What Makes a College a Great Value?

Money, By Kim Clark

Everybody knows that college is expensive—and that choosing a school is one of the biggest financial decisions many families ever have to make. With tuition, room and board, textbooks, and incidental costs, a public university could run you $20,000 a year or more, even if you qualify for in-state tuition. A highly selective private college can set you back $70,000.

Even families who are well aware of the cost of college are often surprised when the bills actually start coming due. Half of today’s students and parents of current students report that college has turned out to be even more expensive than they expected, according to a new survey by MONEY and Barnes & Noble College. And the financial impact of the college you choose doesn’t end when you write your final tuition check or make your last loan payment. Jordan Matsudaira, a Cornell economist who oversaw the creation of the federal government’s new College Scorecard website, notes that which college a student attends can affect his or her future income by as much as 20% a year, or an average of nearly $600,000 in lifetime earnings.

The long-term financial burden doesn’t fall entirely on the student, of course. More than three-quarters of the parents in our survey say they had made financial sacrifices to pay for their child’s education, from delaying major purchases to cutting back on retirement saving. Given that few Americans are saving enough for retirement to begin with, that could put them in a serious financial pinch after their working years come to an end.

Don’t expect to find all the information you need to make a smart financial choice on colleges’ websites or in the glossy brochures they mail out by the millions this time of year. “Colleges make it almost impossible to estimate the true cost of a degree, to understand and compare their offers of financial aid, and to see what you’ll get for your money, such as whether their degree will help you land a decent job,” says Mark Schneider, a former head of the National Center for Education Statistics.

That’s where we come in. MONEY and Schneider’s research firm, College Measures, partnered again this year to analyze all the latest higher-education data and apply the most up-to-date research to find the colleges that offer the best value for your tuition dollars—that is, a high-quality education at an affordable price and a head start in landing a fulfilling and well-paid career after graduation.

To see MONEY’s full college rankings, click here.

What’s new this year

For this year’s rankings MONEY judged colleges on 24 factors, including widely accepted quality measures such as graduation rates, affordability measures such as how much students and parents have to borrow, and measures of alumni success such as how much recent graduates earn. Another major component: MONEY’s exclusive “comparative value” scores, which assess how well students at each school fare compared with those at other schools where the students who attend come from similar academic and economic backgrounds. By controlling for the types of students that colleges admit and seeing how well they do after graduation, the rankings judge how much of a contribution the college made to their success in the years in between. For similar reasons the rankings also adjust earnings data to account for the mix of majors at each school. That way a college that graduates a lot of high-paid engineers, say, won’t have an unfair edge over one that produces more teachers or social workers.

While earning a living is important, money isn’t everything, of course. Some 90% of parents and students in the MONEY/Barnes & Noble College survey rated “preparing for a fulfilling career” as a very or extremely valuable benefit of a college -education—about 20 percentage points higher than the number who said the same for “preparing for a high-paying career.” As a result, we’ve added a new factor to this year’s rankings methodology, taking into account the percentage of a school’s graduates who consider themselves to be in “meaningful” jobs, as reported to

The College Scorecard, a new federal website with information on alumni earnings and loan repayment rates, also supplied valuable data this year. We’ve incorporated the Scorecard’s findings on earnings, debt levels, and repayment rates (a good indicator of recent grads’ financial health) into our methodology. In all, the new federal data add the experiences of several million graduates to what we now know about specific colleges and the value they deliver.

And the winners are…

The colleges that are delivering top value today represent a diverse, sometimes surprising mix. They aren’t just the usual suspects—elite colleges that are accustomed to accolades—but major public universities and small liberal arts schools as well. You may be hearing about a few of them for the first time.

MONEY’s analysis also shows that status and selectivity, which colleges love to hype, often have little correlation with quality. Nor does a college’s published sticker price tell you much about what you’ll be getting in terms of educational quality or career preparation—and schools do so much tuition discounting these days that most families don’t pay it anyway.

The No. 1 school this year, Princeton University, is one of those usual suspects—but with a twist. While it carries a price tag of almost $65,000 a year, fewer than half of families actually pay that much. Princeton provides grants to 60% of its students, including full rides to those from families earning less than $60,000 a year and smaller grants to students from households earning as much as $200,000 a year.

As a result, the typical Princeton student pays only about $20,000 a year—less than the cost of many in-state public colleges. In return, students get an education that ranks in the top 1% of all colleges in terms of academic quality. Plus, Princetonians’ average annual income of about $63,000 within five years of graduation puts the school into the top 2% of all colleges for alumni earnings.

Many public universities, with admissions odds more favorable than Princeton’s, are terrific values as well. Coming in a close second in the rankings this year is the University of Michigan, a top-notch public school that’s highly affordable for in-state students. Michiganders with family incomes of about $70,000 or less generally get full-tuition scholarships and often additional grants for living expenses. And within a few years of graduation, alumni report average annual earnings of $59,000—12% higher than graduates of schools with similar student bodies. Likewise, recent graduates of Texas A&M, a public university that took the No. 13 spot, reported earning about $55,000 a year—$10,000 a year more than the typical new college grad.

It’s no coincidence that many of the top colleges, such as Princeton, Michigan, Texas A&M, and Clemson, also have fiercely loyal alumni who are known to go out of their way to help new grads. In fact, our rankings give points to schools with formal programs to connect job-seeking undergraduates with alumni.

Graduates of the 618 colleges in the rankings that provide such services earned an average of about $46,000 a year—$2,000 more than their peers at the other schools on the list. At No. 21–ranked Clemson, for example, the difference is more than $3,000. What’s more, the alumni advantage seems to continue for years. Mid-career alums from those 618 schools reported average annual salaries of over $80,000—$6,000 more than their less-connected peers.

The rankings also favor colleges that help graduates avoid one of today’s biggest worries: burdensome student-loan debt. Excessive borrowing crimps more than students’ lifestyles. “The more debt you have, the less flexibility you’ll have,” says Jeffrey Selingo, author of the new book There Is Life After College. “That monthly payment hanging over your head means you may have to forgo what could be very good opportunities, such as a good job or trying to start your own business.”

Research by the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute suggests an even longer-term impact. A graduate who has to repay the typical student-debt load of about $30,000 will have less to contribute to retirement accounts over the years. By the time he or she retires, that could mean $325,000 less in retirement savings.

Low debt is one reason the University of Florida ranks No. 15 this year. Its students graduated with an average debt of $15,000—$8,000 less than is average for other schools on the list and $15,000 less than the typical college grad.

Build your own rankings

Of course, every student and family is unique. Your student may plan to become a teacher, say, and be more concerned about getting financial aid and not racking up debt than about pulling down a big salary. So along with our new rankings, MONEY is launching a new free web tool that allows you to create your own rankings by adjusting for the factors that are most important to you, such as a school’s generosity with need-based and merit aid and how likely its graduates are to end up in debt. Starting later this week, you’ll find it and additional online tools at

As you explore the rankings, bear in mind that college lists—MONEY’s and everybody else’s—are best viewed as a starting point in your college search. So don’t get too hung up on small differences in the ranking numbers. Because of the imprecise nature of the data available to evaluate colleges, there may be little difference between schools with fairly close scores. If you’re a stellar student who gets into Princeton (No. 1) and Stanford (No. 10) plus, say, the University of Virginia (No. 9), choose whichever one you think will be the best fit—because it has an especially strong program in your desired major, gives you the best financial aid package, or provides some other unique benefit. They’re all great, high-value colleges.

Same goes for B+/A– students comparing, say, Duquesne (No. 325) with schools in the same general ranking range, such as Susquehanna University (No. 313) and SUNY New Paltz (No. 345). The small differences among these schools will matter less than the financial aid package each college offers and whether it has strong offerings that match your interests.

To create your own personalized rankings, you’ll want to visit schools, talk to parents and students, and chat up alumni. These are some of the key factors to look for:

Graduation rates: Overall graduation rates are an important quality indicator because students who find a school lacking will often drop out or transfer to another college. But don’t stop there. At, you can check the four- and six-year rates of students, sorted by gender and by race, at each school to better predict your student’s odds of finishing.

Available majors and activities: College happens both in the classroom and outside of it. Besides making sure that a school has enough courses in your student’s area of interest, ask about related clubs and extracurricular activities. Gallup research has found that students who were most likely to thrive in college were deeply involved in at least one extracurricular.

Your real price: The federal government requires colleges to post a “net price calculator” on their websites to give you an estimated cost based on family income and other factors. The Net Price Calculator on the MONEY College Planner website lets you compare several colleges’ prices side by side.

Job help: In today’s ultra-competitive job market, internships, connections to active alumni, and the school’s reputation with employers are critical. Ask the college’s career office what kinds of assistance it provides. And if your student already has some dream employers in mind, ask the college which companies recruit on campus.

Equipped with the right data and other pertinent information, you might still be surprised by what college costs—except that this time, the surprise could be a pleasant one.

Exploring Types of Medical Degrees

Many different degree programs are available in the field of medicine and they range from associate’s to doctoral levels. Earning one of these degrees can result in careers such as entry-level medical assistant, professional nurse, physician, health information management specialist and more. Read on to find out about different degrees as well as the breadth and scope of medical-based education.

Overview of Medical Degrees

The health care field is one of the fastest growing fields of occupation, offering diverse employment options in technical, professional and administrative disciplines. College degrees related to medical fields are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s and doctoral degree levels.

Important Facts About Medical Degrees

Programs Technician and technologist programs are offered in all medical specialties; medical and dental assisting programs; physical, occupational, speech and other specialized therapy programs; practitioner programs such as physician, pharmacist, optometrist, nurse and advanced practice nurse; health information management; laboratory and research-oriented technician and scientist programs; many dual-degree programs
Degree Fields Therapy and pathology; nursing; medicine; office administration; allied health care; specialty medicine; health informatics; diagnostic imaging; emergency medical services; laboratory science; medical technology; radiology; pharmaceutical science
Online Availability Many programs may offer fully or partially online curricula, but clinical experience requirements generally require on-site attendance
Continuing Education Many schools offer continuing education programs in medical fields that mandate continuing education to maintain professional certification
Degrees Postsecondary certificate; associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate, post-master’s, and post-graduate certificates

Medical Associate’s Degrees

At the associate’s level, medical-related degrees often revolve around medical office practices, administrative duties and record-keeping skills. Some basic technical knowledge may also be covered so that you can perform routine clinical laboratory procedures. Degrees in the following three areas of medical study are commonly offered at the associate’s level.

Medical Assisting

Earning an associate’s degree in medical assisting allows you to become a medical assistant, medical receptionist or pursue a related entry-level medical occupation. Degree programs may teach you how to perform medical office duties such as billing, coding and scheduling appointments. You may also learn how to carry out basic medical procedures such as capillary puncture, electrocardiography and phlebotomy.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules and regulations governing the medical field could be covered. You might also become qualified to sit for the Certified Medical Assistant test which is administered by the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Medical Office Administration

An associate’s degree program in medical office administration emphasizes the clerical and related workings of a hospital, clinic or other medical facility. Generally, there is very little patient interaction required, and clinical procedures are not often performed. Special attention is given to various computer hardware and software applications and their integration into the medical office. You will learn how to work with word processing, data entry and spreadsheets programs. You will also learn about medical terminology, medical transcription and legal principles related to health care.

Health Information Management

You can become a health information technician after receiving an associate’s degree in health information management. Health information management mainly involves the collection, storage and retrieval of patients’ medical records and pertinent medical data. The essential coding systems used in medical facilities are highlighted as is the importance of patient confidentiality. The recent shift from paper-based health records to electronic records is addressed, and you could learn how to utilize relevant information management technology.

Medical Bachelor’s Degrees

At the bachelor’s level, medical degree programs begin focusing more on teaching students to operate laboratory equipment in hospitals and clinics. Such programs frequently provide ample clinical experience and can be used as stepping stones to graduate or professional programs in the medical field. Below are three popular bachelor’s degree programs in the medical field.

Medical Technology

A bachelor’s degree program in medical technology could provide you with in-depth knowledge of a variety of complex laboratory instruments used to find, identify and treat diseases. You will study many different subjects related to medicine, including microbiology, hematology, immunology and serology. Procedures involving microscopic examinations, blood banking, urinalysis and body fluid analysis might also be discussed. Earning a bachelor’s degree in medical technology is usually sufficient education to pursue entry-level employment as a medical technologist or medical laboratory scientist.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) involves the non-invasive imaging of internal organs or structures using high frequency sound waves. Physicians use the information gathered from these images to diagnose diseases and other medical ailments. The curriculum of a bachelor’s degree program in DMS teaches you how to produce accurate sonographic images of the abdominal, gynecologic and cardiovascular systems. Your program may require completion of an internship or cooperative work experience.


Although associate’s degree programs in nursing may also qualify you to become a registered nurse, earning a bachelor’s degree will provide you with additional critical thinking, communication and management skills. This might make you much more attractive to employers and could also help advance your career to an administrative level. You might learn how to effectively provide quality nursing care to patients through extensive hands-on learning and clinical experiences. If you are already a registered nurse, a bachelor’s degree completion program might be an option.

Graduate Medical Degrees

Graduate degree programs in medical disciplines are designed to provide specialized training and prepare you for employment in some of the most advanced careers in the field. After graduation, you might seek a career in education, research or clinical care as a doctor or physician. Included below are some common examples of medical degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels.

Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences

A master’s degree program in medical sciences is a fairly broad field of study that could provide you with advanced interdisciplinary training. It allows for the intensive study of subjects such as anatomy and physiology, genetics, cell biology and neuroscience. Some schools have concentration options in areas such as mental health counseling, pharmacology or clinical investigation. This degree program is commonly used as preparation for doctoral degree programs. It could also serve to prepare you for a research-oriented career.

Master’s Degree in Medical Informatics

Medical informatics applies instruction in information technology and business to the health care field. You will gain computing skills and examine their theoretical and practical applications to health care settings. Concentrations are available in areas such as database systems, web applications for medicine and electronic health records development. Certain schools also offer separate tracks for applicants who have clinical or technical backgrounds with the goal of bringing them up to speed on the other aspects of the discipline.

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

Earning your M.D. is the most traditional educational path towards becoming a medical doctor or physician. Typically lasting four years, an M.D. degree program is considered to be among the highest level of medical degrees. The first two years tend to focus on the in-depth study of microbiology, gross anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, organ systems and other advanced medical areas. The last two years are about applying this knowledge through extensive clinical experiences and clerkships before taking the medical licensing examination.

Many schools offer the option of combining an M.D. degree program with another graduate program such as a Master of Public Health or Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences. This allows you to fine-tune your education and tailor it to your specific occupational goals. To become a professional physician, another 3-8 years of hands-on work in clinical settings through internships and residencies is usually required after earning your M.D.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)

D.O. programs generally emphasize treating the whole person and providing patients with preventive care, and most graduates become pediatricians, family practitioners or general internal medicine practitioners. The curriculum generally focuses on the study of the cardiopulmonary, gastrointestinal, renal, endocrine and reproductive systems. You’ll also take classes in neuroscience and receive additional instruction on the musculoskeletal system, which also prepares you to earn a medical license. You’ll need to complete 2-6 years of residency work in addition to the four years of study and clinical experiences you’ll complete in a D.O. Program.

The 25 Best Jobs in 2016 All Pay At Least $70,000

The job market continues to improve – as long as you have a well-paying job. America’s labor force is technically more than six years removed from the Great Recession. Unemployment is near an eight-year low. The national quit rate, which measures the percentage of workers who voluntarily jump ship, has been holding steady around 2%, it’s best level since 2008. Yet millions of Americans are uncertain about their careers.

Finding a new job is a popular goal. A recent survey from Glassdoor finds 45% of people say they are currently job searching or planning to search for a job in 2016. This is not too surprising, considering that wage growth is still lagging and changing jobs can be the fastest route to a larger paycheck. In 2015, the average hourly earnings only rose 2.5%, according to the latest employment summary report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Whether you’re searching for a job in your current industry or trying to decide what career path you want to take, researching your possibilities can help you decide what job you ultimately pursue. New research from Glassdoor analyzes the best jobs in America for 2016, determined by weighing three factors equally: earnings potential (median annual base salary), career opportunities, and number of job openings.

Let’s take a look at the 25 best jobs, which all rate highly among all three categories and pay around $70,000 or more. In many cases, the jobs pay six figures.

25. Software Architect

  • Job Score: 4.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 653
  • Median Base Salary: $130,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

24. Electrical Engineer

  • Job Score: 4.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,516
  • Median Base Salary: $76,900
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.3

23. Nurse Practitioner

  • Job Score: 4.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 5,624
  • Median Base Salary: $99,500
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.1

22. Construction Superintendent

  • Job Score: 4.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,054
  • Median Base Salary: $78,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

21. Consultant

  • Job Score: 4.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,071
  • Median Base Salary: $84,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

20. Technical Account Manager

  • Job Score: 4.2
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,160
  • Median Base Salary: $69,548
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.7

19. Strategy Manager

  • Job Score: 4.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 631
  • Median Base Salary: $130,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.7

18. UX Designer

  • Job Score: 4.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 863
  • Median Base Salary: $91,800
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.6

17. Business Development Manager

  • Job Score: 4.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,906
  • Median Base Salary: $80,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

16. Finance Manager

  • Job Score: 4.3
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,632
  • Median Base Salary: $115,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.3

15. QA Manager

  • Job Score: 4.4
  • Number of Job Openings: 3,749
  • Median Base Salary: $85,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

14. Marketing Manager

  • Job Score: 4.4
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,560
  • Median Base Salary: $90,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

13. Product Marketing Manager

  • Job Score: 4.4
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,111
  • Median Base Salary: $115,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.5

12. Software Development Manager

  • Job Score: 4.4
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,199
  • Median Base Salary: $135,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.4

11. Analytics Manager

  • Job Score: 4.5
  • Number of Job Openings: 982
  • Median Base Salary: $105,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.7

10. Audit Manager

  • Job Score: 4.5
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,001
  • Median Base Salary: $95,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.9

9. Software Engineer

  • Job Score: 4.5
  • Number of Job Openings: 49,270
  • Median Base Salary: $95,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.3

8. Product Manager

  • Job Score: 4.5
  • Number of Job Openings: 6,607
  • Median Base Salary: $106,680
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.3

7. Physician Assistant

  • Job Score: 4.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 3,364
  • Median Base Salary: $97,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.5

6. HR Manager

  • Job Score: 4.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 3,468
  • Median Base Salary: $85,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.7

5. Mobile Developer

  • Job Score: 4.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,251
  • Median Base Salary: $90,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.8

4. Engagement Manager

  • Job Score: 4.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,356
  • Median Base Salary: $125,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.8

3. Solutions Architect

  • Job Score: 4.6
  • Number of Job Openings: 2,906
  • Median Base Salary: $119,500
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.5

2. Tax Manager

  • Job Score: 4.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,574
  • Median Base Salary: $108,000
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 3.9

1. Data Scientist

  • Job Score: 4.7
  • Number of Job Openings: 1,736
  • Median Base Salary: $116,840
  • Career Opportunities Rating: 4.1

7 High-Paying Medical Careers You Can Do With A Bachelor’s Degree

Maybe it’s always been your dream to be a doctor – or maybe it’s always been your parents’ dream that you be a doctor. Either way, the costs and dedication required to earn your MD means this career is not for everyone.

For the 2010-2011 school year, first-year tuition fees at Harvard Medical School were $45,050; by the time you add in additional school fees and living expenses, Harvard’s website estimates a total cost of $70,000 for the first year alone. And that’s before any travel costs if you don’t happen to live in the northeastern United States. According to a New England Journal of Medicine article from September 2009, 25% of medical school graduates have debt exceeding $200,000 – and that’s not including the cost of their undergraduate degree.

Luckily, if you are unable, or unwilling, to take on that staggering level of financial burden, there are many careers in the medical field that require less schooling, and therefore comparatively more manageable levels of student debt.

1. Medical Perfusionist – $93,500
If you watch any medical drama, you’re likely familiar with characters undergoing surgery that requires them to be on a bypass machine. Those who operate these machines, as well as other equipment that temporarily controls a person’s circulation and respiratory function, are called perfusionists.

Perfusionists are certified by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion, which involves an examination and clinical evaluations. Some programs require a completed bachelor’s degree before entering into masters or certificate program, but some schools offer a bachelor’s degree specifically in perfusion. (For more, see How To Avoid Medical Debt.)

2. Clinical Trial Manager – $92,600
Clinical trials are crucial to advancements in drug therapies and other medical protocols. Clinical trial managers are responsible for overseeing these trials and ensuring they adhere to FDA regulations and in-house protocols. This job may also be referred to as a Clinical Research Manager.

Some employers may require a master’s degree, but others may only need applicants to have completed a certificate program.

3. Product Manager, Health Care – $87,800
Product managers do just what the title implies: They manage products. In the health care industry, this might include drugs or other health products. Product managers would be responsible for coordinating product development to marketing and ultimately sales strategies and results.

Successful product managers in the health care industry will have a bachelor’s degree in business, business administration, marketing, or a health-related field with relevant industry experience.

4. Sales Representative, Pharmaceuticals – $84,200
This career may not be the most hands-on in terms of medical practice, but it will mean connecting with doctors, patients and hospital staff. If working in sales is your strong suit, acting as a coordinator to ensure patients are receiving the best drugs and medical products could be right up your alley.

5. Transplant Coordinator – $76,400
Organ transplants don’t happen without a team of hardworking individuals participating in both the medical and administrative tasks these procedures require. Transplant coordinators may be involved in many steps, from evaluation to pre-transplant workups and post-surgical care and follow up.

Transplant coordinators will likely have a bachelor’s degree in a medically related field, and may also be registered nurses.

6. Radiology/Diagnostic Imaging Director – $76,400
If you’ve ever seen an x-ray, you know how hard it can be to interpret what’s going on. Imaging techniques include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasound, among others. Radiology/Diagnostic Imaging Directors are in charge of such medical imaging programs. They oversee staff and ensure professional standards are met and maintained.

7. Hand Therapist – $70,200
You may not have heard of hand therapy, which, according to the Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC), is “the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb, which includes the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder girdle.” Hand therapists work with patients who are pre and post-operative, as well as those requiring preventative care and pain management.

Certification with the HTCC is voluntary with extremely high standards, and to apply one must provide documentation of five years as a practicing occupational therapist or physical therapist.

The Bottom Line
If your dream job is to be a doctor, hopefully you will be able to make that happen financially. But if you’d like to earn good money elsewhere in the medical field, these options could keep your tuition debt costs down.

Source: All salary data is provided by online salary database Annual salaries listed are for full-time employees with five to eight years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

The 10 Professions With The Best Job Security

Although the U.S. unemployment rate has been steadily declining for some time, jobs remain scarce for many Americans. While some trades and skills remain in demand or carry the promise of strong job security, other jobs don’t. The occupations with the lowest unemployment rates tended to require far more education, and employees were typically paid higher wages compared with less secure professions. Seven of the 10 most secure professions required at least a bachelor’s degree, while others often required even more qualifications. All but two of the occupations with the lowest unemployment rates had median wages greater than $60,000 in 2012. Dentists and other medical professionals such as doctors and surgeons were frequently paid more than $150,000 in 2012. The most secure professions include several medical occupations. To identify the easiest and hardest jobs to keep, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2014 unemployment rates among workers in 564 occupations provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Estimated employment growth between 2012 and 2022, median 2012 wages, labor force totals, and typical education requirements for each job also came from the BLS. These are the professions with the best job security.

10. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers

Unemployment rate, 2014: 1%
Median annual pay, 2012: $69,300
Employment change, 2012-2022: -19.3%
Only 1% of American farmers were unemployed last year, the 10th lowest unemployment rate among all occupations. Unlike many other professions, employment as a farmer may not guarantee economic stability. Nearly three-quarters of farmers were self-employed. And because farming equipment is expensive, and the overall investment necessary to be a farmer is very high, leaving the profession can be virtually impossible. The BLS forecasts a more than 19% decline in farming employment by 2022, one of only two low-unemployment professions where the BLS projected a decrease in employment.

9. Postal service mail carriers

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.9% (tied-eighth lowest)
Median annual pay, 2012: $56,490
Employment change, 2012-2022: -26.8%
Many Americans and businesses now favor email and other forms of electronic communication over delivery by the postal system. This partly explains the 26.8% projected decline in employment among mail carriers, one of the worst forecasts reviewed. Yet, less than 1% of postal workers were unemployed last year. Postal service mail carriers are clearly still largely indispensable to the transport of tangible items. It is also a major presence in the U.S. The U.S. Postal Service handles 40% of all mail globally, and it employs one of the largest civilian workforces in the world. The U.S. Postal Service reported 2013 revenue of $67.3 billion, an increase from the year before. However, the USPS remains unprofitable, having posted a $5.3 billion operating loss in its latest fiscal year.

8. Speech-language pathologists

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.9% (tied-eighth lowest)
Median annual pay, 2012: $69,870
Employment change, 2012-2022: 19.4%
As for most occupations with the lowest unemployment rates, speech-language pathologists had higher incomes than the median salary in most professions. A typical speech-language pathologist earned nearly $70,000 in 2012. Employment is also projected to grow by nearly 20% by 2022, one of the better growth rates reviewed. Speech pathologists address communication disorders in children and adults brought on by brain injury, developmental delay, emotional problems, and a range of other causes.

7. Detectives and criminal investigators

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.8%
Median annual pay, 2012: $74,300
Employment change, 2012-2022: 2.0%
The majority of detectives and criminal investigators are employed by local governments or the federal executive branch. The median income of detectives and investigators was $74,300 in 2012, among the higher figures reviewed. If a detective or investigator was employed by the federal government, he or she could likely make far more, with such employees frequently earning more than $100,000 annually as of 2012. While high levels of education are often a requirement for professions with the lowest unemployment rates, detectives and investigators are typically only required to have a high school diploma in addition to law enforcement experience.

6. Medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.4% (tied-5th lowest)
Median annual pay, 2012: $33,070
Employment change, 2012-2022: 6.7%
Medical and dental technicians service and help make a range of prosthetics and appliances, such as dentures, dental crowns, and eyeglasses. Unlike most of the relatively secure professions, such technicians aren’t typically highly educated, and they are paid far less than most Americans. The median pay of medical and dental laboratory technicians was just $33,070 in 2012, one of the lower incomes reviewed. The profession is projected to grow, albeit slowly, with the BLS estimating a 6.7% growth between 2012 and 2022. Still, the unemployment rate among workers in the profession is among the lowest. As is the case with other medical professions, the low unemployment rate among laboratory technicians is likely due in part to growing demand for medical services, particularly among the aging baby boomer generation.

5. Physicians and surgeons

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.4% (tied-5th lowest)
Median annual pay, 2012: Greater than $187,200
Employment change, 2012-2022: 17.8%
Less than 0.5% of physicians and surgeons were unemployed last year, a lower rate than for the vast majority of occupations. The BLS also forecasts the number of physicians and surgeons to grow by 17.8% by 2022, one of the faster growth rates reviewed. The large and aging baby boomer population partly explains this growth trend. The requirements for Physicians and surgeons typically include education and training that span more than a decade and that can be very demanding. Physicians and surgeons examine, counsel, and perform procedures on patients with physical injuries and diseases. Those employed in the occupation are also well compensated, with a median pay of more than $187,000 in 2012, one of the highest earnings.

4. Aerospace engineers

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.3%
Median annual pay, 2012: $103,720
Employment change, 2012-2022: 7.3%
Aerospace engineers were frequently paid six-figure salaries in 2012. Because many of those employed in this occupation work on national defense projects, prospective employees are also often heavily screened and require security clearances. Most aerospace workers don’t work for the government, however. Aerospace products and parts manufacturing employed 38% of workers, more than any other sector. While the profession is expected to grow 7.3% by 2022, slower than the average growth rate across all occupations, airplane and parts manufacturing is among America’s most robust industries. Plane routes and fleets are perhaps at capacity, but demand for new planes is still very high. For example, Boeing Co. reported a backlog of nearly $500 billion, with roughly 5,500 commercial airplane orders.

3. Physician assistants

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.2% (tied-2nd lowest)
Median annual pay, 2012: $90,930
Employment change, 2012-2022: 38.4%
Physician assistants perform a range of duties that also vary considerably by location. In more rural areas where there are considerably less doctors, for example, assistants may perform many tasks ordinarily performed by physicians. In general, however, physician assistants perform routine procedures such as setting broken bones, drawing blood, and taking X-rays. Additionally, physician assistants often work closely with patients, recording their progress, counseling them, and providing treatment. A typical physician assistant was paid nearly $91,000 in 2012, and employment is expected to grow by 38.4% by 2022, both nearly the highest figures reviewed.

2. Dentists

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.2% (tied-2nd lowest)
Median annual pay, 2012: $149,310
Employment change, 2012-2022: 15.9%
In addition to a bachelor’s degree, dentists must attend dental school, followed by a one- to two-year residency. To practice, dentists must also receive a state administered license. Most dentists are generalists, but many are orthodontists, endodontists, or specialize in other fields such as pediatrics, pathology, and public health. The median income of dentists was nearly $150,000 in 2012, one of the highest incomes compared with every other occupation. The BLS also projects employment in the field to grow nearly 16% by 2022, also among the higher rates.

1. Chiropractors

Unemployment rate, 2014: 0.1%
Median annual pay, 2012: $66,160
Employment change, 2012-2022: 14.6%
Just one in every 1,000 chiropractors was unemployed last year, the lowest figure among all occupations reviewed by the BLS. Chiropractors are required to complete a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, and they often seek additional professional degrees. Chiropractors typically take a more holistic approach to health, as they consider the entire body and state of a patient’s health. Chiropractic methods vary widely but share a drug-free approach by which musculoskeletal and nervous system disorders are addressed with manual manipulations of the body. According to the American Chiropractic Association, there is also a growing trend toward specialization and advanced training in the field. The median income of chiropractors was $66,160 in 2012, and employment is projected to grow nearly 15% by 2022, both among the higher figures reviewed.

The College Degrees With The Highest Starting Salaries in 2015

From Forbes:

College graduates in the class of 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering can expect an average starting salary of $57,000. Computer engineering graduates are close behind, with average salaries of $56,600. Next come mechanical engineering graduates with starting salaries of $56,000.

For the last 20 years, Phil Gardner, who runs Michigan State University’s employment office, has been in charge of a broad-based survey that gathers starting salary information from thousands of employers across the country. Gardner works through Michigan State’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute, where he is the director. This year CERI collected data from mid-August to mid-September, tapping the employment offices at 200 schools, which gathered starting salary data from 3,300 employers. Gardner says that engineering degrees have come out on top since he first took charge at CERI. “Students with these majors are highly technical and deeply trained so they have a more immediate value to employers,” he says. “They can apply their knowledge quickly to the workplace, so they can command a higher salary.”

After the top two engineering degrees, employers are paying the most for grads with degrees in software design and computer programming. “Everybody is looking for graduates with expertise in computer science,” says Gardner. “There’s just a huge demand.”

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While engineering and computer science graduates will command strong starting salaries next year, CERI’s research also shows a sobering statistic: The majority of employers, 62%, plan to keep salaries at the same level as last year, which means a slight decline in wages, given inflation. Only 37% of employers are planning to increase salaries, and then only by 3%-5%. A smaller group, 18% of employers, plan to hike salaries by more than 10%. Those increases will come in the following sectors: manufacturing, finance and insurance services, and professional, business and scientific services. As for company size, small- and fast-growth companies will have the greatest increases, with 23% of those firms offering compensation that is 10% higher than last year.

If engineering and computer science are at the top of the list, what’s at the bottom? Advertising, social work and psychology all pay below $37,000. A major the table lists as “Humanities and Liberal Arts” fares a bit better, with a starting salary of $39,000. (The salaries in the table include only base salaries and not commissions, stipends, bonuses, housing and moving allowances or other incentives.)

Hers is CERI’s chart of 25 degrees and expected starting salaries for the class of 2015:


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