Job outlook, college majors at odds

Job outlook, college majors at odds

May 14th, 2011 by Joan Garrett McClane in Business Around the Region

What majors students are choosing

• Nursing

• Liberal arts

• Medical/clinical assistant

• Business administration

• Elementary education

• Pharmacy technician

• Teacher education

• Surgical technology

Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission

What majors students aren't choosing

• General business

• Management information systems

• Computer and information sciences

• Administrative assistant

• Journalism

• General education

• Commercial and advertising art

• Social science

• Economics

• Social Work

Source: Tennessee Higher Education Commission

A Tennessee Higher Education Commission study may make college students think twice about what major they pick.

For the 1,549 students estimated to graduate with performing arts degrees each year by 2018, only 213 are expected to get jobs in their field each year.

In government, only 94 jobs will open each year, leaving 1,181 students who studied political science and similar majors without work in their field. Journalism, counseling and some teaching, nursing and engineering paths also are seriously oversupplied, the commission study states.

"What we have done with this report is produced a whole host of smoking guns," said Matt Murray, associate director of the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research, which worked with the commission to complete the research.

On the other hand, there are many career paths colleges should be bolstering, commission officials said. Programming and software development majors will be in high demand for the next seven years; 281 students are expected to graduate each year in those fields, but there will be an estimated 678 openings each year.

Marketing, human resources, accounting, environmental services, construction, correctional services, information support and biotechnology research also will have more openings than workers, according to the study.

Still, officials told lawmakers and colleges to be cautious when using the report to craft future academic offerings. Art may be an oversupplied major but it could also be important for schools' general education requirements.

"These findings should be handled with care because statewide trends may not reflect the employment outlook for certain individuals, or even certain counties," Executive Director Rich Rhoda said in a statement. "Another caution is that past job growth is not always predictive of the future. Even so, this study is important because it sends broad signals about the way things are headed, to the best of our knowledge."

The study did not detail what jobs were in demand in specific regions or what schools are producing in-demand majors.

Phil Oldham, provost at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said he is surprised that nursing, engineering and teaching fields were saturated.

The report says that by 2018, 12,499 people will graduate from teaching and training pathways, but job openings each year will be 3,407. In therapeutic services, which include nursing majors, 10,809 will graduate each year and compete for 3,143 jobs.

"We haven't seen any drop in demand for nursing majors and no drop in demand for engineering majors," he said. "Statewide could be different than locally."