Forget the US News College Rankings. Enroll Here and Actually Get a Job.

That obscure liberal arts degree you're thinking about getting may not pay the bills. Here are nine cool yet practical degree programs.

| Thu Sep. 15, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

Sure, majoring in medieval French poetry sounds like a blast, but will it pay the bills after graduation? Here are some top-notch degree programs in fields that are cool and practical: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these nine industries are on a hiring spree and show no signs of stopping.
 

UNDERGRAD PROGRAMS

Nanotechnology
University at Albany-SUNY
Nanoparticles can make computers faster, electric cars more efficient, and diseases easier to detect. UAlbany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering sends interns to firms like Intel and IBM. Back on campus, they can model minuscule molecules at a 3-D computer lab.
Best bet for:
People who sweat the small stuff
Tuition: $4,970 in-state/$13,380 out-of-state

Renewable Energy
Oregon Institute of Technology
This school pairs math and science with courses on energy history and how to measure greenhouse gas emissions. Grads are now power-system engineers at utilities and solar energy firms.
Best bet for: Mathletes with a green streak
Tuition: $6,376/$20,700

See more chartsSee more charts on the shocking cost of college.Cybersecurity
University of Maryland
Participants in this program, which offers online and on-site classes catered to working adults, learn how to trace electronic threats and block hackers. Conveniently, the National Security Agency's HQ is just 30 minutes away.
Best bet for: Phreaks who want to keep their noses clean
Tuition: $7,320/$14,970

Video Game Design
DigiPen Institute of Technology
If you can handle the math-heavy courseload, this for-profit college in Redmond, Washington, could help your Angry Birds obsession take flight: DigiPen is a feeder for the likes of Nintendo and Microsoft. One group of recent grads made it big by turning a class project into the popular Half-Life spinoff Portal.
Best bet for: Highly motivated couch potatoes
Tuition: $25,000
 

GRADUATE PROGRAMS

Urban Planning
Portland State University
Students at this Oregon school's urban studies and planning program can choose from a wide range of classes on everything from poverty to pedestrians, but its coolest feature by far is a summer internship program in China, where many students work on green building projects.
Best bet for: City mice with wanderlust
Tuition: $10,584/$18,660

Read moreRead about the five gutsiest campus publications of the year.Elementary-School Education
Inner-City Teaching Corps
This two-year certification program trains recent college graduates to work in Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. Along with classroom experience, ICTC offers tuition discounts at Northwestern University's school of education. A tip for getting in to this competitive program: Your undergrad major matters less than the year you spent tutoring fourth-graders.
Best bet for: Rugged idealists
Tuition: $11,650 before scholarships, though students earn a salary of $48,631

Veterinary Science
University of Florida
Students in the College of Veterinary Medicine's marine animal health program in Gainesville learn about fish anatomy as well as how to rescue and rehabilitate dolphins, manatees, and other sea creatures—skills that could come in handy as climate change roils the oceans. One recent grad is studying the impact of the BP oil spill on sea turtles.
Best bet for: Those who dream of the life aquatic
Tuition: $23,573/$41,436

read moreHow did you make ends meet in college?Orthotics and Prosthetics
Northwestern University
Many graduates of Northwestern's unique certificate program in prosthetics and orthotics—consisting of six months of online coursework followed by 11 weeks in a clinical setting working with amputees—go on to work with vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at Veterans Affairs clinics.
Best bet for: Hands-on healers
Tuition: $22,000

Biochemistry
University of California-Berkeley
A degree from Cal's molecular and cell biology department doesn't necessarily mean you'll be publishing, perishing, or shilling for Big Pharma. This top-rated Ph.D. program places graduates in biotechnology companies that are working on cutting-edge cancer treatments and cures for devastating genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
Best bet for: Watson and Crick wannabes
Doctoral stipend: $29,500

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