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Career Paths in Business

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more than 600,000 new jobs in business by 2024, opening up opportunities for those with a passion for investments, real estate, marketing and human resources. Because the field of business is so broad, it’s worth exploring the different career paths and specializations available, what types of careers are emerging, and the skills or certifications necessary for various positions.

Whether they have a head for numbers or a flair for marketing, students pursuing business degrees have numerous options in choosing a specialization that will best fit their strengths and preferences. The following are examples of concentrations in business and the specific careers they can lead to.

Business Administration

This concentration arms students with the skills and knowledge to work in government or the private sector as teachers, consultants and leaders in business. Coursework includes financial management, business systems, business analysis and decision making.

  • Financial Manager Produces financial reports, directs investments, and develops strategies to achieve long-term financial goals. Financial managers are responsible for the overall financial health of an organization.
  • Business Operations Specialist Works to ensure organizations are effective, efficient, and compliant with laws and industry regulations.

Real Estate

For those with an interest in one of the largest industries in the world, this concentration focuses on the skills and knowledge applicable to residential and commercial real estate, including mortgage lending, legal practices and financial markets. Coursework covers topics such as business communications, real estate investment, and real estate law.

  • Commercial Real Estate Developer Purchases land, prepares it for development, and manages the construction process. Duties include securing financing, negotiating projects, handling zoning or legal issues, and participating in public hearings.
  • Asset Manager Acquires, operates, maintains, and disposes of assets in a cost-effective manner. These professionals manage investments on behalf of both individuals and corporations.


This specialty combines economic analysis with the practical aspects of business to prepare students to adapt to rapidly changing environments involving products, markets and technology. Coursework includes consumer behavior, international marketing and marketing communications.

  • Marketing Manager Coordinates marketing policies to create demand for products and services and develops pricing strategies to maximize profits. These professionals also monitor trends and contribute to product development.
  • Market Research Analyst Studies market conditions to determine potential sales of products and services. Market research analysts also help companies identify trends in public taste.

Human Resource Management

This specialization teaches students how to design and implement programs for the effective management of an organization’s employees. Key areas of study include staffing, training and development, performance management, leadership, and compensation and benefits.

  • Executive Recruiter Screens, interviews and recommends employees for executive and senior management positions. Executive recruiters also work with search agencies to create a pool of qualified candidates.
  • Human Resources Manager Plans, directs and coordinates the personnel matters of a business or organization. Duties include recruiting and hiring staff, planning long-term strategies, and serving as a liaison between employees and management.

Actuarial Science

Students learn the necessary skills to assess liabilities and risks a company faces when it offers an insurance product or pension plan. Course topics include statistics, actuary mathematics, and loss models.

  • Actuary Manages financial risks with the goal of helping companies grow. Actuaries compile and analyze statistics to accurately calculate insurance risks and premium costs.
  • Business Operations Specialist Works to ensure organizations are effective, efficient, and compliant with laws and industry regulations.

Outlook & Salary Potential in Business

The expected job outlook for business graduates is on pace with the economy as a whole. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 8 percent growth in business jobs from 2014 to 2024, translating to some 632,000 new positions. In addition, a survey by Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institutes projects that very large companies—those with more than 10,000 employees—will experience an enormous 82 percent growth in jobs. The fastest growing industries in the United States include real estate management, financial services, manufacturing and nonprofits.

Increased demand for business professionals goes hand in hand with competitive pay rates. Salaries vary depending on education, experience, and geographical location, but overall the outlook is good. For example, business operations managers earn an average salary of $60,518 a year, according to, while experienced professionals in business development earn a median salary of $84,000.

Top Skills for a Career in Business

It’s possible to build a career in business in virtually any industry, from real estate to retail, but it’s a process that requires nurturing a comprehensive skill set. Professionals who have a firm grasp on the necessary skills, and the ability to use them effectively in the workplace, may have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder and reaching positions that require more responsibility and pay higher salaries. Successful professionals share some of the following skills:


Because working in the business world involves the management of large amounts of information and documents, as well as jugging multiple tasks, business professionals must develop an organizational system to keep things straight, as well as know how to set priorities and manage their time.


When a missed email can mean the loss of a client, and sloppy record-keeping can wreak havoc on the books, an eye for detail may mean the difference between a business’s success or failure.


Business professionals are inundated with information of all kinds. It’s vital to be able to sort through information, understand its implications, and then apply it effectively.

Problem solving

Being able to find creative and effective solutions to problems is essential, especially at the managerial level. Successful professionals know how to examine variables and understand the consequences of various courses of action, and then make the best decisions for the organization.

Emerging Careers in Business

The field of opportunities for business graduates is constantly changing, with the path to success no longer limited to traditional careers in business and finance. Advances in technology, for example, have spurred job creation at development and social media companies that are looking for specialty business skill sets—especially as hacking, terrorism, and cyberattack threats have brought privacy and security issues to the forefront. Business ethics is another growing area as companies adjust to changing societal standards and seek to protect themselves against lawsuits. Finally, as colleges and universities graduate business students with an increased sense of social responsibility, nonprofits are tapping into their ideal blend of solid business skills informed by a social conscience. The following positions are examples of some of the emerging careers in business:

Business Continuity Planner

The risk of cyberattacks, terrorism, and natural disasters means businesses stand to lose millions of dollars, particularly with the advent of expensive technologies over the past two decades. Business continuity planners specialize in risk assessment and business impact analysis to determine ways to mitigate the damage that catastrophes may inflict on data centers and essential business functions.

Business continuity professionals plan and conduct regular mock-disaster exercises to test how well existing plans and strategies would hold up during a disruptive event. The debriefing process then involves updating and adjusting procedures to recover from disruptive events as efficiently as possible, which includes identifying recovery time periods and necessary resource requirements. In the case of a true emergency, these professionals act as coordinators for continuity efforts. In many cases, business continuity planners also assume duties that once belonged to information systems managers, such as scaling technology as a company grows.

According to, the overall outlook for business continuity planners has remained positive since 2004, with a steady growth rate of 2.89 percent per year. States with the highest job growth rate for business continuity planners are Vermont (65.96 percent), South Carolina (32.81 percent), Montana (31.31 percent), and New York (29.46 percent). The demand for these professionals is expected to increase 2.8 percent by 2018, with an additional 223,020 jobs filled. reports the average salary for these professionals as $63,222 per year.

Business Ethics Consultant

Business ethics influence every aspect of the business world. Organizations that engage in unethical business activities may not only lose sales and clients; they can also face fines and lawsuits, sometimes even resulting in prison time.

Unfortunately, it is common for employees from entry-level to middle management to fear voicing criticisms to their superiors, making it difficult for organizations to identify ethical breaches. Business ethics consultants are objective, outside experts who evaluate the ethical practices of individuals or organizations and compare them to broad, normative ethics information to identify issues. The need for these professionals is increasing as organizations grapple with issues in a world where privacy is increasingly difficult.

Many times, business ethics consultants not only identify issues, but investigate the root cause of unethical conduct. For instance, are employees too stressed or overworked? Are they being improperly trained? Consultants then meet with ethics boards within organizations to develop plans for training employees in ways that comply with the law and fulfill moral and ethical obligations to the company, clients, employees, and the public.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups business ethics consultants with other management analysts. The median 2014 salary of these professionals was $80,880 and the projected job growth is 14 percent by 2024.

Nonprofit Consultant

Business graduates who want to make a meaningful difference in society look for opportunities to use their business skills and knowledge to effect positive change—and nonprofits that promote social causes are embracing them in response.

Nonprofit consultants are business specialists who work with organizations in the social sector, providing skills in areas such as accounting, finance, human resources and diversity. Social enterprise, in particular, is an emerging area of business used to address societal shortcomings such as education disparities or problems like environmental challenges.

Nonprofit consultants work to help their clients develop social entrepreneurship skills and high-impact strategies for success, drawing on their background and knowledge of strategic planning, earned-income nonprofit models, cost-effective implementation and cross-cultural communication.

Salaries in social enterprise were once perceived to be well below the average of business school graduates. However, that is no longer the case. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals Compensation Benefits Study, the average nonprofit consultant salary was $80,209 in 2011. Employment for these professionals is steady, with charitable organizations and nonprofits employing more than 17 percent of the workforce, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In addition, charitable work is growing in the United States, with the country’s more than 1.3 million charities representing an increase of more than 150 percent in the past 20 years.

This information was provided by Affordable Colleges Online. They also provide a great list of Career & Job Resources with their original content here:

Other resources they offer include:

Business Programs Overview:

Business Scholarship Guide:

An Inside Look at College Admission from the Industry’s Top Official

Stefanie Niles, President of the National Association of College Admission Counseling, the leading national organization for college admission professionals, has worked inside college admissions offices for decades. She shared some insight with Wow to help guide your students who are preparing for college through the stressful process.

Niles, Vice president for Enrollment and Communications at Ohio Wesleyan University, previously held top admissions and financial aid positions at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and  DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.

I met Niles at a conference for the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling last spring. We spoke later about her career path, the importance of the college essay, and some other key issues professionals tell me are important to their students and parents: tuition, what colleges want from students, getting in and how students can stand out in their application packages.

Please read and share her interview with your families.


“One of the greatest challenges facing college admissions (and the one that keeps me up at night) is the escalating cost of college.,” said Niles, “More and more students and their families are being pinched by rising tuition, and financial aid packages that don’t meet their demonstrated financial need. I believe that, as a nation, we are going to have to address this critical issue in the next decade, or we will continue to see more colleges close, and fewer students seeking higher education options as the market is simply too expensive.”


 “There are so many terrific colleges options. I wish they knew that it isn’t mission critical to secure admission at a select group of 8 or 12 or 20 colleges, but that there are many places where students will be challenges, motivated, and grow the skills to be productive adults.


“My overarching goal is to help as many students access a college education, regardless of where they choose to enroll. While the college admission process can be stressful, nerve wracking and challenging, 99% of the individuals like you who work in college admissions do so because they want to assist and support students in finding the right college fit.  They don’t have to go it alone.”


You can tell your students that “almost any college admission counselor, regardless of the institution for which they work, will sit down with a student and help them sort out their interests and needs as they relate to the college experience.”


“I love the broad range of skills that a liberal arts education offers to students. A liberal arts education helps develop the ability to think critically and analytically, communicate effectively, solve problems, and work collaboratively with others. These skills, among others, are necessary to manage today’s challenges – and those we will face tomorrow. As many of the jobs individuals will hold 10 and 20 years from now don’t even exist today, having a background that encourages creativity, ability and flexibility – as a liberal arts education provides – will be best suited not only to fill the jobs of tomorrow, but to identify the problems we face and help create the jobs that will enable us to address them.”


“A “good” college is a place where a student will thrive; where he or she will be exposed to new ideas, new challenges, and perspectives different than their own; where the student grows intellectually and personally, and where they have the opportunity to take advantage of experiences that will open their minds to different experiences and cultures that may shape their professional journey.  My son was accepted to 10 colleges, which sounds like a lot!  But he had such a hard time choosing among them, as each offered him distinctive, interesting, challenging opportunities in settings where he felt he would both fit in, and be challenged by a new environment.  It was an eye-opening, real life example for me of how there are many great choices, not just one right fit for a student!”


“Many liberal arts colleges find that the essay can both provide insight into how a student might fit into an institution, and if they possess the basic writing skills to excel in that environment.  I have definitely seen a poor essay, submitted with an otherwise solid application, keep a student from being admitted.  I have also seen a particularly strong essay, submitted with an application containing some red flags, tip the scale toward a positive admission decision.  The essay, in my experience, definitely matters in an admission committee’s overall consideration of a student’s admissibility to an institution.”


“It is important to assess how well a student can write – can they construct a coherent sentence?  Can they follow directions regarding length?  Do they use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation?  Yet I also want to be sure that students address the question asked of them in a way that gives me insight into who they are.  I believe that a student should write about what is important and meaningful to them, and that feeling will shine through their essay. “


“Certainly, at liberal arts institutions, I believe that essays will remain a critical part of the application process.  Good writing is a skill that will stand the test of time, and liberal arts colleges will continue to require that their students use their writing abilities to express themselves effectively.  A strong college admission essay is the first step on a long path towards securing a high-quality college education and developing the skills necessary to be successful in one’s future career.”


“Have someone else (counselor!) review your work.  No matter how good a writer you are, it is important to have another set of eyes on your work to avoid any errors – big or small – that you might overlook.”


“I’ve seen lots of careless mistakes, like misspelling the name of the major you wish to pursue.   I’ve also seen too many students write an essay as if they were writing a text, without capitalizing words and using little punctuation.  But the biggest mistake is not putting in the appropriate effort to write the very best essay you can.  An essay doesn’t have to be long to be a high-quality piece, but care needs to be taken to answer the question students are asked, and to be thoughtful in both what they say and how they say it.”


Tell your students to “start the process early, ask questions, visit campuses if you can, and talk to current students, recent alumni, faculty members, coaches, and staff members who work at the schools you are considering.  You will learn a lot by keeping your eyes and ears open, and by interacting with the individuals who know the institution the best – members of the campus community.”

Our Gift to You: A Free Book for You and Every Parent in Your School

We’d like to give you a free electronic copy of our book: How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents.  After you click on the link, you’ll find out how to get free books for every parent in your school, too.

How do you approach the college essay? We’d love to hear how you talk to your students when they panic, and what your biggest college essay challenges are. Feel free to email me

Kim Lifton, a 2018 Top Voice in Education, LinkedIn, is President of Wow. We are a team of professional writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. The Wow Method has been used by students to write application essays and resumes; by business owners to create blogs, websites and other communication materials; and by English teachers to improve student writing skills. We can even help you write a great poem or short story. If it involves words, we can help!

20 Tips Parents Can Use to Get Their Kids Into College Legally

Get out of Town

Your son might want to stay as close to his high school buddies as possible, but splitting off from the pack can have admissions benefits. Colleges are always on the hunt for geographical diversity, so applying to the same schools as everyone else can actually decrease his chances of getting in. So aside from asking all of Junior’s classmates what their plans are (which we definitely don’t recommend), how can you can help him get an advantage? Have him do a little digging on college websites for admitted-student profiles, which many times will tell you the top 10 places kids are coming from—and get comfortable with the idea of going outside his comfort zone. “There are incredible liberal arts schools in the Midwest—Kenyon, Carleton, and Oberlin, just to name three—whose programs resemble popular New England colleges like Bowdoin, Middlebury, or Wesleyan, but that receive far fewer apps from New England kids,” says Don McMillan, of the Back Bay–based McMillan Education. “So you’ll improve your chances of being accepted at a comparable school by moving a bit farther away.”

Apply Early!

Want to boost your chances of getting into your dream school? Do yourself a favor and apply early decision. “It gives you a huge strategic advantage,” says Melissa McViney, a Hingham-based educational consultant. For one, there’s less competition. And because colleges are always looking to up their U.S. News & World Report ranking by increasing their yield—a.k.a. the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll—and early-decision applicants are legally bound to attend, they’re almost always more likely to get the coveted acceptance letter than those who apply by the regular deadline. “They’re locking you in, and that’s what they want,” McViney explains.

Pick a Test (or Don’t Pick One at All)

It’s the eternal question: take the SAT or the ACT? While each standardized test has its pros and cons, most college counselors agree on one thing: Students should take practice exams and sign up only for the one they score better on. And if they bomb both? With more than 1,200 schools now test-optional (including Emerson and Berklee locally), being a bad test-taker no longer disqualifies you from a solid college education. Looking for a quick way to figure out which exam is best for you? Sheila Akbar, of Signet Education, breaks it down with this handy quiz:

I am good at:
a. Understanding complicated reading.
b. Skimming.

In class, I am:
a. Quick to pick things up.
b. Not always the quickest, but work hard to get good grades.

Time pressure:
a. Terrifies me.
b. Doesn’t faze me.

When it comes to tests, I favor:
a. Abstract reasoning.
b. Cranking out straightforward problems.

Outside of class, I like to:
a. Read really tough articles or books slowly.
b. Devour entertaining, popular books.

Mostly As: Take the SAT. With fewer questions than the ACT but more abstract problems, this test is ideal for students who enjoy spending time working through brainteasers.

Mostly Bs: Take the ACT. Students who excel at more-straightforward questions and can handle a time crunch will likely score better on this exam.

Open Those Emails! (No, Seriously)

Your kid is cruising through her inbox when she spots a marketing email from one of the schools she applied to. She’s busy, so she doesn’t bother opening it. No big deal, right? Wrong. These days, colleges are using big data and logarithms to track every move prospective students make—and they want to know how interested you are in their school. “We talk about all the indices you’re evaluated on, the most objective being tests and scores,” McMillan says. “Now we add your demonstrated interest.” That translates to making sure your son or daughter friends top-choice schools on Facebook, reaches out to local admissions officers to show enthusiasm, and, yes, opens both personal and promotional emails quickly and responds substantively when necessary. McMillan recalls being invited to sit in the admissions “war room” at the College of the Holy Cross as they flashed student profiles across two giant screens; for one student on the cusp of getting in, a critical factor turned out to be whether he’d responded to an email asking him to explain a C+ grade in chemistry.

So what’s behind this Big Brother–esque behavior? In an era when colleges are obsessed with their yield, McMillan says, engaging digitally with schools assures them that you’ll say yes to their offer. Because at the end of the day, no one likes being rejected.

Don’t Half-Ass the High School Recommendation Questionnaire

We get it: Filling out forms is about as fun as watching paint dry. But if you don’t complete the questionnaire your guidance counselor hands out, how will the teacher writing your letter of recommendation know what to say? “Sometimes it can feel like you don’t have a lot of control over the admissions process,” McViney says. “Here is a point that you have some control over what will be said about you.” Think about it: Would you rather choose five adjectives that best describe you, or let your AP chem teacher come up with them himself? “A lot of students don’t understand the weight or importance of this seemingly minor task,” McViney says.

Perfect the Art of the Essay

Admissions interviews are out; flaunting your unique personality through essays (yes, there will be more than one per school) is in. Here’s how to make them sing.

Surprise Them

“Admissions officers don’t want to hear that you lost a big game and tore your ACL,” says Olofsson, of Gateway Educational Consulting. “They’ve heard that a hundred times.” Instead, she says, show a side of you that doesn’t come out in the rest of your application. Straight As in calc? Awesome. Write about your love of skateboarding instead.

Embrace Authenticity

Get comfortable with the idea of writing in your own voice—one that’s “authentically teenage,” McMillan says. “This isn’t a lab report; it’s a first-person, conversational essay, which is not exactly what you practice in school. Get it so you feel like this is a slice of your personality on the page.”

Don’t Tell Tall Tales

It should go without saying, but keep things in the realm of reality. “I’ve had some people ask me, ‘How will they really know if this happened?’” Olofsson says. “This isn’t meant to be fiction. Pick a true story.”

Write a Really Big Check

Even in the wake of the Operation Varsity Blues scandal, one of the oldest tricks in the book still works. Got a couple million bucks burning a hole in your pocket? Many development offices are listening.

Contribute a Cash Gift

And don’t be shy about going over the admission office’s head to do it. “Generally when parents want to help out, I tell them to go straight to development,” says a local college consultant. “Development and admissions work closely together, so the idea is it gets back to admissions and it gets flagged.”

Bankroll a Position

Is your daughter set on becoming the next rock-star physicist or soccer champ? Go ahead and endow a relevant faculty or coaching position at her college of choice—but only if you’re ready to invest a hefty chunk of change (a named, endowed professorship at local colleges can run into the millions). “If you’re looking at a certain school or college within a university,” the consultant says, “and you can help them in any way, they’ll certainly be appreciative.”

Donate a Building

Go big or go home, right? Well, not so fast—even this tactic isn’t foolproof. “You need to do it at least a year or two before their application to the school, and then notify development that your child or grandchild is applying,” the consultant explains. “No guarantee, especially in this climate, but in the past I’ve seen it work!”

Consider the Transfer

With an acceptance rate of just 18 percent, Boston University isn’t an easy school to get into. But if you’re applying as a transfer student, that number more than doubles, to 43 percent—and BU isn’t the only college with higher admission rates for incoming sophomores. That means that if all else fails, it might not be a bad idea to wait out your freshman year at your second choice. “Go to a college where you can be a big fish and do really well,” McViney suggests—then make your move. Just be sure to sign up for classes that transfer easily (i.e., no basket-weaving 101).

Speak Up

High school college counselors are busy—help them help you by having this list of questions ready.

Is my school list realistic?

“There are so many students now who are all about applying to only the top 50 schools in the nation…it’s a big problem,” Akbar says. “The most important thing in college admissions is that students are targeting schools of fit. It’s really about listening when your counselor says that these are your target schools.”

What else do you need from me?

Counselors are responsible for sending reams of paperwork for each student, from transcripts and progress reports to teacher recommendations. Giving them plenty of lead time and gentle reminders, McMillan says, never hurts.

What is my high school’s track record for admission to my preferred college?

“I’ll sometimes ask clients I’m working with to talk to their guidance counselor about how many kids in the past few years have applied or gone to certain schools on their list,” McViney says. “Some high schools have longstanding relationships with colleges, so that can make a difference.”

Waitlisted? Don’t Just Sit Around and Wait!

You wrote an exemplary essay, rocked the SAT, and still got put on ice by your dream school. Guess what? It ain’t over till it’s over. There’s plenty waitlisted students can do to increase their chances of ultimately scoring a fat envelope in the mail, McViney advises. Start by sending an email to the regional admissions rep that includes any extracurricular, academic, or test-related updates and reiterates your continued interest in the school. Taking the time to visit campus again also shows commitment. The one thing you shouldn’t do? Resend your résumé. “That’s exactly what they’ve already seen,” McViney says. “You only want to bring to their attention any new information that will hopefully bring you to the top of the admissions pile.”

Get in Through the Back Door

Is it Crimson or bust for your future Ivy Leaguer? Here are three (tongue-in-cheek) tips for getting on Harvard’s secretive “Z-list,” a controversial deferred admissions program for just 50 to 60 lucky students per year.

1. Be related to a president or another well-connected politician.

2. Be related to a major donor.

3. Be related to someone who graduated from Harvard (bonus points for double legacy).

Sense a theme?

Go Deep and Narrow on the Extracurriculars

The days of volunteering in South America while simultaneously juggling football, the debate team, and the robotics club are over. Now, schools want to see exactly where your passion lies. “Colleges like to see commitment,” McViney says. “That way, they know what they’re going to get when you come to their school.” A music fanatic, for example, would do well to play in the school orchestra while simultaneously creating independent arrangements and volunteering at a community group that teaches kids how to play instruments. “The bottom line is, What kind of contributions are you going to make to the community, outside of the classroom?” McViney says.

Go the Recruitment Route

Think your skills on the basketball court could lead to a slam-dunk “yes” from your dream school? Don’t wait until it’s too late to get the attention of the right people. “As with many other things in life, it often comes down to who you know and who your support team is,” says Molly Elton, an admissions consultant at Signet Education who specializes in athletic recruiting. That means letting everyone from your coach to your counselor know you’re considering college sports as early as your freshman year and asking for feedback. They’ll eventually be able to walk you through the recruitment process, give you intel about tournaments and camps, and even communicate your interest to their college counterparts as necessary. As for those “prospie weekends,” during which promising seniors are invited to campus to hang with the team? Take advantage of them. “They’re just as important for students considering Division III” as Division I or II when it comes to ensuring a school is the right fit, Elton advises. Just be sure to be on your best behavior: “As with any other public event, [you] are being judged throughout the weekend by the coaches and other student-athletes on the team, so make good choices.”

Don’t Overdo It on the AP Classes

Sure, you want to show admissions that you’ve taken on a rigorous curriculum in high school, but any more than eight or nine APs on your transcript, and you may be sending up a red flag. With student stress levels at a record high, “colleges are not interested in overly anxious kids” who will be burnt out before they even reach campus, McViney says. Plus, taking on more than you can realistically handle could end up hurting your high school GPA as well as your ability to participate in extracurriculars. “How many APs isn’t as important as how well you do in them and what you do outside of that,” she explains. In other words, it’s all about quality over quantity.

These tips were published by Brittany Jasnoff at Boston Magazine. Check them out at:

This is America’s No. 1 college major for salary and job availability

One college major offers smooth sailing above all others for students seeking a secure, well-paying job.

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering is the most valuable major, according to ranking a ranking of 162 college majors released Monday by personal-finance site

Students majoring in the field learn how to design ships and their inner workings, but the study said they’ll also learn not to worry about finding a good job.

People with naval architecture and marine engineering major earned an $90,000 median annual income and had a 1.6% unemployment rate. Twenty-nine percent had higher degrees, Bankrate said after reviewing 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data.

On average, the median annual income for all majors was $55,000 and a 2.8% unemployment rate, with 37% holding higher degrees.

Students in other concentrations might end up earning more money, but the study determined that major charted the best course for strong salaries, low unemployment rates and little need for an advanced degree.

Another degree also means more time away from the workforce and more student debt at a time when Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loans.

Bankrate panned drama and theater arts, calling it the least valuable major. People with a drama degree had a $35,500 median annual income, 5.2% unemployment rate, with 26% holding higher degrees.

Nearly 500 students graduated in 2016 with naval architecture and marine engineering degrees compared to the approximately 11,000 students who graduated with theater degrees, according to Data USA, a site developed by experts at M.I.T Media Lab and Deloitte.

Bankrate’s study puts science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at the top of the list and humanities majors at the bottom, which is not a surprising outcome.

STEM jobs are lucrative and in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the amount of STEM jobs has grown faster than other occupations, expanding at 10.8% from 2012 to 2016, compared to the 7.4% for all occupations. Meanwhile, participants in a separate survey called humanities the most regretted major, between the student loan debt and smaller salaries.

Around 19.9 million students are bound for college this fall, down from the 20.3 million students in 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Still, there are many ways to measure what is and isn’t valuable. “Choosing a college major is a personal balancing act between passion, earning potential and job opportunities,” said Bankrate data analyst Adrian Garcia. “This is one of the most important financial decisions many people make, and the repercussions can be long-lasting.”

The Baggage Activity

This starts my 22nd year of teaching middle school. Yesterday was quite possibly one of the most impactful days I have ever had.

I tried a new activity called “The Baggage Activity”. I asked the kids what it meant to have baggage and they mostly said it was hurtful stuff you carry around on your shoulders.

I asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was bothering them, what was heavy on their heart, what was hurting them, etc. No names were to be on a paper. They wadded the paper up, and threw it across the room.

They picked up a piece of paper and took turns reading out loud what their classmate wrote. After a student read a paper, I asked who wrote that, and if they cared to share.

I’m here to tell you, I have never been so moved to tears as what these kids opened up and about and shared with the class.

Things like suicide, parents in prison, drugs in their family, being left by their parents, death, cancer, losing pets (one said their gerbil died cause it was fat, we giggled😁) and on and on.

The kids who read the papers would cry because what they were reading was tough. The person who shared (if they chose to tell us it was them) would cry sometimes too. It was an emotionally draining day, but I firmly believe my kids will judge a little less, love a little more, and forgive a little faster.

This bag hangs by my door to remind them that we all have baggage. We will leave it at the door. As they left I told them, they are not alone, they are loved, and we have each other’s back.

I am honored to be their teacher.

By Karen Wunderlich Lowe, English Language Arts Teacher at Collinsville Middle School in Oklahoma

Saying No to a Dream College: A Success Story

Should you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to send your child to his or her dream college?

My answer to that dream college question has always been a resounding NO!

Some of the universities that U.S. News & World Report loves to gush over now cost $300,000 or higher. And that’s for a SINGLE bachelor’s degree.

If you’re really contemplating this sort of financial insanity, I want to share an inspiring story about a super-achieving young woman from Chicago.

Mallory originally had assumed that her parents would spend big bucks when she got accepted into her dream school – Northwestern University. It would have been a stretch, but her parents could have afforded to pay full price at Northwestern, but they balked at spending so much.

Pitt vs. Northwestern

It was an emotional conversation back in 2014 when mom and dad told Mallory that they were nixing the Northwestern move. They urged her to go instead to the University of Pittsburgh, which

University of Pittsburgh

offered her a full -tuition scholarship.

The parents told her that going to Pitt would free up the money they had saved if she wanted to attend graduate school. And there would also be plenty of money for extras such as internships and study-abroad opportunities.

I’d urge you to read the original blog post that I wrote years ago about the parents’ decision: Saying No to a Dream College

Golden Ticket Hogwash

Of course, one of the reasons why teenagers and their parents (and I’m primarily talking about high-income families here) fixate on elite universities, such as the Ivy League members, is because they really do believe that no acceptable alternatives exists.

Attending an elite college or university they believe is essential because only these institutions can pave the way to a life and career that is socially and financially rewarding.

In other words, people believe that going to a so-called golden ticket school is worth any price.

What the Research Really Says

Research, however,  has repeatedly shown that schools like Northwestern, Harvard and Stanford DO NOT possess a monopoly on successful post-graduate outcomes!

What affluent families don’t realize is that their kids already possess golden tickets. They don’t need to attend a highly ranked school to snag a golden ticket because they were born into families that have them. Not surprisingly then, what the research does show is that the students who actually do benefit financially from attending elite universities are low-income, first-generation and Hispanic and black students.

The other big fear that parents and students have is that if teenagers trot off to what they consider to be an inferior school, their graduate and professional school options will shrink.

What’s Next for Mallory

Mallory’s story, however,  illustrates this reality:   you don’t have to attend a college rankings darling like Northwestern to have a phenomenal college experience and ultimately get into an excellent graduate school.

Mallory, who was quite active in organizations and activities at Pitt,  majored in math and economics with a Spanish minor and maintained excellent grades. Accepted into Pitt’s honors college, she ended up with four academic advisors!

She ultimately decided to pursue a master’s degree in economics. Based on her stellar grades, her academic pursuits abroad in Barcelona and Havana and her undergraduate research that culminated in a senior thesis, she got into plenty of graduate programs.

Here are some of the graduate schools that accepted her:

  • Tufts University
  • Miami University (Ohio)
  • University of Oxford
  • London School of Economics

Oxford University Bound

Mallory received phenomenal awards from Tufts and Miami which would have made her master’s degree in economics at either of those schools almost free. She ultimately decided, however, that she wanted to attend Oxford.

Because her parents had so much money left after covering her undergrad costs, Mallory got to pick the grad school she wanted without money being a consideration. The parents will be paying a total of between $90,000 and $108,000 for the two-year Oxford program that includes tuition and room/board.

“Thanks to her full undergraduate scholarship at Pitt, my wife and I have the money in her college fund to pay for Oxford,” Mike, her father, said, “ In fact, unless the economy experiences radical changes, money will remain in her college fund at the end of her master’s studies.  She will ultimately graduate debt free with a master’s degree from a world class university.”

“She could have accepted offers from Tufts or Miami/Ohio (two superb schools) which would have cost little to nothing,” Mike continued. “ This speaks to the quality education she received at Pitt.  Had Mallory taken that route she would have realized a significant financial windfall upon graduation, as her college fund would have remained  intact.”

“Mallory will complete her education at the master’s level without incurring a dollar in student debt. This was our “plan” all along.  The seeds of that plan were planted by your advice and your blog.”

At this point, Mallory’s goal is to obtain a PhD in economics.  Whatever she chooses to do in the future, she will walk down that road debt free.

Looking Back on the Northwestern Veto

You might be curious what Mallory now thinks about her parents original decision to veto her Northwestern plans.

“She now readily acknowledges that we gave her good advice in urging her to accept the Pitt scholarship, She also laughs while making this admission,” Mike said.

“On a soberer note,” he added, “she has told us multiple “horror” stories about young people she knows who are carrying very burdensome undergrad student debt.  She understands that the Pitt scholarship, which she earned by way of hard work and long hours in high school, put her in the position she now finds herself in.”

Bottom Line

I will continue to urge parents not to overspend for a university with a fancy brand name.

As Mallory so beautifully illustrates, what a student does in college can be far more important than where he or she got a bachelor’s degree from.

I wrote a post years ago about landmark study from Gallup-Purdue that backs this up.

In the post, I wrote about my daughter’s collegiate experience at Juniata College, which led to some fantastic career opportunities including the launch back in 2017 of her own business –

Lynn O’Shaughnessy (that’s me!) is a nationally recognized college expert, who is a higher-ed journalist, speaker and educator. Check out her website at

She also offers Counselors a great newsletter and offers all Counselors who sign up a free copy of her guide – Finding the Most Generous Colleges. Here is the link to sign up:

6 Things Your Students Should Avoid Their First Year of College

Transitioning from high school to college can pose completely new and daunting challenges. This is especially true socially, as it can be difficult for students to balance the new sense of freedom with the need to build their own structure and focus on their studies. When you add new college students’ fear of missing out with the uncertainty of building a friend group from scratch, the struggles might even seem overwhelming. 

Luckily, there are a few things they can do to make their transition into college as easy as possible. Here are six things your students should avoid in their first year of college. 

1. Don’t Force Yourself to Make Friends

While it can be scary to find yourself in a brand-new social situation, don’t panic – making friends will be easier than you think. It’s important, however, to make sure that you spend your time with people who add to your life in positive ways. Avoid forcing yourself fit in with a certain group just because it seems easy. In other words, and don’t be afraid to gather friends slowly. 

You have years of university ahead of you, so take your time locating the people with whom you most relate as your build a solid, positive social circle. You’ll find the relationships are more comfortable as well as more rewarding when they’re created with individuals you trust.

2. Don’t Assume Time Management Comes Naturally

You might think that you’ve already figured time management out and that the dreaded “transitionary period” won’t be a problem for you. After all, you managed to do your work while still making plenty of friends in high school, right? While it’s likely that you have some skills that will transfer over to your college life, it’s equally likely that you probably aren’t one of the few people who just “get it” when it comes to time management. 

It will take you awhile to understand the full workload you can expect to face, but scheduling study time every day and sticking to it makes a study routine less daunting. Equally important, though, is that you use this study time well. 

Coffee is a quick fix for focus, but it can lead to jitters and bad sleep. Try more natural solutions like exercise (even if it’s just a walk), creating a playlist just for study time, or essential oils for focus. These will help your focus be more consistent and last longer. 

3. Don’t Avoid Your Professors

It can be intimidating to socialize with professors, but doing so is a great way to find class a bit more enjoyable— and most professors really enjoy students who take an interest in their field. Don’t be afraid to stop by with questions and chat with them for a while, be it about a specific assignment or more general topics in the class. This is especially true for professors in departments of which you’re likely to spend more time. 

If you know you’re going to major in English literature, for example, then you should build positive relationships with professors in this field. Talk to them about their studies, about your classwork, and about how you can improve your reading comprehension and writing skills. Soon you’ll find that you’re a common fixture in the department, which improves your relationship with other professors as well.

4. Don’t Spend All of Your Time Partying

As you embrace the transition from high school student to college student, you might be struck with a new and intriguing sense of freedom. This is especially true if you’re living on campus or are otherwise out of your parents’ home. Suddenly you’re in charge of creating your own schedule and deciding when you study, and it’s easy to let this go to your head. 

Keep in mind that you’re in school for a reason, however, and that the courses you’re taking now will remain on your transcript for the entirety of your college career. It’s good to make friends and branch out in order to improve both intellectually as well as socially, but not at the expense of your work. Finding a balance between social engagements and study time is key, and there are lots of other methods of making friends.

5.  Don’t Be Afraid to Pursue New Interests

One of the most disappointing things college students can do is spend all of their time in their safe zone. When you fail to branch out and embrace your new surroundings and opportunities, you’re thwarting your chance to grow as a person. College is one of the most developmental times of your life, but this requires leaving your comfort zone.

 Don’t be content to stay in one place and keep the same beliefs and values you’ve always had. It can be fun to stretch your view on things and sample the other side of it. Reaching for new heights and taking new classes can shift your worldview and help you mature as an individual and a global citizen. 

6. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in Your Room

If you are living on campus in a dorm, it can be tempting to retreat there between classes to have some alone time. While this is sometimes needed to decompress or catch up on sleep, you miss a lot of the action going on around you. In general, the better idea is to stay out of your room and in common areas or elsewhere on campus where other students dwell. 

Has the time to transition to university arrived for your students? Keep the tips above in mind when speaking with them. Communicate the importance of establishing and maintaining a balanced study and social schedule throughout their years, and reassure them that all will be well before they know it. College will certainly prove to be an absolutely incredible experience and time of transformation.

Does requiring seniors to fill out FAFSA forms increase college attendance?

Louisiana saw a 6% jump in higher ed enrollment after the requirement was put in place, but forcing students to complete FAFSAs may be a hurdle without adequate support.

In an effort to connect students with college financial aid, some states are requiring graduating seniors to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. In the 2021-22 school year, Texas will become the second to require students to fill out the FAFSA, or its state version called TAFSA, in order to graduate. It follows Louisiana, which just completed its second year of the requirement.

And Illinois may soon become the third, barring a governor’s veto.

Research demonstrates that students who fill out the FAFSA are more likely to attend college, said MorraLee Keller, director of technical assistance at the National College Access Network.

“Louisiana saw 6% increase in higher education enrollment after the requirement was put in place,” Keller said.

The number of students who filled out the FAFSA in Louisiana rose dramatically after the graduation requirement launched. As of June 28, the state had the highest percentage of high school seniors completing the application (78.7%). It is followed closely by Tennessee, where 77.8% of seniors completed the form.

Louisiana saw a 26% year-over-year increase of students filling out the FAFSA in 2018, the first year of the requirement. That equates into 7,778 more applications.

While filling out the FAFSA is not required to graduate in Tennessee, it is tied to the Tennessee Promise program, a last-dollar scholarship initiative that allows high school graduates to complete an associate degree or technical certification program at a community college or the Tennessee College of Applied Technology free of charge.

However, some learners and their families need help filling out the forms. 

“Requiring that students file the FAFSA is a good strategy to ensure the highest number of students have the optionof having funds for postsecondary education if they choose to pursue it,” said Alejandra Acosta, policy analyst for higher education at New America. “However, requiring this without implementing proper supports is probably just setting up students for a hard time or perpetuating inequalities for under-resourced students.”

Keller reiterated that point. Requiring students to complete the FAFSA in order to get their diploma means the state should provide more outreach assistance and completion workshops, she said.

Referring to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, Tom Snyder pointed out that many students don’t fill out the FAFSA because they believe they can afford college without financial aid. About 32% thought they were ineligible or might not qualify for aid, and another 28% didn’t want to take on debt.

Snyder, program director of annual reports and information at the NCES, added that another 23% did not fill out the form due to lack of information on how to do so.

What if students aren’t college-bound?

The flipside of this requirement is that not every student is destined for college.

“There needs be a waiver included or an opt-out clause,” Keller said. “There are going to be certain situations where it’s not possible for college to be the post-high-school path. We certainly don’t want this to be a barrier to earning their degree.”

Sarah Pingel, senior policy analyst at for Education Commission of the States, said ECS encourages states to have the right kind of off-ramps and exemptions.

“Requiring students to complete the FAFSA may allow them to see another pathway,” Pingel said. “That would intuitively make sense. But we still don’t have enough evidence to determine if that is really what is going to happen. Just because a student fills out a FAFSA does not mean that they will magically be going to go to college.”

It may break down some barriers, though, said Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of Kresge Foundation Education Programs. “FAFSA completion is the key to unlocking the entire college financial aid process, especially for students who are often underrepresented in higher education,” she said. 

The Kresge Foundation helped support Louisiana’s FAFSA graduation requirement by offering one-on-one support for students and parents, launching a peer support group and sending phone message reminders about FAFSA completion dates to parents.

For students from low-income households and students of color, this is a critical gateway, Altman Smith said.

But, she added, “it’s also a huge bureaucratic hurdle that is very challenging for students and families to navigate. FAFSA completion requirements are very intriguing, but the jury is still out and we have yet to reach a verdict on the impact of these broad policy changes.”

This article was published by Education Dive. Check them out at:

US News & World Report ranks America’s ‘best’ colleges. But, is there really a way to know?

College rankings purport to tell the public which schools are worthwhile, even though many academics view the rankings as worthless. 

The latest salvo in the battle between the ranked and the rankers comes out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon. A statistics professor and a group of students say, based on an statistical analysis, Reed College appears to be under-ranked compared to other schools on the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of “best colleges.” The publication denies that claim and questions the accuracy of the group’s work. 

Though the two parties may not come to an agreement, the debate speaks to a broader conversation about the value of quantifying the college experience. Mainly, is there any?

In America, the U.S. News & World Report rankings are regarded as the gold standard. The publication’s methodology usually changes annually, but it includes student retention and graduation rates, resources available to faculty, and the opinions of fellow college leaders and high school counselors. It also create snapshots of colleges that include cost, application deadlines and a school’s history. 

“Taken together, the rankings and profiles – combined with college visits, interviews and your own intuition – can be a powerful tool in your quest for the right college,” the company’s website reads. 

Americans’ obsession with choosing the best product also informs the longevity of U.S. News college rankings, which began in 1983. They persist because choosing where to start a higher education career is confusing and there are hundreds of colleges, each promising a quality education. But when students can’t figure out who is telling them the truth, a list of winners and losers can seem like a clarion through the noise. 

So, McConville and students Bailee Cruger, Huaying Qiu and Wenxin Du  set about creating a model to test it following a suggestion by the college’s institutional research office. Using federally available government data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and their model, they said they were able to recreate the U.S. News ranking with 94% accuracy.

In their model, Reed ranks 38th for liberal arts colleges nationally, but U.S. News’ model put the college at 90th. McConville said there is “variability in the accuracy of the prediction,” but it does provide evidence Reed is under-ranked. 

“We were really surprised,” she said. “It seemed like their models implied that Reed should be ranked higher.”

The point, McConville said, wasn’t to fight over which equation was best, but to show the limitations of a one-size-fits-all model, and to demystify the process of rankings.

Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, challenged the Reed College findings on two grounds. First, he argued, it was “not possible” to reverse-engineer the college rankings based only on IPEDS data.

Secondly, Morse said the publication doesn’t penalize schools that don’t participate in the surveys. He added that the magazine relies on IPEDS data when colleges decline to take part in the survey. 

Christopher R. Marsicano, a professor at Davidson College who studies higher education, said it appears the students were able to predict the U.S. News rankings with a high degree of accuracy. But, he cautioned, it would be impossible to replicate the scores exactly without the publication’s precise formula. 

He couldn’t perfectly replicate the students’ work, but Marsicano looked at publicly available data for colleges in U.S. News rankings in the high 30s and the low 90s. 

He said Reed appeared to share many traits with the high-30s groups, including graduation and retention rates, money spent on students and SAT scores. He did say it’s possible Reed, however, got a bump for having a higher graduation rate than what U.S. News had predicted. Its prediction, Marsicano said, was 5 points below Reed’s lowest graduation rate in nearly the past decade. 

“It seems that U.S. News just doesn’t have a good handle on Reed in general,” he said. “And to be fair, Reed doesn’t send in the survey – so how could U.S. News adequately have a handle on Reed?”

‘Nobody should fill those forms out’

Rancor over the rankings has long been brewing. 

Douglas C. Bennett is one of those longtime critics of the rankings. While president of Earlham College in Indiana, he did not participate in the system and, in 2007, he signed a letter encouraging other leaders in higher education to do the same. 

Little has changed, he said, since his 2011 retirement. Among his complaints, Bennett said the rankings measure many factors that don’t necessarily reveal how adept a college is at educating students. In particular, a portion of the rankings ask presidents to assess other institutions. His response when he was a president: He couldn’t really know.  

“Nobody should fill those forms out,” he said. “They don’t know what’s going on. They’re just reacting to prestige, and prestige is the illusion of quality. It may get at something, but it isn’t getting at something real or trustworthy.”

A small contingent, including Reed, opted out on ideological grounds. But the rankings clearly mean something to many others.

Some list their ranking on their website as an advertising tool. Others make it part of the institution’s goal to rise in the rankings and, in extreme cases, may tie presidential bonuses to moving up, according to Robert Kelchen’s “Higher Education Accountability.”

Others lie to boost their standing. In 2019, the University of Oklahoma submitted false data about its fundraising. And, in 2018, Temple University’s Master of Business Administration program was stripped of its ranking after it was found to have lied about its students test data, among other things.

UC Berkeley, which often ranked as the best public school in the nation, was also recently moved to unranked “status” after misreporting alumni giving rates. In that case, the university reported the error itself. 

What are numbers without context?

Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, has long refused to participate in the rankings system. He joked that he sends the U.S. News and World Report’s surveys back in the mail labeled as junk. 

“Since the ’80s, we have been a brand-name nation, and it applies to higher education,” Kimbrough said. “They’re looking for a brand to give themselves some kind of status.”

Rankings, though, reflect not what colleges do, but who the college serves, Kimbrough said. The colleges that do especially well in the rankings are generally the ones with the fewest students on Pell Grants, a type of financial aid given only to students from low-income backgrounds. Students from such backgrounds often have less academic preparation and will have more ground to cover. 

And numbers sans context, he said, mean little. His university’s six-year graduation rate in 2012 was 28 percent, he said. That was true, but it was based on the cohort who started seven weeks before Hurricane Katrina.

The institution had to shut down for a semester, and they operated partially out of a hotel the next. Some people just never came back, Kimbrough said. For the next three years, that was part of the data that informed the U.S. News and World Report ranking. 

“They just see the numbers without a full interpretation of about what those numbers mean,” Kimbrough said.

This story was originally published by USA TODAY. Education coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation does not provide editorial input.

7 Tips Your Students Can Use to Start the Year off Right

ll high school students, from anxious new freshman to confident seniors, set their minds to making the most of the year. Four years may sound like a lot, but it’s a short time considering you’re setting the groundwork for the rest of your life. Goal: College!

Here are 7 ways to ensure this school year provides the best support for your future choices and opportunities:

1.  School course choices

Consider your courses and teachers and decide if you’re happy with your choices. Are you challenged? When college counselors see your schedule will they think you tried hard, applied yourself and took challenging courses?

It’s important to take challenging courses, but it’s just as important that you do well in them. Now is the time to switch classes if you need to; don’t wait until the first day of school when staff is busy, ask now. Remember that your senior schedule is usually the last thing that college admissions see before deciding if they want you at their school.

How High School Courses Impact SAT Scores

2. School organizations

Look at your school’s clubs, activities, and student groups. The beginning of the school year is the best time for exploring interests. Once you decide what you want to try, find out how you can get involved in those organizations. Join at least two new student clubs or organizations. Plan on becoming more than just a “member” by junior or senior year. Elected positions look great on student resumes!  

3. Grades/ GPA

Make a commitment to yourself to work hard for the good grades.  If you need help, get it before you fall behind.

5 Things Students Can Do to Improve Chance of College Acceptance

4. Reading and Vocabulary

Build your vocabulary. READ. READ. READ. The PSAT, ACT and SAT all count on your having a good vocabulary, quick reading fluency, and comprehension. It is much easier to build this slowly and naturally than to cram it. Reading will also help your writing, thinking, and speaking.

5. College Visits

There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States. Students will need to narrow those down to a manageable list of 5-12 colleges for applications by the end of junior year. Visiting a couple of colleges during each year will give families time to see more, figure out what they want and don’t want in a school, and get on the college’s list of prospective students.

10 Things to See and Do on a College Tour 

6. Social Media

Don’t put anything on social media that would embarrass you if a college admissions officer sees it. (That might!)  Give it the grandma check. If you wouldn’t want grandma (or the admissions director of your #1 college) to see or read something, don’t post it.

Applying to College? 12 Facebook Photos You Should Delete Now

College Admissions Officials Turn to Facebook to Research Students

7. Life Choices

Make smart decisions on alcohol, sex, and drugs. And don’t text and drive or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  One dumb mistake can ruin your college prospects.

Can My College Acceptance by Revoked?

Jolyn Brand is a certified teacher who holds a Master’s degree in education and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Higher Education. After years of experience teaching high school and college students, she began assisting with the college process. She’s the founder of Brand College Consulting and works with families across the Houston area and across the country virtually. She can be reached at or by calling (800) 940-6491.

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