The path to a Bachelor’s degree is often the foundation for a career after college, and knowing which degree will actually land jobs can be tough. A new study from SmartAsset shows which are your best choices.
It’s probably no surprise, but STEM roles lead the way: some 40 percent of the top-ten (or 11, since there were ties) are tech roles. Information Security Analyst leads the way; SmartAsset says “from just 2016 to 2017, the number of people working in this occupation grew by 8.7%, the sixth most in the study. Average incomes for professional information security analysts increased by 4% over that same interval. From 2016 to 2026, the BLS projects the number of information security analysts to increase by 28.4%.”
Coming in second, ‘Software Developer (Applications)’ may be an even safer and more lucrative bet. From the study:
Just looking at the raw numbers, software developer may be the safest best for a long-lasting career. The BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] expects there to be 253,000 more application software developers in 2026 than in 2016. That represents an increase of more than 30%. From just 2016 to 2017, their numbers grew by 7%. One thing keeping software developers in second is the unimpressive income growth figures. From 2016 to 2017, average pay for a software developer grew by only 2.3%.
This is great news for students and STEM graduates, but what if you’ve already finished school and don’t hold a STEM degree? Don’t despair; tech companies are starting to wake up to the reality that skills matter more than degrees. While the old trope of prioritizing degree holders still holds, many firms still want to know that you’ve got the skills to back up your classroom education. That’s why we advise a strong portfolio that leans into projects and code snippets.
In other words, your degree (impressive as it may be to potential employers) needs to be framed by skills. Coursework is necessary for passing classes, but much of what’s learned in school is dated by the time you graduate. It’s always best to keep learning and refreshing your skillset in tech, as a student and beyond.
A Stack Overflow study found 20 percent of tech pros don’t hold a STEM degree, noting “it is not that rare to find accomplished professional developers who have not completed a degree.” That’s impressive, but 70 percent of tech pros still have degrees, showing a good education is still the most direct path toward a successful career in tech.