What’s trending in undergrad degrees

What’s trending in undergrad degrees Graphic by | Joan McGuire

University administrators are busy preparing to launch several new undergraduate majors in the fall where they see growth in demand from industry and business.


We surveyed Oregon’s universities and colleges to see what new degrees are offered in the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years. [Check out the resulting Powerlist here.] Here are several subject areas that are on trend right now:

Leisure and hospitality

Oregon’s leisure and hospitality sector is one of a handful of industries where jobs are growing at a much faster rate than average, according to the Oregon Employment Department. Two universities are launching majors in response to increased demand from employers for management level employees that have both on-the-job training and the formal qualification of a bachelor’s degree.

Marylhurst University is offering a B.S. and B.A.S in Hospitality Management in the fall of 2017. The degree focuses on developing professional skills in restaurant management, hotel management, membership clubs and resorts. Several hospitality businesses, including STR, Embassy Suites, McMenamins, Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, and Provenance Hotels, partnered on the new program.

“Many of the influential industry executives that make up our hospitality management advisory council will tell you that when given the option, they prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management over other applicants,” said Liz Layman, marketing project manager for Marylhurst University.

Oregon State University’s College of Business has also introduced a new major in Hospitality Management at its Cascades campus in Bend. The university used to offer a concentration in the subject as part of its business major, but with increased interest from industry in hospitality degrees, it converted the concentration into a full major.

Health Services

Several universities and community colleges are offering new majors in health care to ride on the strong job growth in this recession-proof sector. The Oregon Employment Department predicted in a report last year that health services will contribute the most new jobs in the state over the next ten years.

Southern Oregon University is adding a new B.A./B.S. in Health Care Administration. Based in Ashland, the university is close to several medical facilities, including the Rogue Regional and Providence medical centers, and two regional hospitals in Ashland and Grants Pass. The area has also become a “serious retirement destination and the number of physician groups and clinics has been growing by leaps and bounds,” said Chris Stanek, director of institutional research at Southern Oregon University.

Warner Pacific University is offering a new B.S. in Medical Laboratory Science. The program aims to qualify graduates for work in diagnostic clinical, forensic, industrial and biotechnology labs. Warner Pacific is partnering with Oregon Institute of Technology on the program.

Lane Community College launched a Public Health Education Promotion Specialist degree in 2016-2017 academic year. The major prepares graduates for roles in health education, promotion and wellness programs in private business and industry. Dawn DeWolf, vice president of academic and student services, said the creation of the new program was driven by efforts spawned by the Affordable Care Act to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. 

Geospatial Information Science

The commercial market for geospatial technology is growing at an annual rate of almost 100%, according to the United States Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The subject couples theories and methods from geography and computer science to capitalize on the explosion in demand for location-based services. Technologies that use these spatial data and technologies include smart phones, social media and mapping software.

Two of Oregon’s public universities, Oregon State and University of Oregon, are launching new undergraduate majors in this fast-growing field.

The University of Oregon’s new Spatial Data Science and Technology undergraduate major starts in the fall of 2017. The university touted the employment opportunities it predicts graduates will have when it presented details of the degree to the state senate for approval.

”Globally expanding companies need technologically savvy and geographically aware experts who can guide their global management strategy,” it wrote in its presentation to lawmakers.  Recent graduates from its geography department have found jobs with Apple, MapBox, a web mapping company, National Geographic and The New York Times.  

Oregon State University offers a certificate in Geospatial Information Sciences*, but “given continued interest in this area, a major for GIS was created under the auspices of a new geography major,” said Terence Merritt, senior institutional research analyst.

Music Technology      

A handful of higher education institutions have created majors that combine music theory with advances in technology.

Portland Community College is offering a new associate’s degree in Music and Sonic Arts, which combines music, art, science, coding and design. “The degree resonates with Portland’s unique concentration of dynamic economies in the arts and tech development,” said Dan Wenger, division dean at Portland Community College’s Cascade campus.

Lane Community College has a similar new associates degree, Music Technology & Sound Engineering, which prepares students to record, edit and process music and audio for commercial and artistic uses.

Portland State University is launching a bachelor’s degree in Sonic Arts and Music Production, starting in the fall, which builds on the same theories of music and coding. 

All three majors do not require students to have a traditional background in music, reflecting efforts at higher education institutions to create more equitable access to degree programs. Portland State University’s major is designed to be “inclusive” and “reach students from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of interests.”

“The basic idea is that inclusion leads to dialogue, experimentation, innovation and breakthroughs,” said Portland Community College’s Wenger.

*Correction appended: Corrected to say Oregon State University offers a certificate in Geospatial Information Sciences. A previous version stated the university used to offer a certificate in Geospatial Information Sciences. 

Kim Moore

Kim Moore is the research editor for Oregon Business magazine.

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