12 Smart Majors That Will Land You a Job After Graduation

Get a competitive advantage with the savviest, most bankable college programs right in your own backyard.

Listen up, kids. (And parents, you should tune in as well.) We’re not going to sugarcoat the situation. High school is coming to an end, and it’s a jungle out there. The national economy is in the doldrums, the cost of a college education keeps on rising and securing your dream job will require a lot more than a B.A. in B.S.

Proud Moms and Dads, do you want your graduate’s college experience to be defined by pony kegs and “SpongeBob” marathons? Then by all means, pick up one of the 1,000 generic college ranking books you’ve collected throughout the years. But if you want to match the unique ambitions of your college-bound offspring with the most highly marketable majors at the region’s top institutions, read on. The job search starts today.

California University of Pennsylvania

Arabic » 
Let’s start with a hidden gem—and a degree that can be combined with any additional major to send a resume to the top of the pile. This fall, California University of Pennsylvania will launch a 30-credit B.A. in Arabic Language and Culture (the remainder of the courseload will include other general education classes and electives), and it’s taught completely online. So, whether you’re a national security major at Point Park University or are studying military science at Cal U, you can add an invaluable skill to your repertoire—one that will have the CIA and NSA competing for your services—without having to set foot in a classroom. The emphasis is on reading, writing and speaking in Modern Standard Arabic, but students will also study the cultural and political landscape of the Middle East. If you want guaranteed employment after graduation, consider this challenge. The Department of State identifies the need for individuals trained in Arabic as “super critical;” plus, the average salary of an Arabic translator is nearly $100,000.

Abroad-en your horizons: Cal U has established a partnership with the University of Shariah in the United Arab Emirates to further expand learning opportunities for students who enroll in the program.

Take Cal U's new Arabic course online and you won't even have to step foot on campus (Okay, maybe a little Ultimate Frisbee.)

Carlow University

Forensic Accounting » 
Accountants get an unfair rap for being bores, but you can’t beat the profession for stability. Want the marketability of an accounting degree with an added layer of intrigue? Want to track down white-collar criminals like Ponzi profligate Bernie Madoff? Count on Carlow University’s forensic accounting major. Carlow is one of a few universities that offer the concentration as an undergraduate degree. Forensic accountants are trained to identify and prevent securities fraud, insurance fraud, asset misappropriation and other devious slight-of-hand tricks. It’s a profession that mixes number-crunching with investigative skills. And just do the math: The average salary of a first-year Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is $75,000, rising to $90,000 with five-plus years of experience. Increased demand for forensic accountants (due to recession-fueled fraud) has made it one of the hottest fields around: The number of anti-fraud professionals who have CFEs rose to 68 percent in 2009.

Class you’ll love: Fraud Investigation Techniques

Carnegie Mellon University

Human Computer Interaction » 
“Well, folks, I’m majoring in videogames.” I know, parents, the thought of explaining that at the graduation party is an even more terrifying endeavor than … well, the graduation party itself. Lucky for you and your little tech-head, Carnegie Mellon University employs a clever, nonthreatening title for its red-hot program that focuses on virtual experiences: Human Computer Interaction. If you’re considering computer science but are more interested in building compelling user experiences (tablet touchscreens, app interfaces and, yes, videogame worlds), shoot for a double-major in Information Systems and Human Computer Interaction. Recent HCI alumni from Carnegie Mellon are now working for companies like Electronic Arts, Apple, Microsoft and Zynga, creator of the Facebook smash-hit FarmVille. With the videogame industry raking in about $20 billion per year in revenue and the smart-device market soaring globally, you can let the relatives guffaw; you’ll have the last laugh with this future-proof degree.

Class you’ll love: Environmental Hackfest

Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center is a typical classroom environment, except with LED lights, robots and Playstations.


Chatham University

Sustainability & The Environment » 
If you think a major in sustainability is strictly for free-love nostalgists and Peace Corps volunteers, think again. Sustainability has become a top priority for many of the region’s largest corporations, including PPG, Bayer and Giant Eagle, and graduates with skills in green chemistry, environmental problem-solving and responsible manufacturing are in high demand. To get on the fast track, build a foundation of green chemistry fundamentals with Chatham University’s environmental-science major, where you’ll take courses such as Toxicology and Environmental Geology, then apply to Chatham’s Master of Sustainability program, which will soon be housed at the school’s new 388-acre Eden Hall campus—a veritable sandbox for sustainable science in evergreen Richland Township. An easy way to see green? Study it.

Class you’ll love: Wilderness and Food Sustainability

Experience fresh-air classrooms at Chatham’s new Eden Hall campus.

Duquesne University

Pharmaceutical Sciences » 
Maybe pharmacy doesn’t jump right out as a sexy profession, but the average starting salary of a pharmacist may arouse some strong feelings: $75,000-$100,000. One of the field’s best graduate programs is right here in our own backyard: The Mylan School of Pharmacy at Duquesne University. But to get on the fast track, you’ll want to enroll in Duquesne’s pre-pharmacy program as an undergraduate, since 85 percent of Mylan’s professional-phase students were pre-pharmacy. It will take most students six years to attain their Doctor of Pharmacy degree, but Duquesne boasts a 100-percent job placement rate for graduates.

Welcome to the real world: Undergrads and Mylan students help staff Duquesne’s recently opened pharmacy in the Hill District, which offers discounted prescriptions and free community health screenings.

Diversify: Gannon University also features a strong pre-pharmacy program for prospective undergrads who want to cast a wide net.

Duquesne’s pre-pharmacy undergrads benefit from immediate real-world experience.

La Roche College

Graphic and Communication Design » 
So, you want to be a modern day Don Draper (without the drinking problem) or Peggy Olson (without the grandma sweater), but you haven’t figured out the next step after Netflixing “Mad Men.” Fear not, young creative. While most of your peers will choose generalist majors like advertising or marketing, what you want is a specialty you can use to wow one of the city’s many ad firms, like MARC USA, Brunner Inc. and IMPAQT. Consider the graphic and communication design major at La Roche College, which offers three vital perks for an aspiring creative: small class sizes, professors who teach to the latest technology and real-world project-management experience. La Roche’s program stresses the latter with its “Immersion Days,” grouping students in teams and challenging them with a 48-hour deadline to produce a full communications plan for a real-world client. It’s a unique resume-builder, and it teaches students one of the most important lessons of the pressure-packed advertising industry: how to make a mean Irish coffee. (Kidding, Mom and Dad.)

Typical internship sites: American Eagle Outfitters, Infinity Broadcasting

The North Hills campus of La Roche College may be a stop on the route to Madison Avenue.


University of Pittsburgh

Chinese » 
Parents, it’s OK. Yes, had you known then what you know now, the bedtime stories would’ve consisted of Minutka: The Bilingual Dog instead of Green Eggs and Ham. Luckily, your grad still has time to become the multilingual moneymaking machine of your dreams. For top-notch immersion in the Mandarin language and culture, set your sights on a major in Chinese at the University of Pittsburgh’s internationally renowned East Asian Languages and Literatures Program. The coursework not only features intensive verbal and written Mandarin, but also the study of ancient and modern Chinese culture and history, an essential asset for professionals working in the vast traditionalist country. And for the best opportunities in business, go East, young (wo)man: In Shanghai alone, there are 132,000 millionaires (about one for every 175 residents; average age: 43). The secret no business school wants you to know: An undergraduate degree in Chinese is a better value than a gelatinous international-business graduate degree. Repeat after me: Ni hao!

Class you’ll love: Pop Culture in Modern China

The Chinese Nationality room at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning.

Point Park University

Intelligence and National Security » 
There’s much more to the inter-workings of national security than the exploits of Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne. The federal government and private contractors are searching for analytical thinkers to monitor security threats and patterns—the brains behind the brawn that keeps our country safe. Intelligence and national security is one of the few sectors seeing
unprecedented growth in the midst of the recession. By 2012, the Department of Homeland Security will have added approximately 65,000 new positions within three years, according to The Washington Post. There’s a tremendous demand for specialists in intelligence analysis, international relations, foreign affairs, security administration and transportation security. Students in Point Park University’s program have interned at the FBI, Pittsburgh Police Department and U.S. Intelligence Community.

Class you’ll love: Domestic Terrorism

Location, location, location: Point Park's campus is at the very heart of downtown Pittsburgh, but you wouldn't even know it from this cozy study lounge.

Robert Morris University

Nuclear Medicine Technology » 
Western Pennsylvania is home to an aging population and nearly 75 hospitals, so it’s no surprise that the medical sector has seen the steadiest job growth in the region throughout the past decade. With many students flocking to nursing, consider a more specialized field of study like Robert Morris University’s nuclear medicine technology program. Students can choose a concentration on specific medical imaging tracks such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or nuclear medicine technology. Robert Morris is the only university in the region that offers a four-year degree in the field, which is expected to grow by 16 percent through 2018 and commands an average salary of $67,000 for technologists working in hospitals.

Diversify: Another option to consider for would-be nuclear medicine technologists is the Community College of Allegheny County’s Nuclear Medicine Technology Certificate, a 12-month program that features 1,160 hours of clinical experience and qualifies graduates to sit for national-certification examinations.

RMU remains a go-to destination for the region’s steadiest industry: health care.


Slippery Rock University

Health Services Administration » 
Taking advantage of western Pennsylvania’s largest professional sector doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor, nurse or technician. Hospitals and clinics also need smart, business-savvy professionals to manage their vast operations. When you think of becoming a captain of industry, Heinz and US Steel probably come to mind. But UPMC trumps them all having almost 50,000 employees. There’s big money and stability in healthcare, so if you’re aspiring to be an MBA, consider specializing in Health Services Administration at Slippery Rock University as an undergrad. Not only will it give you a competitive advantage over those future-MBAs majoring in Business Administration or Marketing, it will provide great opportunities to network with leaders in the healthcare industry; Slippery Rock’s Future Healthcare Leaders student organization is associated with the American College of Healthcare Executives. (Dads, to give the kids a true advantage with that organization, you might want to help them brush up on their chipping and putting.)

Next level: Consider a master’s degree in Healthcare Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University or a master’s degree in Public Health in Health Policy and Management from University of Pittsburgh, which will put you right in Oakland, aka Hospital Alley.

A Slippery Rock student gets busy in the lab.

Seton Hill University

Journalism — New Media » 
It’s the inevitable stain on every single college commencement, an abominable cliché that speakers use as an ice-breaker: At some point during the address to graduates, the keynote talking-head will deadpan, “And now you will all go on to rewarding careers—except for the English majors.” Hardy-har. But just because the print business is struggling doesn’t mean the industry is necessarily shrinking. If anything, opportunities are expanding in the new-media age. They just require journos to wear an increasingly large number of hats. For a j-school education unstained by ink, turn to Seton Hill University’s forward-thinking new media program. You’ll learn the traditional tenants of truth, accuracy and compelling leads, as well as 21-century must-haves like Web design, social media and blog writing. If you want to pay the bills as a writer in 2011, your focus shouldn’t be on A-1, but rather HTML5.

Resume builder (and/or beer money): As a journalism new media student, you’ll have a chance to earn a stipend as a staffer for The Setonian, the student-run campus newspaper.

It’s tough to beat nearby Seton Hill for campus beauty … or new media training.

Washington & Jefferson College

Be a Magellan Scholar » 
You can count on a few sure things during an otherwise unpredictable college experience: Someone in the freshman dorm will call the cops on themselves, someone will try to convert the entire incoming class to their political beliefs and, last but most certain, some poor soul will use their college loan money to travel around Europe “finding themselves” for a semester. Washington & Jefferson College has a much more economical and marketable way to drive your friends crazy with envy of your jet-setting Facebook photo albums: the Magellan Project. It works like a Fulbright Scholarship—only it’s limited to W&J students, so if you develop a savvy project proposal, you’ll have a great shot at an immersive, highly marketable international experience. At this point, nearly everyone has a cakey study-abroad jaunt on their resume, but how many have explored educational opportunities for women in Gambia, studied urban health systems in Ecuador or done research at the renowned Pasteur Institute in Paris, as former Magellan scholars have?

Diversify: Thiel College partners with two top-level study abroad companies: International Studies Abroad, with programs in 19 countries; and The Center for International Studies, which offers semesters, summer trips, winter break experiences—and even foreign internships.

Washington & Jefferson Magellan Scholars show their black-and-gold pride in Egypt.

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