When the job market is slow, many college bound students wonder if pursuing a traditional degree will provide them with a good return on investment. If one’s aim is to obtain gainful employment in the shortest amount of time at the least cost, then there are plenty of education alternatives besides an undergraduate degree. However, statistics have shown that university graduates earn salaries of up to twice that of vocational school graduates on average. The challenge is to choose a degree program that supports a career that fits one’s interests and has growth potential in the labor market. For example, students can receive a career personality test like the Keirsey Temperament Sorter that matches people to career types based on their personalities and interests. After discovering some potential career options, these students can find out about occupations that pay well and have high estimated rates of growth. Here are examples of some best value educational programs for those who have the aptitude to pursue them.
Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science
Nutrition science students learn about the role that food plays in the overall health of the human body. The knowledge gained from this degree program is invaluable to the students, their families and their communities. Students receive in depth instruction on the biochemical processes that occur when food is digested and used by the body. Many programs extend the scope of their course offerings to include topics on ethnic food and issues surrounding food production. Professional certification is required for many careers in nutrition science, and students who participate in approved internships automatically qualify to take the certification examination. While the average beginning salary of $56,950 for nutrition scientists is not as high as other technical professions, the jobs available to them are expected to increase by 21 percent over the next decade which is much faster than average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Brigham Young University’s four-year Nutrition Science degree program has a total tuition cost of $13,092 for in state residents.
Bachelor of Science in Economics
The course work taken by students who are enrolled in most Bachelor of Science in Economics programs include a great deal of quantitative problem solving, mathematics and statistical analysis. Students also learn how complex market activities can have long term impacts to regions and cultures. A B.S. in Economics degree offers graduates more career flexibility and a greater return on investment than other business degree programs because of its high math content. There is a high demand for skilled professionals who can conduct data analysis to predict market trends, and graduates with economics degrees are trained to do those exact job functions. Market and operations research analysts are two jobs that are well suited for graduates with bachelor degrees in Economics. The median annual income of market research analysts in 2012 was 60,300, and the amount of jobs available are expected to increase by 32 percent. Operations research analysts made a median annual salary of $72,100 in 2012, and the expected job growth rate over the next decade is 27 percent. Texas A & M University at College Station has one of the most affordable undergraduate economics degree programs; in state residents pay a total tuition cost of $12,696 for the four year program.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
Information technology (IT) innovations for business and the consumer market help to boost the national economy as well as profits for IT development firms. Computer engineering is often at the heart of those innovations. Graduates of Computer Engineering bachelor degree programs go on to develop new computing systems that are often smaller, lighter in weight and faster than previous models. While some Computer Engineering programs emphasize hardware, most students are exposed to software development and network design as well. The analytical skills gained through this type of engineering program help graduates to qualify for many, high paying IT related jobs. According to the BLS, the median annual salary of computer engineers in 2012 was over $100,000, but these engineers have to cross into similar career paths like systems engineering if they are looking for careers with higher job growth rates. Ohio State University is nationally known for its undergraduate computer engineering program, and the program’s total tuition cost for in state residents for four years is about $36,672.
Some students choose alternative educational paths like two year vocational schools that teach trades like plumbing, electricity and welding, and they often secure employment while completing apprenticeship programs. These students learn tangible skills that they can take with them anywhere. However, students who choose to attend university degree programs are instructed in a variety of topics that extend beyond job skills. The return on investment for many traditional university degree programs include exposure to new approaches to problem solving, different cultural perspectives on global issues and extensive theory based knowledge that relate to chosen professions.