Top 10 Degrees for Intellectuals

intellectual careers

Intellect is a very marketable commodity. We tend to think that smart people end up in research and higher education jobs – which is often true. But there have always been a number of lucrative alternatives to the ivory tower that require a similar amount of sheer brainpower. If you are one of the sharper knives in the drawer, you should consider turning this gift into a rewarding career. The following is a list of good career tracks and degree programs for people with an intellectual bent.

1. Actuarial Science

Actuarial science involves the measurement of risk within the context of business and finance. Actuaries spend their time evaluating the likelihood of future events then developing ways to reduce the impact of those events using data analysis. Many of these professionals work for insurance companies establishing the cost of premiums but it is common for them to work across all sectors of the economy including banks, colleges and universities, accounting firms, and government. Students interested in the major should have very strong analytical and problem-solving skills and should be prepared to take courses calculus, finance, linear algebra, and micro/macroeconomics.

Top programs:

Roosevelt University
University of Central Florida

2. Philosophy

Some of the world’s greatest thinkers spent their time pondering existential questions that have perplexed humankind for centuries. As a philosophy major, studying questions that have no concrete answers, is part of the appeal. Philosophy programs teach students about formidable thinkers of the past and how to critically engage in arguments involving moral, ethical, and analytical reasoning. Some of the world’s most notable individuals studied philosophy in college including former United States President Bill Clinton, professor and activist Noam Chomsky, comedian Stephen Colbert, and NBA legend Phil Jackson. Common coursework includes epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and symbolic logic. Students often combine a philosophy degree with other majors such as economics and political science.

Top programs:

Arizona State University
Thomas Edison State University

Top 10 degrees for intellectuals
Bioethics – an ideal degree for intellectuals.

3. Bioethics

With the rapid advancement of science, bioethics is more important than ever. The focus of a bioethics degree is to study the moral and ethical considerations and consequences of biological research. In short, the foundational learning outcome of any program is to teach students to apply ethics to research contexts that are often very complex and complicated. Graduates from these programs are interested in human advancement within ethical means. They raise questions on how research intertwines with public policy, law, technology, and medicine. Students learn the latest in biomedical research including cloning, artificial intelligence, stem cell research, and pharmaceutical therapies. Common courses include genetics and medical ethics.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

Saint Louis University
University of Rochester

4. Cognitive Psychology

A degree in cognitive psychology teaches students how the human mind processes, stores, and recalls information. Moreover, the coursework also delves into how the brain influences human feelings and behavior. Some of the most common questions the major tackles are, how do humans learn, perceive, and behave? And how does the brain influence all of these mental processes? The degree is most common at the graduate level and requires excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students also need exceptional writing and research skills. In addition to cognitive psychology courses, students will take a broad range of classes in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive science as the field of cognitive psychology continues to merge with these broader fields.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

Eastern Kentucky University
University of Virginia

5. Physics

The study of physics involves inquiry into matter, motion, space, and time. Students learn how the seen and unseen natural world and broader universe behaves through complex laws and processes. A physics degree focuses on topics such as electricity, heat, light, motion, and sound. There are endless career opportunities across industries such as engineering, healthcare, science, and more. The academic rigor in this major is high and students can expect difficult coursework along the way. Students should have an aptitude in STEM-based courses such as calculus, chemistry, engineering, differential equations, and general physics. This degree is offered at all levels including undergraduate and graduate.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

Case Western Reserve
Oregon State University

Top 10 degrees for intellectuals
Are you a thinker and problem solver? Aerospace engineering – a top degree for intellectuals.

6. Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering is a specific branch of the engineering discipline that involves the design and construction of aircraft, spacecraft, and even weapons systems. Many institutions now offer an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering, with many programs choosing to incorporate a master’s degree program added on at the end of the undergraduate experience. While most people believe these graduates end up at organizations such as NASA, which they do, many graduates are placed at leading firms doing complex and high-paying work such as Boeing, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, and Rolls-Royce. Courses involve complex subject matter like design optimization, flight dynamics, fluid mathematics, and structural mechanics.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

Florida Tech
Georgia Tech

7. History/Archival Science

Always a popular undergraduate major, history departments are often the largest departments on campus. History majors learn to think with rigor, research using best practices, and write with clarity. As society moves forward, it is becoming clearer that ahistorical attitudes and historical ignorance are very dangerous. Historians and archivists are needed to preserve the knowledge and artifacts provided by the past. Because history is all-encompassing, these majors have a vast catalog of courses to choose from, typically in the hundreds at most major universities. Moreover, students can choose from concentrations in areas such as American, Asian, comparative, and global and transnational. In addition, many students choose to combine their history degree with a double major or minor in anthropology, economics, political science, or public policy.

Top programs:

Drexel University
Norwich University

8. Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of human behavior and the development of culture. The major delves into questions and issues of social relations, biology, language, architecture, and art. At the undergraduate level, anthropology is a broad field, but students do gain exposure to the four main branches: cultural anthropology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and archaeology. Moreover, students may also choose to specialize in a geographic area such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, or North America. Individuals with a yearning to understand the social world and culture as it relates to human development and behavior are attracted to anthropology. The discipline is vast and includes courses in many subjects such as biology, history, economics, psychology, and sociology, to name a few.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

Boston University
University of Florida

Top 10 degrees for intellectuals
Economics – a top 10 degree for intellectuals.

9. Economics

Economics is a social science that teaches principles and knowledge related to monetary systems. The discipline takes a broad look at how resources are distributed to society including individuals, organizations, and geographic regions. The interdisciplinary nature of the degree means students will take courses not only in economics but geography, history, political science, sociology, and more. The two main branches of economics are microeconomics and macroeconomics. Microeconomics looks at the behavior of individuals, households, and organizations. Macroeconomics deals with economies at the regional, national, and even global scale. Students can expect courses to be taught in both lecture and seminar-style. The discipline is becoming increasingly more quantitative to meet the demand for data analysis.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

University of Delaware
Washington State University

10. Software Engineering

A software engineering degree teaches students to design, develop, produce, and maintain complex computer programs. The major is very technical in nature and requires acumen with numbers and quantitative thinking. In addition, students learn sound project management and communication skills, as industry jobs require employees to work in team environments. Software engineering degree programs prepare graduates for several occupational roles such as computer systems manager, computer systems analyst, software engineer and developer, and web developer. Students who excel in quantitative subjects such as computer science, mathematics, and natural science are a good fit for the major. In addition, students who enjoy solving complex problems may consider the major an ideal fit.

Featured Schools

Top programs:

University of Michigan
University of Texas at Dallas

BDP Staff
September 2020

This concludes our list of the top 10 degrees for intellectuals.

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