Report Reveals Big Gaps Between the Degrees Students Are Earning and In-Demand Jobs

Posted By Terri Williams on May 2, 2016 at 11:59 am
Report Reveals Big Gaps Between the Degrees Students Are Earning and In-Demand Jobs

Millions of students graduate from college each year, but it appears that many of them are not majoring in subjects that can help fill America’s most in-demand jobs.

A recent CareerBuilder and Emsi job trends report reveals there are severe gaps between the number of job postings and job hirings for several positions that require a college degree.

The chart below shows the number of college students graduating in these fields, and the gaps between the number of jobs employers post and the number of applicants they hire.

Program 2014 postsecondary completions Gap between postings and hires
1 Computer and information sciences 157,591 480,650
2 Registered nursing, nursing administration, nursing research and clinical nursing 248,627 242,884
3 Pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and administration 18,287 37,652
4 Human resources management and services 26,480 21,736
5 Electrical and electronics engineering 26,367 18,959
6 Mechanical engineering 32,429 16,213
7 Biology, general 85,014 13,980
8 Health information/medical records technology/technician 11,622 13,904
9 Legal assistant/paralegal 16,309 10,952
10 Economics 40,103 10,583
11 Civil engineering 19,690 3,057
12 Graphic design 11,819 2,350


One problem: a previous GoodCall article, based on a Georgetown University study, reveals that only two of the 12 most popular majors (nursing and computer and information sciences) are on the list above. The other most popular majors in the Georgetown report: business administration, general business, accounting, psychology, communications and mass media, marketing and marketing research, general education, elementary education, English language and literature, and finance.

Are college students not majoring in these areas because they’re unaware that these jobs are in high demand, or are these unpopular career choices? And, what can be done to increase the number of college students enrolling in –and completing – these programs?

Computer and information sciences, the largest gap

The biggest need is for computer and information graduates, and Alex Pezold, CEO of TokenEx, a leading data security consultancy and solutions provider, tells GoodCall that this demand is at least partially driven by the need for cybersecurity professionals. “The growing number of regulatory compliance obligations and technical security controls that must be in place for a company to do business is causing a real squeeze on organizations to find cybersecurity and compliance experts,” says Pezold.

And that’s because the demands are so complex. “First, as a cybersecurity expert, you must have skills across technology verticals like applications, databases, systems, etc,” Pezold explains.

Is the shortage a result of a lack of information or a lack of interest, and can this trend be reversed?

Information is key to closing the gap

According to Dani Babb, founder and CEO of The Babb Group, students have a lot of majors to choose from, and if schools and employers want students to select high-demand majors, they need to use hard numbers.

“For example, graduates in XXX from our program have an 80% chance of landing a job that pays more than $75,000 per year within 12 months of graduation,” says Babb. She thinks it’s important for students to know why they should choose one program over another – but says the statistics must be honest, not bent to fit a particular message.

Stephanie Kinkaid, assistant director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center at Monmouth College, agrees that educating students about these career options is important. She also thinks that students, parents, high school teachers, and college instructors all have a role to play. Specifically, she says:

  • Parents may need to do some research to help high school students as they prepare for the future.
  • Students should take responsibility and seek out the career center to learn about in-demand fields in the first year of college study.
  • High school teachers and college faculty should promote more career days for students considering these fields.
  • Students should consider job shadowing and mentoring in these fields.
  • High school students should be taking college preparatory classes.

Kinkaid admits that some of these in-demand jobs may require more of an academic commitment than some students are willing to devote. And she adds, “Not every student has skills that match the skills required of these jobs, but students can complete personality and skill assessments so that they can match their strengths to fields of study.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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