NACE Report Reveals Which Graduate Degrees Employers Want Most

Posted By Terri Williams on June 17, 2015 at 9:58 am
NACE Report Reveals Which Graduate Degrees Employers Want Most

If a graduate degree isn’t required for your position, how do you decide if you should continue your education or not? Being able to accurately gauge the demand for particular degrees is one determining factor.

According to the Job Outlook 2015 Report published by the National Association of Colleges and Universities (NACE), some graduate degrees are more popular with employers than others. NACE is a non-profit organization that connects campus recruiting and career recruiting services with employers. The group surveyed its member employers – which range from small nonprofits to large organizations like Proctor & Gamble, Chevron, and Kimberly-Clark- to determine which specific graduate degrees are most in demand.

The top 10 master’s degrees that employers will hire for in 2015 are:

Graduate Degree % of Total Respondents That Will Hire
Finance 24.2%
Computer Science 23.8%
Accounting 22.0%
MBA 20.2%
Mechanical Engineering 20.2%
Electrical Engineering 19.7%
Computer Engineering 18.4%
Information Sciences & Systems 16.1%
Logistics/Supply Chain 14.8%
Human Resources 14.3%


To understand why these particular degrees are so popular among employers, GoodCall contacted a variety of academic and industry experts, and grouped their responses into 3 broad categories:

Graduate business degrees

The popularity of various graduate degrees in business reflects the complexity of the business environment. “Society is demanding more accountability due to declining trust over the last decade,” said Philip Reckers, professor and director of the School of Accountancy at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “As a result, the demand for accountants has exploded – not only to handle all the data, but even more so to provide for increasing levels of assurance of data in such matters as sustainability and ‘green’ accounting, corporate governance and environmental impact.”

Besides accountants, employees with a graduate degree in finance are also in high demand. “Managing money and handling financial risks are crucial to an organization’s success,” according to Jeff Kudisch, PhD, Assistant Dean of Corporate Relations and Managing Director of the Office of Career Services in the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

Kudisch also said that companies are looking for applicants with analytical and quantitative skills. “Those who have a master’s degree in business administration have a combination of a variety of skills in management, marketing, budgeting, etc., and in a swiftly-changing business environment, this blended skill set is very attractive to employers.”

Companies large and small have also learned the value of hiring knowledgeable human resources personnel. “Today’s CEOs know that their people and culture mean everything to the success of their business, and as a result, exceptional HR leaders are in high demand,” said Jason Hanold, CEO and Managing Partner of Hanold Associates, a Chicago-based Human Resources Executive Search Firm. “In addition to handling compensation and benefits administration, they also help define and shape the culture of the company and the organizational environment.”

Logisticians are another critical component of the business world. This is an in-demand graduate degree because logisticians are needed in almost every industry, according to Chris Delaney, a career coach and author of “The 73 Rules for Influencing the Interview.” He continued, “Logisticians are needed to move massive amounts of equipment, food, water and clothes after natural disasters, and in the day-to-day operations of organizations ranging from supermarkets to the military.”

Graduate engineering degrees

Most of us take our creature comforts for granted, and we’re happy to sit around waiting for the next great invention. Meanwhile, companies need engineers with graduate degrees to design the next generation of time- and labor-saving devices.

Lynn Babington, PhD, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fairfield University in Connecticut, explains, “Undergraduate engineering degrees are focused on providing a strong foundation in math and science, as well as helping students learn how to approach and develop solutions to new problems in society.”

However, she says, “The master’s degree in engineering (mechanical, electrical and computer) is so important – it is more focused, specialized, and advanced – really as the entry level of technically specialized knowledge that students need in their career. As engineering jobs are becoming rapidly more specialized, 35% of students are getting masters degrees right away now, often through a BS/MS 5 year degree program.”

And Bill Predebon, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University, added, “The demand for the MS in mechanical engineering is due to the growth and demand for jobs in the energy area and the versatility of mechanical engineering degrees.”

Graduate information technology degrees

Cyberattacks, cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and wearable technology are just some of the reasons organizations from research institutions to the government are actively seeking graduates with an advanced information sciences degree.

“Information Technology (IT) is ubiquitous now,” said Abraham Snell, a senior IT Analyst at the Southern Company in Birmingham, Ala. “There’s no major industry that doesn’t involve computers or need some sort of IT help.”

Snell, who has an MBA in Technology Management, explains “There’s a severe shortage of employees with the computer science skills needed to create the IT infrastructure, manage networks and systems, design programs, and provide protection from cyberattacks.” He concludes, “As far as we can tell, this is going to be the case for a while, so employers get really excited when they can find graduates who majored in computer science.”

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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