You’ve finished your final exams, walked across the stage, and are holding that shiny diploma for which you’ve worked so hard. Now what? I mean, after the Instagram and Snap stories.
Taking those first steps into the job market can be scary — but it can also be exciting. If you’re one of the few who know what you want to do when you started college and have earned a degree in that field, congratulations! If not, don’t worry. As few as 27 percent of college graduates work in their field of study after graduation, so if you’re still deciding on a direction or wondering “What’s next?,” you’re not alone.
And, while we hear a lot about STEM and the world’s growing need for graduates knowledgeable in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, one of the most promising career fields is focused on helping people. Almost everyone needs help planning for retirement savings, debt repayments and tax planning and specialized financial knowledge isn’t a pre-requisite.
Whatever your situation, don’t limit yourself to just the jobs you already know about. A helpful strategy is to identify fast-growing jobs in expanding fields with good pay and long-term growth prospects that can offer financial stability and promise for years to come. Here are a few promising careers you may not have heard about that are worth investigating:
1. Solar Photovoltaic Installer
So maybe it’s not easy to say, but as rooftop solar arrays have become increasingly affordable and effective, their popularity has grown among consumers with a wide range of backgrounds and in a wide number of economic brackets. Solar has been volatile over the past decade, but it looks to have longevity, in addition to its current rapid growth. A college degree isn’t needed for this field, but having one won’t exclude you — as long as you’re not afraid of heights and enjoy working outdoors Perhaps the best part? Most solar energy companies provide robust training for employees.
Median wage: $39,490 a year
Job growth: 105% a year
Entry-level education requirement: high school diploma
2. Genetic Counselor
Ever done a 23andMe test with your family to find your “hometown” vacation destination? Genetic testing to assess risk and match family members has been around in commercial form for less than 20 years, but the technology has advanced to make the tests more reliable and available than ever. The ease of use is spurring widespread adoption, allowing people to find long-lost family members and find out more about what conditions they might be susceptible to long before symptoms appear. For those with a master’s degree in genetics, genetic counseling is a great new career choice. Counselors can help interpret genetic information, specifically as it relates to inherited diseases and conditions, and be advocates for people at risk. If you're interested in this career path, consider applying to graduate schools after obtaining your bachelor's.
Median wage: $77,480 a year
Job growth: 29% a year
Entry-level education requirement: master’s degree in genetics
3. Information Security Analyst
Looking for a way to make that video gaming pay off? With technology touching every part of life, personal information is more at risk than ever. And with headlines featuring constant reports of data breaches, that’s a concern that has long passed the line between theory and reality. In order to stop the bad actors from finding and exploiting weaknesses in cybersecurity, good people are needed to find—and fix—them first. That's where information security analysts come in. While many information security analysts have bachelor's degrees in computer science or engineering, others have degrees in more broad topics, such as business administration, information science or other topics.
Median wage: $95,150 a year
Job growth: 28% a year
Entry-level education requirement: bachelor’s degree
4. Financial Advisor
No, it’s not Wolf of Wall Street. Almost a quarter of Americans have no retirement savings, and most of those who have saved are underfunded, experts warn, making financial planning more important than ever. Financial advisors often enjoy flexible hours, and can work in a large firm or for themselves, and are compensated well. They can help both clients and their family and friends find financial stability at their current stage of life and set them up to succeed financially for years to come. No day is the same, which keeps the job interesting – people’s personal situations, market fluctuations, changes in tariffs and tax policy, and geopolitical climate all affect financial planning. The field is growing fast, and there is immediate demand for advisors of all backgrounds to work with a diverse client base.
Median wage: $90,640 a year
Job growth: 15% a year
Entry-level education requirement: bachelor’s degree
There are many other jobs that aren’t obvious during the career-choosing process, but that are rewarding.
When you’re ready to start applying and interviewing, take a minute to update your LinkedIn profile and make sure your other social media accounts shine a positive light on you. If you’re still using your school email address, create a professional email address. Make sure your voicemail is set up and update your resume with relevant experience, including skills you may have gained in college or in other jobs or internships that carry over across industry lines.
If you’re still not sure what a job or industry is like — or if it’s right for you — try asking someone working in it. Network to find people who are in or connected to the fields you’re curious about, or contact them over social media. Don’t feel shy about asking someone to answer questions over email, phone, Skype or even a quick meeting for coffee. Very few people will say "no" to taking 15 minutes or a half hour to help someone interested in learning more about what they do. Even if you decide that the field isn’t what you’re looking for, you can make a new contact that will help you find your way to a role that works for you.
Kate Healy, Managing Director, Generation Next, TD Ameritrade Institutional, is widely recognized as a leading advocate for the rising generation of financial planners.