Top 20 Best Degrees to Get for the Future 2021

Degrees to get for the future

In this article, we profile the 20 best degrees to get for the future for 2021.

While you may want to pursue your interests, there are certain college majors and degrees that offer a more stable guarantee for the future. Also, your interests may align with some of the top degrees to get for the future. Below are 20 top degrees that offer a favorable job outlook, solid return-on-investment, and above-average employment rates, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

These degree offerings might help you decide which career path you want to take, as you plan the best degree for your future.

  • #1. Artificial Intelligence
  • #2. Big Data
  • #3. Biotechnology
  • #4. Nursing
  • #5. Sustainability
  • #6. Health Information Technology
  • #7. Medical Technology
  • #8. Construction Management
  • #9. Mechanical Engineering
  • #10. Computer Science
  • #11. Information Technology
  • #12. Civil Engineering
  • #13. Communication
  • #14. Economics
  • #15. Anthropology
  • #16. Healthcare Administration
  • #17. Environmental Science
  • #18. Social Work
  • #19. Sociology
  • #20. Advertising

1. Artificial Intelligence

Ranking number one on our list of best degrees to get for the future is artificial intelligence. No longer just the subject of science fiction, there are thousands of jobs in the artificial intelligence field with very few people to fill them. Students learn foundational skills in computer science along with an in-depth understanding of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. Students take courses such as foundations of artificial intelligence, fundamentals of information retrieval and web searching, and principles of robotic theory and machine learning. Students should have strong mathematical and technical acumen. Artificial intelligence jobs are expected to grow at an above-average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Top programs:
Colorado State University Global
University of Colorado

2. Big Data

Big data continues to be one of the best degrees to get for the future as both public and private organizations seek professionals with the skills to be able to analyze and construct data that informs decisions. Students learn graduate-level advanced skills and knowledge in designing scalable systems able to interpret large swaths of data that need to be processed and interpreted. Core areas often include cloud computing, data mining, data visualization, and machine learning. In addition, students take courses in information science and statistics. Most programs require a background in computer science or a related field, often in the form of a bachelor’s degree.

Top programs:
Arizona State University
University of Illinois

3. Biotechnology

Biotechnology combines the study of biology and technology to improve individual lives and communities. In short, biotechnology harnesses the power of the cellular process to create innovations in healthcare, sustainability, farming, and manufacturing. As new threats in the form of viruses and climate change emerge, those with the skills to mitigate these threats through science will be sought after. This degree is offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students often specialize in one industry that fits their personal and career interests. Courses may include subject matter such as bioinformatics, biotechnology applications, genome analysis, laboratory management and safety, and vaccine development.

Top programs:
Johns Hopkins University
University of Maryland Global Campus

4. Nursing

As recent history has shown, healthcare professionals, specifically nurses, are essential employees that in many ways support the entire healthcare industry. As the population continues to age and new health threats arise, nurses are needed to support patients with direct care in nearly every healthcare setting. Students are able to earn an online nursing credential at any level from a certificate to a master’s degree, often with no background in healthcare. Courses include anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, and nutrition. Graduates work in clinics, hospitals, doctor’s offices, rehabilitation facilities, educational institutions, and more. Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher should have excellent job opportunities.

Top programs:
Eastern University
Western Governors University

5. Sustainability

As industries continue to move away from traditional fossil fuels in an effort to combat climate change, individuals with skills and knowledge in sustainability and renewable energy principles will be highly sought after. This major is most prevalent at the associate or bachelor’s levels and can be completed entirely online. Graduates go to work as renewable energy engineers, turbine technicians, sustainability engineers, and much more. According to data gathered from Glassdoor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with this degree earn a median salary of $85,000 per year. Students take coursework in economics of sustainability, sustainable ecosystems, sustainable farms and food systems, and sustainable urban settings.

Top programs:
Arizona State University
University of Wisconsin

6. Health Information Technology

Typically available at the associate and bachelor levels, health information technology ranks #6 on our list of best degrees to get for the future. As healthcare organizations grow and become more complex, health information technologists are needed to organize and maintain healthcare records as they relate to billing, facility planning, marketing, quality control, and research. Hospital data utilizes codes and various industry standards to track information. Degrees should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. The majority of programs are offered at community colleges, which means admission is open-door and only requires a high school diploma or GED.

Top programs:
Central Piedmont Community College
Idaho State University

7. Medical Technology

Medical laboratory technicians are some of the most important healthcare professionals, but often go overlooked, as they perform their work behind the scenes. They are trained to perform a wide variety of medical tests that diagnose, treat, and monitor various healthcare maladies and diseases and work closely with doctors and nurses. This degree is predominantly available as a bachelor’s degree but can also be an associate degree. The best programs are accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS). Upon graduation, individuals should be prepared to sit for the certification exam through the Board of Certification of the American Society for Clinical Pathologists.

Top programs:
Louisiana State University
Old Dominion University

8. Construction Management

As both personal and commercial structures continue to erode and need replacing or upgraded, the need for qualified construction managers will increase. That’s why construction management comes in at #8 on our list of best degrees to get for the future. Construction managers play a pivotal role in the construction process by overseeing the many moving parts. From budget oversight, contractor management, and client relations, the construction manager is the crucial person that brings it all together. Courses cover a wide range of topics including project management and business acumen as well as architectural graphics, construction budgets, construction materials and methods, and construction safety.

Top programs:
Indiana State University
Louisiana State University

9. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering has always been one of the best degrees for the future because it teaches students to solve complex problems and create solutions using innovation across nearly every industry. Mechanical engineers are taught to research, design, develop and implement devices and machines ranging from car engines to medical equipment. It is a very broad branch of engineering and allows the graduate to follow several distinct career paths and work in a variety of industries. There are several different types of mechanical engineers, including automobile engineers, HVAC engineers, and robotics engineers. Mechanical engineering degrees are typically offered at the bachelor level.

Top programs:
The University of Alabama
University of Massachusetts Lowell

10. Computer Science

A perennial member of this list, computer science continues to be a great degree for the future. As technology continues to advance and become more integrated into every aspect of daily living, those with high-level information technology skills will continue to be in demand. The degree is highly diverse and allows graduates to work in a variety of careers such as database analysts, software developers, business application programmers, and mobile application developers. There are plenty of online programs at the bachelor and master degree levels to choose from. Courses cover concepts such as business information systems, database development, mobile platforms, and web enterprise technology.

Top programs:
Arizona State University
Southern New Hampshire University

11. Information Technology

Information technology lends itself well for current and future job prospects because of the ever-changing nature of the content and increasing importance of technology in every facet of society. Students should choose programs that also prepare them for industry certifications and also offer internship opportunities as part of the curriculum. IT degrees offer many different sub-specialties such as cyber security, data analytics, project management, software development, and much more. Most IT-related occupations are expected to grow at twice the rate of all other occupations during the next decade. In particular, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects security analyst jobs to grow by a staggering 32%.

Top programs:
Southern New Hampshire University
Western Governors University

12. Civil Engineering

Another perennial member of the list is civil engineering, which ranks #12 on our list of best degrees to get for the future. Civil engineering professionals make a significant impact in their surrounding communities by improving, designing, and implementing current and new infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, and other physical structures that impact human mobility and transportation. Students can choose from specialty areas in academia, construction, civil infrastructure, public utilities, and water resource management. Along with civil engineering principles, students learn other important aspects of the occupation such as communication, environmental science, personnel management, and project management. Degrees are readily available on-campus and online.

Top programs:
San Diego State University
University of North Dakota

13. Communication

Look at any job description and you’ll see that, the majority of the time, the most sought-after skill is communication. Whether it’s written or oral communication, the ability to convey ideas and actively listen is an integral part of success, both on and off the job. In a world with so many voices coming from everywhere, strong communication skills are more paramount than ever. For students considering this degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level, it is helpful to choose a concentration within the field such as conflict resolution, corporate communications, journalism, marketing, or public relations. The degree offers a high level of utility and can be applied to virtually any occupation.

Top programs:
Appalachian State University
The University of Central Florida

14. Economics

Economics comes in at #14 on our list of best degrees to get for the future. Economics training provides students with excellent preparation for a career in economics, finance, public policy, law, government, and business. It is also excellent preparation for graduate school. Students learn a variety of integral skills such as what drives consumer behavior, what factors dictate the growth and detraction of markets, and how to forecast economic conditions. Courses may include calculus for the social sciences, introduction to macroeconomics, introduction to microeconomics, and public policy analysis. Possible careers include business analyst, economist, financial advisor, loan officer, and market research analyst.

Top programs:
North Carolina A&T
Oregon State University

15. Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of human behavior from biological and social scientific perspectives. Anthropology is one of the best degrees to get for the future and can be applied to several industries including academia, the arts, business, education, and more. Students choosing this major should consider a specialty track such as archaeology, biological anthropology and linguistics, or cultural anthropology. Anthropology graduates have several career options including anthropologist, archaeologist, archivist, conservationist, curator, public policy analyst, urban planner, and more. Courses may include archaeology of culture and resource management, anthropology and research, evolution of primate behavior, and human ecology. The degree is available on-campus and online.

Top programs:
Colorado State University
The University of Florida

16. Healthcare Administration

As healthcare needs increase across various systems, individuals with sound management and leadership skills will be needed. A degree in healthcare administration seeks to imbue graduates with the competencies required to lead fast-paced, complex healthcare organizations. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare management and administration jobs are expected to increase a staggering 32% during the ten-year period of 2019 – 2029. This rate of growth is more than six times the rate of growth for all other occupations tracked by the Bureau. The degree is available at both the bachelor and master’s levels with several excellent online options to choose from.

Top programs:
Eastern Washington University
University of Minnesota Crookston

17. Environmental Science

As the climate change crisis continues to impact the earth, trained scientists will be needed to help mitigate this global crisis. An online degree in environmental science gives the graduate an excellent foundation in the natural and physical sciences along with skills needed to combat environmental dangers through mitigation strategies and the creation of unique solutions. Many programs allow students to choose from a specialty within the field such as applied ecology, environmental agriculture, environmental policy, water conservation and more. A specialization allows the student to pursue specialized coursework and increases the likelihood of gainful employment upon completion of the degree.

Top programs:
Oregon State University
Southern New Hampshire University

18. Social Work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social worker positions are expected to increase 13% from 2019 through 2029. This rate of growth represents a nearly three-fold increase compared to the average rate of 5% for all other occupations. As mental health and family services needs increase, the demand for social workers to work with these clients rises. Online social work programs are available at both the bachelor and graduate degree levels. Students with a master’s degree in social work should have increased employment opportunities. Strong programs generally offer specialty tracks that coincide with the different types of social workers. Tracks may include child and family social work, health care social work, mental health and substance abuse social work, and school social work.

Top programs:
Eastern Kentucky University
Wayne State University

19. Sociology

Sociology is the study of human behavior within the context of community, culture, and other social categories. The discipline has been thrust into the spotlight in recent years organizations seek to understand what drives societal behavior. A degree in sociology has several career paths due to its broad utility and usefulness. Graduates go on to successful careers in education, social science research, law enforcement, marketing, and graduate school. Some programs offer specialties such as community development, cultural anthropology, sociology of race, sociology of the aging, and women’s and gender studies. Fully online degrees are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Top programs:
California State University Bakersfield
Fort Hays State University

20. Advertising

As consumer competition continues to increase, the need for advertising professionals continues to rise. The same can be said for non-commerce spaces, where message creation and public relations are equally important. As such, advertising comes in at #20 on our list of best degrees to get for the future. Available online at the undergraduate and graduate levels, advertising students learn to create effective messages through various mediums designed to influence specific audiences. Whether the audiences are external customers or internal employees, an advertising degree will teach students to craft full campaigns using a variety of mediums and strategies including the latest in advertising technology and social media.

Top programs:
University of Florida
University of Montana Billings

CVO Staff
January 2021


This concludes our list of top 20 best degrees to get for the future of 2021.

Bambi Majumdar

Melissa Anderson

Julie McCaulley