10 Surprising Degrees that Lead to Top Jobs

Geologists discuss how clues from pre-historic and historic floods can help predict future flooding events at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas.
Keith Kelson, engineering geologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District in California, background left, discusses how clues from pre-historic and historic floods can help predict future flooding events with other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers geologists at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas. (Dena O’Dell/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo)

There are a lot of variables that affect a graduate's degree of success in finding a new job.

One of them is competition: If you hold a popular degree for an industry that's impacted, it's going to be difficult to find work. However, there are a number of degrees and certificates that a lot of prospective students don't consider taking despite the amount of jobs expected to grow in the near future. Journal News recently posted a list of 10 surprising degrees that lead to top jobs, which we've examined for you below.

1. Paper Science and Engineering

Despite the doom-bringing of self-appointed heralds of the print apocalypse, the paper industry is still the 10th largest in the United States. There are only about eight places in the country that confer a degree related to paper science or paper engineering, and every year, big paper companies run straight to them and nab all of their graduates. Between 2007 and 2012, a fifth of paper industry workers retired, leaving about 3,000 jobs open. Average salary: $66,000

2. Athletic Training

Some communities within some colleges maintain a closely knit network of professionals and alumni. Such is the case for Wright State University's athletic training program. Apparently, everyone in the program is so well-connected before and after graduating, that degree-holders have a 100% job placement rate. Average salary: $41,600

3. Respiratory Care

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory care jobs will increase by 28% by 2020. Students pursuing this degree receive hands-on as well as academic training. It's been speculated that the reason these jobs are likely to grow is because the Baby Boomer population is aging. If nursing or other popular health-care programs are impacted, this is a lucrative option to consider. Average salary: $54,280

4. Operations and Supply Management

Operations and supply management is a choice degree for a few reasons. Because undergraduates tend to believe that it leads to working on a factory floor, most programs aren't impacted. However, the market for operations and supply management is huge, because it's a fundamental part of any successful business. Average salary: $50,000

5. Hospitality Reception and Service Specialist

A newcomer to the world of certificates and degrees, hospitality reception and service can be learned through an 8 week program at the Sinclair Community College in Ohio. The program teaches students soft skills like etiquette, problem solving, and industry knowledge. Despite only being launched this fall, the college reports that local restaurants, lodges, convention centers, and other locations are calling in for those who've completed the course. Average salary: $9.85 an hour

6. Geospatial Technology

Graduates of this program specialize in taking data and mapping it; they're trained to track diseases, identify optimal spots for retail outlets and more. Although the programs to teach these skills are new, about 600,000 Americans work in the field, and that number is expected to grow to 850,000 by 2018. Average salary: Between $35,000 and $65,000

7. Respiratory Therapy

A lot of students gravitate to traditional degrees and certificates in the health-care industries, but sometimes more specialized training can lead to a better chance at finding a job. Respiratory therapy is a field that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to grow by 28% between 2010 and 2020.

Right now, it's possible to land a job with an associate's degree, but many hospitals are beginning to look for applicants with a bachelor's. Average salary: Between $18 and $20 an hour

8. Industrial and Innovative Design

Some colleges excel at providing their students with opportunities in certain areas, and Cedarville University in Ohio does just that with industrial and innovative design. The program brings students into Cedarville for two years, then transfers them to the International Center for Creativity in Columbus for two more. So far, every graduate of the program has landed a job, except for one who's chosen to work on a master's. Average salary: $58,230

9. Geology

Geology is another field of study that many students usually don't consider as a viable option. However, many graduates in geology land jobs in management, scientific and technical consulting services. There are many industries that need geology majors; in 2012, there were 3,200 open jobs available. Average salary: $82,500

10. Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering is a very unique field, and not many undergraduates are up on the take. Those who do pursue the degree are met with many job opportunities upon graduation, and the field is expected to grow by 22% in the next seven years. Average salary: $78,740

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