Each year June 7, 8, and 9 are the most important dates for a Chinese high school senior student and his family. During these three days hundreds of thousands of high school graduating seniors in China enter the “college entrance exams” at the same time all through the nation. They take standardized exams in subjects such as Mathematics, Chinese, English, Politics, Physics, Chemistry, etc. At the end of each exam all the papers are collected and sent to centralized places for scoring. Around June 23 or 24, the scores are out and each student’s fate is determined based on his scores – achieving high scores means that he will be able to go to top-level universities with prestige; whereas scoring low would lead to settling for lower-ranked colleges or even not being accepted by any college.
Unlike universities in America or Europe, students in China apply for majors when they take the college entrance exam. Due to fierce competitions, to get in a “hot” major program, one must score high enough as many people are interested in that major. When a student’s scores do not qualify him for the major of choice, he may be pushed down to a less popular major in college. Whether a major is in demand or not depends primarily on its job prospect. However, sometimes a major that is “hot” and requires high scores when a student starts the program may become “cold” and has poor job prospect when he graduates four years later. Therefore choosing a major requires foresight of the future job market.
Currently what are the majors with the best job prospects in China? They are: geological engineering; financial engineering; ocean transportation and marine engineering; education; petroleum engineering; medical imaging; mining; oil and gas storage and transportation; and logistics.
Labor statistics indicate that the employment rate for geological engineering in China is 100%. Graduates from this major work in fields such as natural resources development and evaluation; survey; project design, construction, and management. Employers include companies and research institutes in geological, seismic, metallurgy, oil, water, electricity and hydropower industries.
The employment rate for financial engineering is 98.6%. Students of this major learn to apply mathematical, statistical, and information technology to financial activities. Courses include financial modeling, advanced financial theory and application, securities and derivatives, foreign exchanges, risk analysis and control, banking, advanced algebra, statistics, econometrics, etc. Graduates usually work for investment banks, commercial banks, securities companies, trusts, funds, insurance companies, or financial departments of large corporations.
The employment rate for ocean transportation and marine engineering is 98.6%. As tremendous volume of daily shipments pass through China’s ports, significant number of skilled professionals is needed in this area.
The employment rate is 97.2% for petroleum engineering, and 95.7% for oil and gas storage and transportation majors. Graduates work in careers such as oil and gas field evaluation and design; drilling and production; reservoir engineering; natural gas exploitation; pipeline design and management. Employers include China Petrochemical Corporation; China National Petroleum Corporation; China National Offshore Oil Corporation; petrochemical research institutes; oil and gas fields; and companies that engage in oil and gas trading, storage, transportation, planning, survey, design and other supporting activities. Although the line of work can be onerous, employees are usually rewarded handsomely.
The employment rate for medical imaging is 96.3%. Graduates work as technicians that operate radiation machines, ultrasound, CT, MRI, DSA, etc. in hospitals. Some are also employed by medical equipment companies. They are generally well-paid.
What are the majors with worst job markets in China at present? They are: physicians, attorneys, accountants, media, bio-technology, and fine arts majors.
Unemployment rate is 23.1% for clinical medicine and 18.4% for alternative medicine. With large supply of medical major graduates, there are not enough openings in hospitals. The health care reform in China has been stagnant. Nearly two-thirds of medical major graduates are not able to become doctors.
The same situations are endured by students who aspire to be attorneys and accountants. There are much more supplies of these professionals than demands. Further, every year there are lots of other graduates who are trying to enter these fields as well, resulting in fierce competition for employment. In addition, to succeed one must pass difficult Bar or CPA exams, which set very low passing rates each year.
The rule of supply and demand also works against media major. Tremendous number of people graduates with this major each year, while in the mean time the media industry is slashing lots of jobs. It is extremely hard to even find an internship.
For the bio-tech major, there are few quality companies in China that can turn bio-tech researches into everyday life applications with business potentials. For the fine arts major, there are simply not enough good-paying jobs in this career to go around.