College Admissions: 5 Hottest Majors for 2012

Monday, January 02, 2012


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Bio-medical engineering students at Emory University in Atlanta. Photo: Emory University.

With a stagnant economy and college costs on the rise, it’s hard to know what direction students should take to ensure job security after college. Here are 5 hot areas of study for 2012, based on trends and surveys of where the jobs are:

Public Health

According to the U.S. Government, healthcare will generate more jobs than any other industry in this decade. From surges in diabetes domestically to outbreaks of communicable diseases in Asia, the public health field has a range of exciting options. Some of the best programs at the undergraduate level are at Emory University in Atlanta, situated strategically near the Center for Disease Control, and Georgetown University in

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Washington, DC, home to the National Institutes of Health. Students can be focused on the scientific aspect of public health, the statistical angle, or policy initiatives.

Petroleum Engineering

As the U.S. struggles to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, petroleum engineers are in demand. According to, petroleum engineers earn the highest starting salary of any recent graduates, at more than $100,000 a year. What colleges offer this major? As you might guess, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska are the hubs for petroleum engineering programs. Texas A&M, U. Texas at Austin, U. Oklahoma and the University of Alaska all offer top programs with internships nearby.

Environmental Studies

Careers in this field are growing as corporations and governments become more focused on saving the environment. From policy analysts to engineers who design green power alternatives, the options are broad and appeal to a variety of interests. The University of Vermont, set amidst a rich area of forests and lakes, provides unparalleled opportunities for field research and was recently awarded a $20 million dollar NSF Grant. Engineering students at UVM build wind turbines on campus, while recreation management majors focus on green resorts, and agriculture majors explore sustainable farming. If a small school is more your style, then Dickinson College in Pennsylvania provides one of the oldest environmental majors in the country. With 40 study abroad programs on 6 continents, Dickinson has a true commitment to global leadership in environmental science/studies.

Bio-Medical Engineering

This challenging field brings together the discipline of engineering with the science of medicine. Some of the most exciting research and discoveries for 2012 and beyond lie in this arena. From cancer drug development to tissue regeneration neural engineering, bio-medical engineers are on the forefront of helping people live better lives. Brown University has a growing Bio-Medical department with expansive facilities in conjunction with a top rated medical school. The Whitaker Institute at Johns Hopkins is considered to be one of the most prestigious biomedical schools in the country, and Georgia Tech also boasts a top 10 program. It is a highly competitive major however, and applicants typically need to have strong grades in 3 lab sciences, calculus, and high SAT or ACT scores.


It may not sound sexy, but according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook for 2011, 62% of employers were hiring accountants. Given the scandals on Wall St. and in companies like Enron, there are exciting opportunities with the SEC and private auditing agencies such as PwC and KPMG. Many accountants also go on to become CFOs later in their careers, and the pay scale is attractive right out of college. NYU’s Stern School of Business boasts a top 10 accounting program in the heart of the finance world. And specialty undergraduate business colleges like Babson, Bentley and Bryant also have strong programs, as do many state universities.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, individual counseling for college-bound students.

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