How to choose a major for the real world

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Illustration showing help wanted advertisements and job application.

Telling your child he or she can grow up and be anything they want to be could be doing them a disservice. Sure archeology sounds exciting, interesting and offers opportunities for travel, but how many unemployed archaeologists are there?

According to Forbes, anthropology and archeology are the worst choices of college major in terms of employability. Unemployment is high and salaries are low for these graduates.  Arts and social sciences generally have higher unemployment rates and have been hit harder by the economic recession.

Parents of current students remember a time when a bachelor’s degree was the ticket to a variety of good paying careers. Things have changed. Now, employers value knowledge-based workers and those with technical training.

So what’s a high school parent to do? What are the majors of the future? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says biomedical engineering is the fastest-growing occupation between 2008 and 2018. Computer game design is huge and growing. Many industries are using interactive simulation and need graduates in game production, software engineering, computer programming and graphics.

Some high demand career fields don’t require a four-year college degree, yet they lead to employment with family supporting salaries. For example, physical therapist assistants, diagnostic medical sonographers, dental hygienists, occupational therapy assistants, respiratory therapists and radiation therapists. Demand in these fields is expected to grow by 20 to 46 percent in the next eight years.

In Wisconsin high growth occupations that don’t require a four-year degree include: event planners, marketing specialists, interpreters and translators, personal care aides, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers.

Make sure you give your children realistic advice and direct them to careers where they will be able to find work and make a living. Yes, you can help them find their passion, but be honest by telling them that not all dream jobs pay.