Top 15 In-Demand Careers for College Graduates

It’s time to find a career … and you want one that pays well … and one that has good prospects … and one that maybe even makes your friends a little jealous.

NEWSFLASH: That’s what everyone wants!

But just because your aspirations are common among the masses, you should still go after what you want in life. It just means that maybe you should do a little research and think about investing in your education first so you can stand out from the crowd.

A good place to start to find that awesome, high-paying career is the actual stats. Let’s take a look at salary, for example. Which jobs will allow you to make good money? Have some in mind? Good, now whittle down that list into the jobs you’re actually interested in and those that you’re willing to become qualified to do.

Maybe brain surgeon, nuclear physicist and astronaut can be crossed off the list, but what about the others? Are they in-demand or are they losing steam? Are several people competing for few positions? How do you know?

Lucky for you we’ve taken care of some of that guesswork for you. We used real-time job intelligence from to identify those careers that had the most job openings over the past 12 months.

Check out the number of openings, potential salary* and projected growth for each one!

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Careers in high demand for 2014

1. Software developer, applications

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 338,271
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 22 percent
  • Median salary: $90,060

Why it made the list: Software developers are highly sought after thanks to an increase in the demand for computer software, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says. Not only that, but there is app for almost everything these days, which is a trend that’s not going anywhere any time soon. Industries like healthcare and security have a particular need for tech-savvy people to help them thrive.

2. Registered nurse

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 234,321
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 19 percent
  • Median salary: $65,470

Why it made the list: Put simply, the healthcare needs of Americans are growing. As the population ages people need additional help with everyday activities, so it makes sense that more RNs are needed. Additionally, new healthcare laws are providing health insurance to more people who are taking advantage of it, the BLS says.

3. Medical & health services manager

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 155,671
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 23 percent
  • Median salary: $88,580

Why it made the list: Much like RNs, medical and health services managers are seeing a job boom thanks to an aging population and more people with access to health insurance. Specifically, the BLS says that an increase in the number of medical facilities is likely, leading to a need for people to manage them.

4. Computer systems analyst

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 155,106
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 25 percent
  • Median salary: $79,680

Why it made the list: Our love of technology seems never-ending. That’s true of organizations, too. An increase in cloud computing, wireless and mobile networks will lead to a need for new systems created by computer systems analysts. IT consulting firms will likely see the greatest need for employees with these types of skills. Hard skills employers will look for include SQL, Oracle and Java.

5. Accountant

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 115,712
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 13 percent
  • Median salary: $63,550

Why it made the list: The demand for accountants is tied to the US economy—people need help with their finances when they’re doing well. Of course, that means the opposite is also true, which is why the BLS says this career is only growing “as fast as average.” On the plus side, demand should continue to grow as businesses continue to become global—so this may still be a worthwhile career for you.

6. Human resources specialist

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 106,109
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 7 percent
  • Median salary: $55,640

Why it made the list: First, know that projected growth is actually lower than other occupations overall. This is attributed to the growth of technology in the HR industry leading to fewer employees to complete tasks more efficiently. However, growth depends on the specialty, and many entry-level positions have salaries that are hard to beat.

7. Marketing manager

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 96,567
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 13 percent
  • Median salary: $119,480

Why it made the list: Marketing’s not going away anytime soon. Every business wants to capture new customers and retain their current ones, and marketers are the engine that drives that train. A bonus: because it’s so important, marketing managers are less likely to lose their jobs if a company downsizes.

8. Financial analyst

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 84,011
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 16 percent
  • Median salary: $76,950

Why it made the list: Investing is a complex issue, and people need help to make sure they’re making the right decisions. These days, there is a wealth of financial products to choose from, and in-depth knowledge of specific regions is often necessary for making the best decisions.

9. General & operations manager

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 78,787
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 8-14 percent
  • Median salary: $95,440

Why it made the list: Every company needs managers to make sure things run smoothly, formulate policies and plan the use of materials. You can have a range of duties and responsibilities in this career depending on your job title and the size of the company. One possible avenue is business management, which will put you in a position to make important business decisions.

10. Management analyst

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 77,178
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 19 percent
  • Median salary: $78,600

Why it made the list: Efficiency and cost control are on the minds of employers these days—two tasks at which management analysts excel. The BLS says that small consulting companies will especially need these employees to help their business.

11. Computer user support specialist

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 72,208
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 15-21 percent
  • Median salary: $46,420

Why it made the list: Technology is increasingly encroaching on day-to-day life—but not everyone’s keeping up. You know how your mom needs help installing her new printer or your grandpa can’t figure out how send an email? It’s kind of like that. Computer user support specialists help clients solve computer problems, including hardware and software issues.

12. Mechanical engineer

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 61,943
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 5 percent
  • Median salary: $80, 580

Why it made the list: This is another career where the number of job openings doesn’t quite match the projected growth, which is slower than average. It comes down to the varying specialties of mechanical engineers. Those in the architectural and mechanical fields will actually see faster than average growth, which is attributed to changing technologies and a demand for those who keep up with them.

13. Market research analyst & marketing specialist

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 61,683
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 22 percent
  • Median salary: $60,300

Why it made the list: Like marketing managers, market research analysts and marketing specialists are needed to help keep up with a company’s high marketing demands. These professionals focus on local, regional or national areas and help determine whether a product is a good fit for that area and, if so, which marketing tactic is the best fit.

14. Network & computer systems administrator

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 60,121
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 12 percent
  • Median salary: $72, 560

Why it made the list: Technology is a growing area and if businesses want to compete, they need people who understand mobile networks and cloud computing. Industries that will be hiring the most network and computer systems administrators include healthcare and computer systems design services.

15. Financial manager

  • Number of job openings in the last year: 57,253
  • Projected growth (2012-22): 9 percent
  • Median salary: $109, 740

Why it made the list: Financial managers depend on a good economy where people need their services. They’re usually tasked with planning, directing and coordinating investments and companies need these services as they grow. Commercial banking and savings institutions employ the largest number of financial managers, according to the BLS.

To sum it all up …

As you can see, there are plenty of jobs out there that could provide a nice salary and job security. They all require a little work to get to the top, but hey, an amazing career is worth it, right?

Now that you’ve seen some actual stats, how do you think your options stack up? Whether you want a career as a computer systems analyst or think you’d be a great financial manager, couple your persistence with a healthy dose of education and you’ll be on your way to one of these careers in high demand.

If you’re interested in exploring more career options based on your skills and interests, check out Rasmussen College’s What Career is Right for Me?

*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

Elizabeth Xu

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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