College degrees to pursue and avoid.

One recent Friday night as I worked to get another edition of the Courier-Post out the door, a press release from Hannibal-LaGrange University caught my attention. HLGU was announcing it is launching a degree program for those interested in social work.
As I read the release, two things jumped out at me: (1) The number of jobs in that field is expected to grow by 25 percent in the near future; (2) The average salary of a social worker is $55,000.
And while I would jump at the chance to earn $55,000 a year (truth be told my “jump’ figure would be less), I am not contemplating a change of career that is not mandated by the folks who own the Courier-Post. My career interest stems from the fact I have a teen-age daughter who is deciding what career field to choose.
While many teens her age already have a career course plotted out, my 17-year-old, Anna, is still trying to choose.
I think one of her first career dreams was to be a geologist, or maybe an archeologist. But as her rock hound passion waned, new thoughts popped into her head regarding what she’d like to do.
Because of her love for animals, Anna thought about becoming a veterinarian. But the amount of education required, plus realizing she’d normally only be getting to deal with sick animals, cooled that dream.
Some years ago, when my wife, Nancy, and I were annually taking Anna to the state capitol to serve for a day as a page, Anna was impressed by then-House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. “Someday I’d like to be the one holding the big gavel,” I recall Anna saying.
More recently Anna has talked about a degree in business. Why? Because she likes being in charge.
Anna has been strongly influenced by two successful women that she has gotten the opportunity to know – Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd, presiding judge of the Tenth Circuit, and Judge Mary Rhodes Russell, chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. Because of them, Anna has been considering taking some pre-law classes.
As important as it is to know what you want to pursue as a career, it’s equally essential to know what fields not to pursue. A little Saturday morning Web research turned up a couple of “most useless college degree” lists.
Based on factors such as unemployment rates for recent grads and projected earnings, Newsweek’s Daily Beast cited the following degrees as areas of study to avoid: (1) Fine Arts; (2) Drama and Theater Arts; (3) Film, Video and Photographic Arts; (4) Commercial Art and Graphic Design; (5) Architecture; (6) Philosophy and Religious Studies; (7) English Literature and Language; (8) Journalism (Why and I not surprised?); (9) Anthropology and Archeology; (10) Hospitality Management; (11) Music; (12) History; (13) Political Science and Government.
Following a review of the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study Yahoo education singled out five degree fields as “useless:” (1) Agriculture; (2) Fashion Design; (3) Theater; (4) Animal Science; (5) Horticulture.
On the flip side, employers surveyed by NACE reported they planned to be recruiting grads with majors in Business, Accounting, and Computer and Information Sciences.
Obviously, Anna has some important decisions to make in the near future. But even if she chooses a degree field that winds up not panning out as she had hoped employment-wise, it isn’t the end of the world. Two of Anna’s three older siblings who hold college degrees are currently employed in jobs not related to their degree. In addition, one of her grandfathers finished college with a degree in Education, yet wound up spending his career working for the Social Security Administration.
It will be important for my daughter to remember, when it comes to her choice of degree and ultimately her career, course corrections can occur.