50 Best College Majors for a Secure Future

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Laurence Shatkin and the Editors at Jist
JIST Works/JIST Publishing
330 pages. $15.95 paperback.

What could have more allure than the promise of a secure future? In this handbook, occupational expert Laurence Shatkin identifies 50 college majors linked to 101 jobs that are least affected by economic downturns and also offer “the best potential economic rewards.” In fields serving “fundamental human needs” that don’t diminish “even during hard times,” labor economists recommend health care, education, utilities, law and government, religious institutions, car and appliance repair, social assistance, libraries, insurance and any work relating to “death and taxes.” Nine of the top ten recommended majors are in health care.

Every job in this book is resistant to being moved offshore, rates low in economic sensitivity and shows projected growth higher than 23.5 percent. Shatkin’s sources include the U.S. Department of Labor and its Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau and college catalogs.

But here, as with many such books, some caveats are needed.

Just how recession-proof are these careers? Anyone’s familiarity with a specific field might mitigate some projections. For example, although Shatkin considers librarian jobs as secure, this librarian knows that public and school libraries are often targets for local government cutbacks. In some areas, this book, copyrighted in August 2009, is already outdated.

Shatkin note that in times of high unemployment, his figures can’t show “how many people will be competing with you to be hired.” The guide’s authors hedge their bets by offering sound advice on how to become a valued, irreplaceable worker.

But no college-bound students – who won’t join the workforce for least five years – should rely on this book without understanding its sources, reasoning and methods, as well as the limitations of statistics and forecasts. Some information is timeless, such as how certain flexible majors (English anyone?) can lead to a variety of careers. While the book’s intriguing projections are worth exploring by students, parents, educators and career counselors, the book should be just one ingredient in a complex stew. (800) 648-5478, http://www.jist.com.