The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has raised many questions for current and future college students, particularly when it comes to selecting a major.
Choosing a major is a life-changing decision, and it needs to be taken seriously.
As you consider college major options, let’s look at the pandemic’s impact on several professional fields.
For many years, Public Health has been an ideal degree program for college students who want to protect and improve the quality of life of patients around the world. Yet, the pandemic has shed light on a public health worker shortage that is forcing some college students to decide between duty and self-preservation.
During the pandemic, public health students have been among those to step up to assist COVID-19 patients. For example, many nursing students have had to work at U.S. hospitals during the pandemic, while also balancing their studies.
And while these students are simultaneously doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and earn real world experience, they also face a dilemma: should they stay in college or put school on hold to return to the workforce in a full-time capacity until the pandemic ends?
As part of their efforts to support Public Health students, many universities are offering virtual classes to ease the burden of working in-person while also attending class in-person.
These schools are also increasingly adopting classwork management systems that let students access course materials, engage with instructors and peers, and submit assignments.
Universities’ efforts to keep students enrolled in Public Health programs have been successful thus far, as data from the SOPHAS public health education enrollment database indicates there has been a 20% increase in public health college program applications between 2019 and 2020.
If enrollment in public health programs continues to grow, it may help the U.S. address a potentially massive shortage of home health aides, nursing assistants, and medical and lab technologists and technicians that could arise by 2025.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reports COVID-19 has caused "significant construction project delays and cancellations." As of September, 60% of construction firms reported project delays or cancellations due to the pandemic. In addition, 33% said they had at least one project halted on account during the crisis.
In spite of these bleak statistics for construction firms, demand for general contractors remains high. AGC reports 52% of respondents are "having a hard time filling some or all hourly craft positions, especially openings for laborers, carpenters, and equipment operators." Highway and transportation, utility infrastructure and federal, and heavy construction firms have the greatest difficulty in filling hourly craft positions, AGC says. AGC also notes that 60% of construction firms had at least one unfilled hourly craft position as of June 30.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average employment growth in the construction industry from 2018 to 2026. Furthermore, BLS points out many construction jobs only require a high school diploma. Or, for those who hold a college degree, they are better equipped than others to pursue lucrative jobs as construction managers and other leadership roles.
Employer demand for MBAs has declined during the pandemic, according to EAB. However, the pandemic itself may have had minimal impact on this overall downward trajectory— EAB states employer demand for MBAs has actually been dwindling for years before the crisis ever hit.
The shift away from traditional MBA programs began with Millennial professionals during the Great Recession, EAB points out, as many of these professionals began enrolling in accelerated, part-time, and non-degree programs in lieu of MBA programs in the Recession’s aftermath.
At this point, colleges started to offer more programs that would provide Millennial professionals with an affordable, flexible, and fast business education.
Millennial professionals between the ages of 22 and 37 years old are in the "sweet spot" relative to MBA programs, according to Amerasia Consulting Group. Due to this, one can expect colleges to tailor their MBA programs or other business education offerings to these professionals throughout the pandemic and even after it ends.
That way, these schools can generate interest from students around the world and help students get the skills and training they need to thrive in myriad business administration roles.
How to Decide What to Study at College
There is no one-size-fits-all formula to deciding what to study in college, and you need to consider your options closely, especially after an economy shake-up like the one we’re still facing.
One of the best ways to start your search for the right degree program: make a pros-cons list for any major that piques your interest. This list can help you choose a major that aligns with your career goals.
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Don’t forget to reach out to colleges that draw your interest, too. If you reach out to these schools, you can find out if they offer virtual learning, financial aid, and other perks.
You can also get answers to any questions you have from faculty and academic advisors at a college, so you can find out if the school meets your expectations.
Lastly, account for the "new normal" for college and how it will impact the future of higher education. This new normal involves online classes, distributed campuses, creative enrollment and recruitment outreach, and other "drastic and dramatic changes" that will change the way students and colleges connect with one another.
The new normal of higher education will continue to evolve as the pandemic approaches its conclusion. Keep an eye on the changes taking place across the higher ed, and you can gain insights to help you make an informed decision regarding your college major.
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