s based on something you saw in a movie, or what your brother’s friend majored in — rather than what’s going to get you a well-paying job.
Although the end of college undoubtedly seems like a long time away — with lots of red solo cups and football games in between — you should start thinking about it now.
If you’re going to graduate with $30,000 in student loans, it’s also smart to graduate with a job that allows you to pay them off.
Based on new data from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International, here are 12 majors to help you do just that.
The 12 Best College Majors (If You Want a Job)
In certain industries, colleges “aren’t producing enough graduates to keep pace with labor market demand,” the study says.
The featured programs/majors are “undersupplying candidates for occupations that already see big gaps between the number of jobs posted and the number of hires companies make each month.”
Translation? If you graduate with one of these majors, employers will probably fight over you.
Here’s information about each of the programs, as well as the typical career and pay associated with them.
To give you an idea how well many of these careers pay, the median annual wage in the U.S. is $35,540.
1. Computer and Information Sciences
This probably comes as no surprise, but computer jobs are going to keep increasing. At least, until the people in them develop robots that take over the world.
In the meantime, if you enjoy working independently and solving complex problems, this is arguably the best industry to get into now.
Many jobs can be done remotely, which means you can live and work wherever you like.
- Gap between postings and hires (how many jobs go unfilled in an average month): 480,650
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 8.6%
- Median annual wage: $79,390
- Sample job titles: computer programmer, computer support specialist, database administrator, information security analyst and software developer
2. Nursing and Nursing Administration
Have a nurturing personality? Want to truly make a difference?
Nursing might be right up your alley.
Also worth noting: Many nurses work three 12-hour shifts. Yes, that means four days off each week!
- Gap between postings and hires: 242,884
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 9%
- Median annual wage: $66,640
- Sample job titles: registered nurse (RN)
3. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
Put simply: Pharmacists ball out.
They don’t have the crazy hours or high-pressure situations of doctors, but they still earn a ridiculous income.
Note you need four years of graduate education to pursue this career, though many programs allow you to complete your senior year of undergraduate and first year of graduate school at the same time.
- Gap between postings and hires: 37,652
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 7.2%
- Median annual wage: $120,950
- Sample job titles: pharmacist
4. Human Resources Management and Services
The cool thing about human resources (HR) is you can work in pretty much any industry.
That’s because all manners of workplaces need someone to handle the finding, hiring and training of their employees.
- Gap between postings and hires: 21,736
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 5.2%
- Sample job titles: human resources manager, human resources specialist, training and development manager and compensation and benefits manager
5. Electrical and Electronics Engineering
Did you take apart motors or other electronics as a kid?
Well, electrical and electronics engineers get paid big bucks to do exactly that: design, manufacture and test electrical equipment.
- Gap between postings and hires: 18,959
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 3%
- Median annual wage: $93,260
- Sample job titles: electrical and electronics engineer
6. Mechanical Engineering
Not sure what type of engineering you’d like to work in, but enjoy tinkering around and fixing things?
Mechanical engineering, is “one of the broadest engineering disciplines,” according to the BLS.
Your work could involve designing, developing, building and testing “mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.”
- Gap between postings and hires: 16,213
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 3.1%
- Median annual wage: $83,060
- Sample job titles: mechanical engineer
This is one of the only majors on the list that doesn’t lead into a specific career.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t have a job; you’ll be able to pick from a variety of positions with this versatile degree.
And, if you decide to continue your schooling, a biology background is helpful for jobs in the medical field.
- Gap between postings and hires: 13,980
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 6.8%
- Sample job titles: biological technician, food scientist, microbiologist, physician, teacher, wildlife biologist or veterinarian
8. Health Information or Medical Records Technology
Our nation’s elderly population is quickly increasing, and along with it, our nation’s medical needs.
If you’re like me — and don’t like blood or touching strangers — look into healthcare information and administration.
Careers in this field involve managing the incredible amount of information and people associated with healthcare.
For the technician positions, you only need a certificate — sometimes an associate’s degree.
- Gap between postings and hires: 13,904
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 9.6%
- Sample job titles: medical records and health information technician or medical and health services manager
9. Paralegal Studies
Great news! You don’t need a four-year degree to become a paralegal. Many law firms only require an associate’s degree.
Or, you could get a bachelor’s degree and a certificate in paralegal studies, which might offer more flexibility if you decide to switch careers.
As a paralegal, you’ll support lawyers by doing research, organizing files and drafting documents.
- Gap between postings and hires: 10,952
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 8%
- Median annual wage: $48,350
- Sample job titles: paralegal or legal assistant
For the numbers-minded, economics is a solid choice.
You can enter a wide variety of fields — many of which pay extremely well.
And, if you choose to pursue advanced degrees or certifications, you’ll expand your opportunities (and paycheck) even further.
- Gap between postings and hires: 10,583
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 14.4%
- Median annual wage: $78,620 (financial analyst)
- Sample job titles: budget analyst, economist, financial analyst or teacher
11. Civil Engineering
Want to build stuff the public uses every single day?
Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of infrastructure like bridges, roads and buildings.
A great perk of this type of engineering is you’ll spend a lot of time outside on job sites — a perfect fit for people who don’t want to be chained to a desk all day.
- Gap between postings and hires: 3,057
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 9%
- Median annual wage: $82,050
- Sample job titles: civil engineer
12. Graphic Design
An art career that pays well and is in demand?
It may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not.
As a graphic designer, you can create everything from advertisements to wedding invitations, both by hand and on the computer.
Because some graphic designers eventually start their own freelance businesses, the sky’s the limit!
- Gap between postings and hires: 2,350
- Projected job growth (2015-2020): 2.2%
- Median annual wage: $45,900
- Sample job titles: graphic designer
Why You Shouldn’t Major in What You Love
Now that you’ve read about all these majors, here’s one thing to note: I was a political science major.
Eight years after graduating, I work full-time as a writer — kind of a far leap.
Don’t look at your major as a lifelong commitment; look at it as a springboard for your future.
Study something useful, and if you switch gears later on, awesome. At least you’ll always have a solid foundation to fall back upon.
You don’t need me to tell you college is really expensive.
So you’re taking a huge gamble if you only pursue your passions and don’t think about your eventual return on investment.
You could end up like the broke, disgruntled former Yelp employee who majored in English literature and ended up unable to pay her bills.
But, you say, “I love English literature!”
The thing is: You can learn about English literature for the rest of your life, because college is far from your last opportunity to educate yourself.
You can read books, take free online courses and pursue your interests even once you’re legally old enough to drink.
Not to mention, if you get a well-paying job, you can afford to travel to Hemingway’s house and buy tickets to Macbeth and order all the Penguin Classics you like.
I’m also not saying you should go to college. Far from that.
College isn’t for everyone, and too many people get expensive degrees they don’t end up using.
What I am saying?
If you do go to college, make sure your investment is worth it.
Don’t go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt for a degree that won’t pay you back.
Your Turn: Do you agree with me? Are you considering any of these majors, or did you major in one of these fields? Share your experience in the comments!
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.