For MU freshman Corey Schneider, studying chemical engineering in college seemed to make sense.
“I always felt I would do something with math and science,” Schneider said. “I really liked chemistry in high school.”
Interest and aptitude for the subject might have led to Schneider’s decision, but did the possibility of a large salary straight out of college play a role?
“No, not really,” Schneider said. “It’s nice. I’ve always heard that chemical engineering was the hardest engineering discipline.”
Though it will depend largely on how the U.S. economy fluctuates in the next 10 years, some say engineering positions could soon be among the most in-demand and highly paid occupations in the job market.
Amanda Nell, director of employer relations at MU’s Career Center, helps arts and science students reach their post-graduate goals, whether they include graduate school or finding a job.
“What we encourage is to empower them to make their own decisions,” Nell said. “I think, by virtue of working with arts and science students, they have a lot of opportunity but a lot of challenge ahead of them. … Unlike maybe some other majors, they can do just about anything they want to.”
Nell said she expects engineering and business majors will be in high demand.
Chemical engineering majors had the highest average starting salary of $53,659, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2004-05 Salary Survey.
MU freshman Eric Schultz was a chemical engineering major but decided to change to physical therapy.
Making a lot of money did not influence his initial decision to do chemical engineering, Schultz said.
“It was like a bonus for knowing what you know,” Schultz said.
The salary survey said aerospace engineering employers offered an average starting salary of $58,000 to chemical engineering majors. It also said basic chemical manufacturers offered $56,250, and electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturers offered $56,500.
“When you look at the general boom in Columbia, for example, in the amount of construction companies and economic groups, all those require engineers,” said Sue Hamilton, career specialist for MU’s College of Engineering.
“There is a large need for engineers.”
Hamilton said most engineering majors require four and a half to five years of schooling, and many students at MU are focusing on mechanical engineering.
“Mechanical engineering covers automotives, heating and air flow, consulting and technology sales,” Hamilton said. “(That area of study) is the most versatile.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical assistants will experience a projected 59 percent job growth by 2012.
Johnnie Ewing, medical assistant program director at Kansas City’s Concorde Career College, said she thinks the aging population will put medical assistants in high demand.
“Baby boomers are coming of age,” Ewing said. “There are going to be more older people and not enough health care providers.”
Medical assistant students attend Concorde weekdays for eight months, learning skills such as taking X-rays and drawing blood, Ewing said.
She said she thinks students choose medical assistant programs over traditional four-year college experiences because it’s a shorter period of time and there are more hands-on lab experiences.
“I would like to see medical assistants become more recognized,” Ewing said. “They have not received the respect they deserve in the medical field. Now, people see we are very important.”
Nell said no matter what people decide to do, there are steps they can take to prepare for the future.
“You can certainly ensure that you have a very particular skill set or academic degree that will prepare you, but that’s if you’re absolutely certain that you want that,” Nell said.
“What we encourage is that we want students to pursue things that they value, that they’re good at and that they’ll be satisfied with,” she said.