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Jobs Report: Top Hot Careers for College Grads Study From UC San Diego

LA JOLLA, Calif., Sept. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Just what constitutes a hot job for a college graduate? For the fourth straight year a research team at the University of California San Diego examined that question.

"Too often a graduate hears 'congratulations' and 'now what?' It may take months for the implications of 'now what' to sink in," says Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor of public programs and dean of UC San Diego Extension. "This is why Extension has made a commitment to ongoing research on trends in the workplace and the economy."

For the full 2012 report, go to

Here are the top ten hot careers for 2012 in rank order:

  1. Software Developers, Systems Software
  2. Physical Therapists and Assistants
  3. Software Developers, Applications
  4. Market Research Analysts/Data Miners
  5. Cost Estimators
  6. Database Administrators
  7. Information Security Analysts
  8. Web Developers
  9. Computer Network Architects
  10. Network and Computer Systems Admin

The 2012 study used wage and employment information gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics and awarded points in four categories: The number of jobs in the field now, the 10-year projected growth from 2010 to 2020, the median wage and the work environment. The "work environment" label wraps together such factors as whether the job is indoors in an environmentally controlled setting, stress tolerance, time pressure, the amount of time spent dealing with unpleasant or angry people, the frequency of conflict situations, responsibility for others' health and safety, and the consequences of mistakes.

Finally, a bridging parameter was used to account for the dilemma faced by so many college graduates struggling to find the right job in today's economy: Can entry requirements for this field be met in two years or less by someone with a degree in a different area?

"In a changing and highly competitive job market, young graduates are often discouraged by their career horizons while working in low-paid jobs," says Walshok. "What we have learned through our work at UC San Diego Extension is that college grads increasingly need bridges to high-quality employment. Those bridges help them understand where the job opportunities are, what the skill requirements are and how they can augment their Liberal Arts education with additional training and education to achieve their desired end – an interesting and challenging job with good compensation."

After processing all the data, totaling the points and adding the bridging factor, 18 job categories emerge. There's a clear pattern as to what directions our national workforce is taking: Ten of the in-demand listings are in computer-related fields, five are in medical, and three – cost estimators, personal financial advisors and management analysts – in a sense are occupations that process or adapt information generated by computers.

UC San Diego Extension, as the continuing education arm of the university, has more than 56,000 enrollees annually in about 4,300 courses.

"UC San Diego Extension has put together an in-house research team under my direction which is doing more and more sophisticated assessments of employment trends and opportunities," says Walshok. To this end, this fourth special report on "Hot Careers for College Graduates" has taken a different tact. "We have used an algorithm to draw up a list of 18 hot job categories that are typically within the reach of current and recent college graduates. Many of these jobs require some additional training beyond the college degree, but the ones we examined do not typically require Masters or Ph.D. degrees."

Veterinarians, registered nurses or advanced engineers are not on this list even though they are almost always in short supply. "They are not included because they represent careers for which competitive admissions into long-term academic degree programs are typical," says Walshok.

The occupations the report focuses on are careers for which an individual with a college degree and some additional education or training can qualify.

"Our experience with helping college grads build bridges to employment is heartening," says Walshok. "We know it is possible for college grads to bridge into very high-quality jobs, many of which require technical skills, if they can find ways to increase their skills and networks through participation in an Extension certificate program."

At UC San Diego Extension, some of the areas of possible study for career changers or those wishing to add new skills to their resume include: Accounting; Business; Digital Arts; Education; Engineering; English Language Studies; Foreign Languages; Healthcare and Behavioral Sciences; Humanities and Writing; Information Technology and Software Engineering; Law; Leadership and Management Development; Life Sciences; Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health; Photography, Art and Music, and Public Service and Social Responsibility.