In continuation of yesterday’s installment of UCSB’s Most and Least Useful Majors, as compiled by Newsweek using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, today the Nexus provides the Six Most Useful Majors offered on campus.
The list’s inclusion of all that is mathematical and hard science-based — aside from the one outlier of foreign languages — displays a predictable departure from yesterday’s conglomeration of arts and humanities. While some students express a desire to impact society in ways only possible through the knowledge gained in their respective areas of study, others say it’s all for the cash.
1. Mechanical Engineering
Unemployment, recent grad: 8.6 percent
Unemployment, experienced grad: 3.8 percent
Earnings, recent grad: $58,000
Earnings, experienced grad: $86,000
Projected growth, 2010-2020: 4 percent
Fourth-year mechanical engineering major Eddie Friedman said his discipline is essential to modern society because it incorporates a range of areas of knowledge to improve aspects of everyday life.
“My major is very useful because it applies principles of physics in computers, light systems — almost everything which makes everyday appliances and convenient mechanics are made by mechanical engineers,” Friedman said.
Friedman said the skills learned in mechanical engineering also tend to be more tangible than those of other majors.
“A mechanical job [requires] learned skills — not innate skills — which are a mandatory accessory to technological development,” Friedman said.
2. Electrical and Computer Engineering
Unemployment, recent grad: 7.3 percent
Unemployment, experienced grad: 5.2 percent
Earnings, recent grad: $57,000
Earnings, experienced grad: $90,000
Projected growth, 2010-2020: 6 percent
Second-year electrical engineering major Josh Kay said he chose to pursue a degree in the field because he felt it was best suited to his personal attributes and therefore gave him the best chance to accomplish something significant.
“The real reason I chose electrical engineering — and I know a lot of people say this — is that I think the best way I can make my impact on the world is to be involved in the important technological advancements that really make a difference,” Kay said.
Kay said there are a variety of different career paths for electrical engineering graduates, but they mostly fall within a specific sector of the technology industry.
“Most likely you’ll be working in something that has to do with hardware, but I know some people do go into software companies as well. Mainly people go into tech companies and manufacturing engineering,” Kay said. “Once you graduate, if you find a job, you will probably be looking at a pretty decent salary, depending on the area of course.”
3. Computer Science
Unemployment, recent grad: 7.8 percent
Unemployment, experienced grad: 5.6 percent
Earnings, recent grad: $50,000
Earnings, experienced grad: $81,000
Projected growth, 2010-2020: 18 percent
With new technology playing an increasingly critical role in everyday life, it is equally important to have a substantial amount of people with sufficient knowledge to sustain the growing industry, which is why a computer science degree is in constant demand, according to fourth-year computer science major Matthew Sheu.
“Our society is surrounded by more and more technology and there is so much demand for technology to advance forward that we need people to have the capable knowledge to support it,” Sheu said.
According to Sheu, the field places great emphasis on minimalism as computer scientists aim to make technology accessible to the general public.
“There will always be a demand for things to be simpler, and all this can only be possible with a team of computer scientists programming together, creating a program to simplify the lives of others,” Sheu said.
Unemployment, recent grad: 6.1 percent
Unemployment, experienced grad: 5.1 percent
Earnings, recent grad: $40,000
Earnings, experienced grad: $71,000
Projected growth, 2010-2020: 16 percent
Mathematics professor Jeffrey Stopple, who specializes in analytic number theory, said much of the utility of mathematics comes not from directly tangible skills, but the logical problem solving the subject promotes, making it applicable to a range of careers and professional programs.
“A lot of people who major in math pursue an advanced degree; some even go to law school. Law schools love accepting math majors,” Stopple said. “It’s also good preparation for an MBA, for programs that are sort of more quantitatively oriented to business administration.”
Stopple said there is also a high demand for math teachers in elementary education, finance and programming and information technology, among other areas.
5. Common Foreign Languages
Unemployment, recent grad: 7.9 percent
Unemployment, experienced grad: 4.8 percent
Earnings, recent grad: $32,000
Earnings, experienced grad: $50,000
Projected growth, 2010-2020: 42 percent
As globalization becomes increasingly pervasive in many sectors of the job market, fluency in various foreign languages has also become a useful asset for many careers.
Third-year political science major Anya Watford, who has minors in Russian and French, said despite the marketability of foreign language proficiency, she made her decision purely out of interest in the subjects.
“Honestly, I don’t know how much they help with a job, but they do help with proficiency. It’s more something I did for myself,” Watford said. “Looking back on it, it might have been more practical to not do the minors and just graduate early but I think it’s really important in college to take classes you like and not just worry about careers.”