In China, a college education is a really big deal. Recent years have seen a major enrollment boom, with university student populations swelling by as much as 30%. But at the same time, there are high levels of unemployment among recent graduates in many industries. In fact, it’s estimated that one-third of China’s 5.6 million 2008 graduates were unemployed during their first year after school. The culprit? Oversaturated college majors. Many students in China flock to the same ultra-competitive fields of study, hoping to find a lucrative job, but instead find a very difficult employment market. In others, however, there’s still plenty of room for growth, allowing for lots of new graduates to find great jobs. Read on as we explore 10 of the hottest areas of study for Chinese students, and discuss which ones are winners for great job opportunities in the country.
- Information technology:
China has become a powerhouse of IT, even surpassing the U.S. with research and development personnel. In fact, just in 2009, China graduated half a million students with IT and other related degrees. In that same year, Chinese researchers also surpassed the U.S. with more published papers in IT. IT is a big deal in China, so it’s not hard to understand why so many students flock to the major. Of course, this does mean that there’s a lot of competition for IT jobs in the country. Still, there is no shortage of positions for well-qualified IT grads in China, and although some shy away from this densely populated study, many others still consider to be a valuable career.
- Electrical engineering:
China has been long recognized as the world’s superpower in electronics manufacturing, creating half of the world’s TVs and mobile phones, and most of the world’s personal computers and monitors. Overall, 33% of China’s graduates are engineers of some sort, many of them in the field of electrical engineering. With an ever-growing electricity sector and continually booming electrical manufacturing industry, this major is a really hot ticket for students in China. There’s still plenty of room for growth as well, as relative to population size, the number of research and development personnel in engineering is still low compared to major developed nations like the U.S. and Japan.
Many students in China major in languages, particularly in English. For many students, it’s a smart move, allowing them to participate in global business with America and other English-speaking countries. But similar to English majors in the U.S., job prospects are limited for students with English degrees. Still, for some students, studying English in China is just a stepping-stone to higher education in the United States. In recent years, the number of Chinese undergrads in the U.S. has tripled to make them the largest group of foreign students in U.S. colleges. In fact, many American colleges push to recruit in China, pulling students out of fierce competition in Chinese universities, while bolstering the university’s international appeal.
Many Chinese students aspire to be lawyers, envisioning a lucrative legal career in their futures. This is an incredibly popular major, but it can be difficult to actually develop a career in this field. Some of the top universities in China have more than 6,000 law students each. But getting through overcrowded law schools isn’t the biggest challenge. Many Chinese students find that bar exams are extremely difficult; in fact, there are very low passing rates each year. And among those who do pass the test, there is intense competition, as the graduates of this very popular major go on to compete for the best attorney jobs.
- Mechanical engineering:
Like electrical engineering, mechanical engineering is another hot education and employment field in China. Unlike many of the other popular college majors in China, mechanical engineering has some of the best job opportunities in the country. Geological engineers enjoy a 100% employment rate, while marine engineering and petroleum engineering follow closely at 98.6% and 97.2%, respectively. Even oil and gas storage and transportation enjoys a very high rate of employment at 95.7%, so it’s not hard to understand why students in China flock to mechanical engineering and related majors.
Architecture is a big deal in China, and it’s one of the most popular areas of study for Chinese students. In fact, China is a hub of architectural education, attracting even many international students in search of a great architecture degree. China is an exciting architectural place, so it’s obvious why so many students choose to study this subject. And China’s explosive growth ensures that architecture students have plenty of opportunities for employment. In fact, China is so rich with architecture work that architects and designers from the U.S., Europe, and South America are flocking to the country for opportunities. This does make the field all the more competitive, but well-qualified graduates of Chinese architecture programs will be poised to compete with the best of them.
- Accounting and finance:
In addition to architecture, China is a major financial hub, making accounting and finance a popular major. Accounting in particular is a very popular major, but the field is famous for fierce competition and low employment, combining excessive accounting professionals with difficult CPA exams. However, financial engineers fare much better, with one of the most employable majors in China, enjoying an employment rate of 98.6%. With a degree in financial engineering, students are able to take on major financial challenges, including international careers in finance that benefit from analytical finance skills.
Journalism is an area of study that attracts lots of students, but unfortunately, that means it’s not really a great choice for Chinese students. So many students graduate with journalism degrees that the market is absolutely flooded. At the same time, the Chinese media industry is downsizing. It’s even hard for many Chinese journalism majors to find an internship.
Historically, medicine has been a dependable and lucrative source of employment worldwide, so many Chinese families encourage their children to pursue jobs in the field, especially as doctors. For students of medical imaging, this is a smart move, with an employment rate of 96.3%. But for physicians, the market is so flooded with candidates that it can be difficult, if not impossible, for them to find jobs. Thanks to an overly large supply of medical graduates, there are not enough hospital openings to go around, and the unemployment rate for clinical medicine physicians is 23.1%.
- Business management:
Plenty of students in China major in business management, making it one of the most popular fields of study in the country. But at the same time, there’s not a lot of demand for business graduates. Chinese firms, and especially manufacturers, tend to be “top-light,” meaning they have lots of workers, but not lots of managers. Typically, Chinese companies have very little need to do their own marketing and product development, as so much of China’s business is export contracts in which they produce pre-specified products. This makes it difficult for Chinese business management majors to find a job in a competitive market.