The College of Charleston is one of the few institutions to offer an undergraduate degree in data science. By studying statistics, math and programming, graduates learn to help government agencies, consulting firms, scientific organizations and a variety of companies from e-commerce giants to big-box stores to develop strategy, understand customer behavior or predict market trends.
7. Business analytics: While closely related to data science, business analytics is primarily a business major, says Kenneth Gilbert, head of the department of statistics, operations and management science at the University of Tennessee, which launched a degree program in 2010. Courses include computer software, math, statistics and communication skills.
Rutgers Business School introduced a business analytics and information technology major for undergrads in 2011. The University of Iowa offers a B.S. in business analytics and information systems, while Old Dominion University features a major in business administration/business analytics.
8. Petroleum engineering: New technology has opened up shale formations thought unproductive 10 years ago. A new crop of petroleum engineers will be needed to tap these reserves; half of the current supply is expected to retire in the next decade.
Grads, who can expect high starting salaries of more than $100,000 a year, will find employment in three areas, says Robert Chase, chair of the department of petroleum engineering and geology at Marietta College: as drilling engineers who supervise the effort to access oil or gas; as production engineers who design and install the equipment needed to produce it; and as reservoir engineers who analyze how much can be recovered.
Texas A&M, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Wyoming and the University of Alaska—Fairbanks all offer highly regarded programs, and with major oil companies or suppliers nearby, provide opportunities for internships.
9. Public health: Two factors give public health majors rosy prospects: the threat of global epidemics, and the part of health reform that focuses on prevention. Students can focus on the scientific aspects of the discipline, the statistical angle or policy, and find work in hospitals, nonprofits and community health centers.
Columbia University's Summer Public Health Scholars program gives college students from across the country who are going into their junior or senior years, or who have just graduated, the chance to explore public health as a career. Other undergrad programs can be found at Temple University, Brown University, University of California—Berkeley, University of California—Irvine and George Washington University.
[Check out scholarships for in-demand majors.]
10. Robotics: Between 2012 and 2020, robotics could create between 2 million to 3.5 million new jobs, according to Metra Martech, a London-based market research firm – hardly surprising in a field helping to expand human capabilities across every walk of life. Anesthesia bots are assisting in surgery; oceanographers are using underwater robots to map the underside of Arctic ice; and NASA's robotic rovers are currently surveying the surface of Mars.
"Over the last five years, more and more students were self-designating a major in robotics, so we decided to craft a formal curriculum," says David Barrett, professor of mechanical engineering and design at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.
Robotics majors generally study mechanical, electrical and software engineering as well as modeling and entrepreneurship. Other schools with strong robotics programs include Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Lawrence Technological University, University of California—Santa Cruz and Carnegie Mellon University.
11. Sustainability: New and retooled environmental degree programs are placing fresh emphasis on practical problem-solving. The University of Tennessee, which graduated the first students from its sustainability major in May, offers a solution-oriented curriculum that spans law, business, science, resource management and ethics, says Michael McKinney, professor of geology and environmental studies.