These Are The College Degrees of the Future


Tech Accessories

Image for article titled These Are The Degrees of the Future

Illustration: MarcoVector (Shutterstock)

The 25 fields we’ve identified as Degrees of the Future reflect the technologies, cultural shifts, and challenges that will shape the mid-21st century. Just as the advent of computers, research into genomics, and the advancement of rocketry changed the trajectory of the 20th century, these areas are likely to produce the questions and innovations that will dominate the future careers of today’s young students.

Image for article titled These Are The Degrees of the Future

Graphic: Gizmodo/Statista



The study of the causes of diseases and their spread will continue to be crucial, particularly as climate change presents us with new health challenges and worsens the threat of pandemics. “Epidemiology provides analytic tools to better understand and respond to the urgent problems we are facing now, which will only become more urgent in the future: extreme weather, climate migration, loss of biodiversity, new zoonotic diseases that emerge from human-wildlife contact, extreme social inequity, war and violence, and more,” said Alicia Riley, a social epidemiologist at UC Santa Cruz.


Genetics and genomics will pave the way for innovations in health and better understanding of human origins. “There’s just no question that 30 years ago, if you would have told me how far genomics would be in 2022, I would have just said, you’re out of your mind, there’s no way,” said Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “Back then, I have to admit, I think most of us never thought half the things that are happening now would have happened in our lifetime, let alone within our career.” As costs of genetic testing and sequencing go down, the application of genomics across the life sciences will become ubiquitous.

Immunology & Virology

Immunology and virology respectively study the strengths and weaknesses of our body’s immune system, and some of the most dangerous threats to them: viruses. As new viral outbreaks emerge and familiar viruses mutate into new threats, it’s crucial to know how our bodies can adapt.

Molecular & Cellular Biology

Molecular and cellular biology probe the itsy-bitsy processes that make us human, from DNA replication to cell division. “It started out to be a pure scientific investigation of some absolutely classic questions in science,” said David Baltimore, biologist at Caltech and the Broad Institute and 1975 Nobel laureate. “As molecular biology has proceeded, it has developed the ability to modify living organisms and thus has gone from being a pure investigation of the theoretical interest and the scientific interest to being a central capability of our developing society.”


Neuroscience will improve our understanding of the most mysterious organ: the brain. Advances in neuroscience could allow us to better treat debilitating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS, understand how the brain’s processes allow us to speak, and even help us test the limits of consciousness. The development of brain-computer interfaces, like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, will rely on the expertise of neuroscientists.

Computer Science & IT

Artificial Intelligence

A degree in artificial intelligence will soon be relevant to just about any field. As the problems humans try to solve become bigger, some of the best solutions may be achieved with AI. AI involves subdisciplines like machine learning and deep learning, both of which are means by which computers can be trained to tackle specific issues. As AI systems become more sophisticated and ubiquitous, it will also be important to consider the ethics of their deployment.

Computer Graphics

Computer graphics determine how we experience and interact with technology; innovations in this field can literally change how we see the world. Work here will be relevant to a wide range of fields, from entertainment to medical imaging and training. “Computer graphics are needed in so many important aspects of our present, connected society,” said David Whittinghill, professor of computer graphics at Purdue University. “Screen time, something parents and even individuals (rightly) try to monitor and limit, makes up a large portion of a typical person’s waking hours. One can debate the merits of this new reality, but their ubiquity and importance is non-negotiable, and it is the prevalence of computer graphics that helps make this possible.”


In 2020, a patient in Germany died after hackers disrupted IT systems at a hospital, forcing a delay in her treatment. Ransom-seeking cyberattacks on health care systems have become a growing threat, showing the life-or-death stakes of modern cybersecurity. It’s crucial that computers are adequately guarded against bad actors, and the need for secure data storage applies to all entities in the digital age.

Data Science

As our ability to gather huge amounts of information grows, so does our need to analyze it. “It’s such a fundamental driver of progress,” said Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a data scientist at Imperial College London and Special Adviser on AI and data protection to the European Commission’s Justice Commissioner, “when you think about progress we’ve made in society, in science, by having access to an enormous quantity of data and what it can tell us about the most fundamental questions that we have.” Big data means we can tackle big questions in medicine, physics, and engineering—but it comes with its own ethical pitfalls, including huge threats to privacy.

Game Design

Games are a reflection of our world and help shape the way we see it. For children, games can be a way of learning fundamental interpersonal and problem-solving skills—and so the way games are designed has a very real impact on society. “There’s been a shift away from tangible, mechanical approaches to design and more exploration of aesthetics and vibes and how to design for those,” said Sherveen Uduwana, a game designer and project lead on “Midautumn” and an instructor at Code Coven, an accelerator for marginalized game developers. “Many more designers are moving away from trying to create wholly new systems and features and are finding ways to recontextualize pre-existing ideas in a way that feels specific to their game and feels compelling to players.”

UX Design

User experience design affects everyone, from voters trying to understand their ballots to a grandparent trying to video call with their grandchild. It’s crucial that these interfaces meet their moment, by making technologies like health care portals and smartphones as intuitive as possible. “User experience runs the gamut of trying to make sure that the software technologies that we’re dealing with are ones that work for and alongside people,” said Bridget Blodgett, director of the University of Baltimore’s Certificate in User Experience. “It is meeting human psychology and human physiology where it’s at, and trying to make sure that our software is actively engaging us in ways that are helpful.”

Engineering & Physics

Aerospace & Astronautics

Spaceflight, once the sole domain of government-backed agencies like NASA and Roscosmos, is now a thriving commercial venture, and innovations in rocketry and orbital technology are increasingly coming from private companies. At the same time, space agencies are still creating incredible new tech (like fully electric planes) and launching new missions to explore the solar system like never before. Many of these plans take shape on the scale of decades, so the work of today’s students and early career engineers will be influential for generations to come.

Astronomy & Astrophysics

Knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics is crucial to understanding some of the most fundamental questions of our universe. We cannot know the origins of anything—from galaxies to black holes to life itself—without studying the cosmos in detail. New telescope missions are bringing us closer to answers, but it takes time. “You need a lot of exploration to find anything that might later be perceived as useful,” said Sara Seager, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT. “Once in a while, we get a major discovery that changes life as we know it.”

Autonomy & Robotics

Automated systems have long dominated manufacturing, but now they’re moving into customer service, medical care, warfare, and so many other environments—they’re even controlling the rovers currently driving around Mars. “Robotics is extremely important, since it has the potential to help humans to solve complex, dangerous tasks in a more efficient and safer way,” said Giuseppe Loianno, director of the Agile Robotics and Perception Lab at New York University. “It is certainly the degree of the future, since upcoming graduates will gain unprecedented knowledge and experience at the intersection of several scientific areas, such as robotics, machine learning, communication, and control.”

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering will help us go beyond the antibiotics, antivirals, and steroids that dominated last century’s medical arsenal. From drug-carrying nanorobots to genetic and tissue engineering, biomedical engineers build the technologies required for state-of-the-art medicine.

Energy Engineering

As we move away from fossil fuels, energy engineering will help us find more efficient alternatives and better ways to use existing renewable energy like wind and solar. The field produces innovations in energy production, storage, consumption, and distribution, and will hopefully free us from our destructive reliance on oil and gas.

Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineers help balance human needs and health with the preservation of nature. They will design future infrastructure and systems that are more efficient and less polluting. Their work will result in better waste management and recycling, cleaner cities, and safer industrial sites.

Medical & Healthcare

Health Informatics

Health informatics broadly describes the streamlining of patient data processes and the administration of health care. Data-driven approaches will overhaul older forms of medical record keeping, to ease the work of medical professionals as well as the patient’s burden of sifting through paperwork and lab results and tracking their own health history.

Health Research & Innovation

Medicine has come so far in 100 years—and yet many diseases have eluded our best efforts at treatments and cures. Research in cell lines, animals, and computer models steadily progresses into human therapies. New ways of testing and developing drugs should speed the pace of innovation in the coming years.

Medical Microbiology & Bacteriology

The study of microorganisms their impacts on human health will help us manage threats and even harness their potential benefits. The bacteria that call us home shape seemingly every aspect of our health—especially our ability to digest food—and better understanding them could open up new avenues of medical treatments.

Social Science

Diversity & Gender Studies

Diversity and gender studies are degrees of the future because they are studies in what makes us human and are furthering the conversation about how we see ourselves. Equality and representation are fundamental to progress and innovation across disciplines.

International Relations & International Security Studies

International relations and international security must evolve to address new threats like cyberwarfare, both between countries and within them. Climate refugees, water scarcity, the rise of fascist movements, and other challenges will occupy international relations experts in the coming decades.


Environmental Science & Climate Change

Understanding climate change and its effects is crucial for mitigating its immediate impacts. Earth’s environments are changing as the planet warms due to human industry. Building better climate models will help us understand how these effects will materialize, and other interdisciplinary degrees like data science will help us get there.


Runaway growth and rampant waste cannot continue the way they did in the 20th century—our natural resources are limited, and environmental destruction is an existential threat to both wildlife and human society. Figuring out how to make our lifestyles sustainable is the biggest challenge of the 21st century.

Urban Planning

Cities need to be designed to be more energy efficient, resilient, and affordable. Urban planners today are dealing with challenges that didn’t exist 30 years ago, including more frequent and more extreme weather emergencies. They’re also dealing with the impacts of decisions made long ago, like the prioritization of cars over pedestrians. Urban planning is essential if we want our cities to become more pleasant and safe.

How did Gizmodo determine this year’s honorees? Check out the methodology or return to the full Degrees of the Future 2022 list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.