Top 5 Degree Programs and Job Fields for 2016

By Frank HealyJanuary 21, 2016

The best place to start a strategic marketing plan for the new year is by taking a deep dive into industry trends from 2015. Last year’s shifts in higher education can impact the future of the workforce and how marketers target new candidates.

Analyzing Higher Ed Growth’s (HEG) data from 2015, we found many enrollment trends fell in line with where the current job market is headed. However, despite demand for this role in our health care system, graduates from one degree program might soon find themselves in the midst of a crisis.

Here’s how enrollment trends and the hottest job fields match up.

Growing Programs

1. Communications/Psych

This degree program category showed the most consistent relative enrollment growth quarter over quarter in 2015. Starting at a little over 5 percent, it had a significant boost at the end of the year when it hit nearly 8 percent. It’s one to keep an eye on in 2016.

The outlook is good for degree graduates, according to recent job market research by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI). Marketing managers were the third most in-demand job for 2016, and sales positions also made the list.

2.  Nursing

Enrollments more than doubled toward the end of the year for nursing programs. This makes sense when compared to CareerBuilder/EMSI data. With much of the current workforce poised to retire within a few years, the registered nurse role is now considered the number one in-demand job for 2016.

However, the research also pointed toward an impending health care crisis. Many qualified applicants were turned away last year, with only 33 percent of the 300,000 job postings filled. Some experts say it was due to faculty shortages. Nevertheless, it’s something higher education marketers should take into consideration when communicating with this audience.

3. Culinary/Hospitality

Culinary/hospitality programs saw a big jump in enrollments during the last half of the year. This is great news for the restaurant industry. Restaurant openings grew by 20 percent last year and experienced a shortage of skilled cooks for their establishments, according to EMSI research on staffing patterns.

4. Computers/IT

The computers/IT category showed a steady increase in enrollments throughout the year. This is not surprising considering that three out of the top ten occupations for 2016 fell in this field. Software/applications developers, network and computer systems administrators, and computer systems analysts are all in great demand.

5. Health Care/Medical

While this category dipped a bit in the last two quarters of 2015, it continues to be one of the hottest programs. Enrollments climbed in the following specific tracks: health IT, medical assisting, and medical insurance billing and coding, and health management. And the data matches job market trends. The medical and health services manager role is considered one of the highest paying in-demand jobs for 2016.

Other Enrollment Trends:

1. Automotive Enrollment Falls

It dropped nearly 2 percent from the beginning of the year.

2.   The Level of Education Changes

HEG helped enroll more students with no post-secondary experience and fewer with some college experience last year than ever before. 

3. Generations Shift

A trend bound to happen, the industry is finally seeing a shift toward enrollments from those born in the 90s, edging out those from earlier decades. Enrollments from this group went up 20 percent.

Enrollment data in higher education points to how the world of work is changing, and where there might be disparities between in-demand fields and the incoming workforce. For schools and higher education marketers, it also reveals opportunities to fine-tune messaging and reach new audiences in an effort to curtail talent deficits. 

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