10 Hot Fields of Study

College majors (right here!) that do the best in the real world.



(page 1 of 2)

Illustrations by Michael Sloan

 

Think global. Study local. Higher education now covers the world, addressing massive challenges: sustainability, new energy solutions, digital media, information technology, international trade, medical breakthroughs and much more. Major corporations are moving onto campus, too, pulling students into new research and ventures.

Here are some CliffsNotes on how regional colleges are jumping in to prepare students for the most promising careers of the next decade.

Ni-how, China: Thick with the BRICs

Brazil, Russia, India and China, often called the BRIC nations, are the world’s biggest emerging markets. They’re stepping up to first-world trade status, followed closely by the Middle East and Africa. Local colleges offer immersion in the culture and business sectors of those nations.

But first, it helps to learn the language. The University of Pittsburgh offers courses in the world’s major languages — and even a dozen that are less-commonly taught, like Swahili and Vietnamese. Pitt’s International Business Center in the Katz School of Business, which launched a Global Management program in 2008, includes language studies as well as business topics. The center bolsters course work with 10-week summer internships in business centers. Preceded by two-week orientations on the business cultures of their destinations, the work assignments include varied levels of language training. This summer, 46 students took advantage of the for-credit experience.

“The program’s been running for three years, beginning in Sao Paolo, Prague and Beijing,” says J.P. Matychak, director of career services for Katz. “We’ve added Madrid, Milan, Berlin and Paris — and we’re investigating India, South Korea and Japan.”

Carnegie Mellon University offered its first section of elementary Chinese in 1992. Today, the Department of Modern Languages offers more than 20 each semester, as well as Mandarin for business managers within the Tepper School of Business. This year, 99 students will major or minor in Chinese studies.

There’s a new demand on the horizon for individuals who can teach Chinese at the pre-college level, too. St. Vincent College recently became one of three colleges in the state to offer a certification program for elementary, middle- and high-school teachers. Students pursuing teacher certification must study abroad one semester or complete an immersion experience. The college arranges such opportunities through cooperative arrangements with Beijing Normal University, Fu Jen University or Wuhan University.

Mad Men: Marketing, Communications and Design

CMU’s School of Design offers undergraduate degrees in communication and industrial design. Dan Boyarski, the design school’s director of alumni relations, says more companies are hiring design professionals because they have a systematic way of creatively resolving problems; meanwhile, companies like Facebook, Twitter and Apple have been seeking these graduates because they’re also users of their products and services. These tech giants are looking for new hires who can think of different ways to extend product lines or build new businesses, enhance the visual impact of their interfaces and improve the user experience.

In the North Hills, La Roche College’s minor in Web design reaches outside the classroom, enabling students to create sites for real-life clients; students have interned in departments at Allegheny General Hospital and Pitt, among other businesses.

Mapping DNA: Biological Science

By Creating a map of our DNA, the human genome project produced an avalanche of data, causing a need for analysts who combine a background in biology with computational and statistical skills. That means you, if you’re equally at home in front of a monitor and a microscope.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including many local startups, seek to take advantage of the new data, and are hiring grads who can manage and interpret the information.

The bioinformatics program at St. Vincent provides students with the skills needed to enter the workforce for both companies. At Penn State, the university’s department fuses the expertise of folks in the molecular biology and biochemistry fields.

Going Green: Sustainability Soars

The academic subject of sustainability is still being defined, but its quest to examine the economic, agricultural, health and energy decisions that will sustain human life on earth is rapidly drawing attention from idealistic students and big thinkers. On the rolling former pastureland of Eden Hall Farm, located on the northern edge of Allegheny County, Chatham University is building a brand-new, net-zero energy campus that will be a lab for its School of Sustainability and the Environment.

Chatham has emphasized its legacy in environmental studies since the founding of the Rachel Carson Institute, named in honor of its 1929 alumna, in 1989. The school launched a popular M.A. in food studies in 2010.

“This fall, we will have 70 graduate-level students across our three graduate programs in the School of Sustainability and the Environment,” reports Michael May, director of graduate admission for the university.  “That’s an increase of 30 percent over the previous year.”

In July, Duquesne University held the graduation ceremony for its MBAs in sustainability at an appropriately “green” location: Phipps Conservatory. The 5-year-old program has been ranked in the top 25 internationally by the Aspen Institute for integrating sustainability into a business MBA curriculum and is among the top 10 schools for its size.

At Penn State, a new intercollege sustainability leadership minor combines course work across a number of the university’s colleges.

Engineering has also turned attention to renewable resources: Penn State’s Altoona campus now offers a B.S. in environmental studies (housed within the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences). At Pitt, the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, within its Swanson School of Engineering, builds on the school’s pioneering work in green construction. Focusing on the design of sustainable neighborhoods, it’s a resource for those earning engineering degrees. Micah Toll, named one of Entrepreneur magazine’s top five college entrepreneurs of 2011, was a Pitt senior working with the center when he invented a sustainable electric bike; the resulting company, Pulse Motors, was his third startup.

Western Pennsylvania’s reputation for brains has surpassed its reputation for brawn. That makes higher education an unusually vibrant scene. One-third of Pittsburgh residents above the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree, as opposed to the U.S. average of 27.5 percent. A 2010 study reported that one in five 25- to 34-year-old Pittsburghers hold graduate or professional degrees, a ranking that ties the city with Washington, D.C.

Mobile Us: Social & Online Communications

Andrew Stephen, who’s teaching the popular new social- media course in Pitt’s Katz School of Business, says social media is doing more than simply monetizing websites. “Our students are finding when they go to interviews — whether in finance, accounting, consulting or supply chain — that social media is coming up in every conversation,” he says.

While the course, first offered this spring, will be a requirement within the school’s digital marketing curriculum, Stephen stresses that social media “is not marketing-specific anymore. Social interactions can affect how companies deal with new products, and customer service, not just promotion. It runs the gamut.”

CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center creates interactive media — and much more. Students in the master’s program are proudly cross-disciplinary, pooling their skills in computer science, engineering and artistry to create new games, new programming capabilities, animations and even theme park experiences.

Of the 15 startups currently in the Plug and Play Tech Center, a  California incubator, four came from CMU. Strike Fortress, a breakthrough multiplayer video game created by Electronic Artists and Google, was based on work by a group of CMU students. With 3-D graphics, Strike Fortress is written in HTML; because it is accessed through a Web browser, the game can be played on smartphones, tablets or computers without a dedicated gaming device.

The commercial-music industry forecasts a 24-percent increase in tech jobs in the field in the next five years. California University of Pennsylvania’s commercial-music technology major prepares students to work as recording and broadcast engineers, digital composers and arrangers, sound mixers, TV and audio producers, and video-game engineers — all aspects of a music industry estimated to contribute $10.4 billion to the U.S. economy annually. “Cal U is the only four-year college or university in Pennsylvania to offer Pro Tools certification,” says Max Gonano, former chair of the music department. “This is definitely a career-builder for our students.”

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.
What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

Marathon weekend can be a challenge for both runners, who are trying to finish the grueling race, and spectators who are simply trying to get around. We've got the info you need, whether you're running or watching from the sidelines.
Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Philly Chefs With Pittsburgh Roots Win Big at the James Beard Awards

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook have picked up two James Beard awards this year, and Solomonov is in the running for one more.
Seven Cool Things About Dormont's Hollywood Theater

Seven Cool Things About Dormont's Hollywood Theater

After a decades-long cycle of closing and reopening, Pittsburgh’s oldest single-screen theater continues to enchant visitors.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in May

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

Best Doctors in Pittsburgh 2016

The list of the regions's 687 leading physicians across 80 specialities.
Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

Making The Rounds: What It Means to be a Doctor in Pittsburgh

In a city known for world-class care, a life dedicated to health is rewarding, challenging, and innovative at every level — from med school to the board room.
Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Why Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay is Cornered

Can McLay reshape the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in his polite, communication-heavy, community-friendly, racially sensitive, 21st-century image?
The Eaglets Have Landed

The Eaglets Have Landed

The bald eagles nesting in Hays once again have given birth to a new generation. We take you into the nest to see how quickly the two chicks are growing.
Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Review: Justin Severino Knocks It Out of the Park With Morcilla

Severino's follow-up to Cure is already winning national accolades.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Harold Hayes' Biggest Retirement Fear, It's Not What You Think

Hayes leaves KDKA TV after nearly 37 years with his legacy as one of the city's most respected, fair and accurate reporters – and his priceless sense of humor – firmly intact.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

Umami Izakaya (Finally) Open in Lawrenceville

The much-anticipated Japanese pub from Tamari's Roger Li and Round Corner Cantina's Derek Burnell will serve food and drink deep into the night.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

Digital Jukeboxes are Evil, Bar-Ruining Monsters

The case against TouchTunes, the streaming music loudspeaker that can't stop screwing up the vibe at local bars.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

A By-The-Numbers Draft Has Its Advantages For Steelers This Time

For the Steelers, this is a draft that’s long on need but short on intrigue.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Off to the Races

Off to the Races

Want to shade yourself in style at Derby Day and the PNC Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon? Look no further.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Richard Linklater Goes Back to School, Snow White Leaves Her Own Franchise

Richard Linklater Goes Back to School, Snow White Leaves Her Own Franchise

Reviews of "Everybody Wants Some!!" and "The Huntsman: Winter's War," plus local movie news and updates.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

What Type of Favor Do You Favor?

Planning your wedding and can’t think of the best favor that will represent you and your big day? We spoke with three Pittsburgh-area couples to learn more about making the best and most personalized decision possible.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Phipps Kicks off the Planting Season

Welcome spring at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens with the Great Plant Auction, Party in the Tropics and May Market.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

STEM Event for Girls Planned at La Roche College

The Tech Savvy program from the American Association of University Women aims to interest middle school girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Comments