The job market can be a tough place, particularly for new college graduates. While the unemployment rate for new grads (age 21 to 24) has dropped — falling to 7.2 percent in 2014 from 9.9 percent in 2011 — according to the Economic Policy Institute, it remains significantly elevated, particularly as new graduates are forced to contend with those from the previous six years who are still searching for positions.
However, there's no reason to lose hope.
"There are a number of bright spots in specific industries where recent grads should be looking at multiple attractive offers," said Dr. Josh Shapiro, director of research and evaluation for the Center for Research on the Regional Economy at UC San Diego Extension.
According to jobs and recruiting website Glassdoor, there are plenty of hot jobs cropping up in large numbers in the technology, finance and professional services industries. In addition, companies across all industries are hiring for these positions, which is providing new graduates with a large field of job opportunities.
Glassdoor and UC San Diego Extension recently conducted separate studies to determine what some of those hot jobs are. The Glassdoor report looked at median annual base salary (based on reported salaries from a minimum of 75 employees), career opportunities and the number of open jobs.
Meanwhile, the UC San Diego Extension report used an algorithm that accounted for the number of job openings, expected median base salary (based on 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), work environment and projected growth.
Here's what the studies found:
Glassdoor Pick No. 1: Data scientist
Median annual salary: $116,840
Data scientist takes the top slot on Glassdoor's list based on high hiring demand, salary and satisfaction around career opportunities. "It's a great choice for a new grad because even if job seekers don't have data science training, there's an increasing number of coding and software boot camps designed to take post-grads with no experience to successful job candidates in as little as a few months," according to the Glassdoor report.
While tech companies are looking to hire data scientists, demand is also coming from a wide range industries that are looking for people who can perform these data functions, as they have a direct impact on companies' profitability.
Glassdoor Pick No. 2: HR manager
Median annual salary: $85,000
Human resources manager — charged with evaluating and implementing employee relations, programs and policies — ranks second, due to the high level of career opportunities and number of job openings. "As retaining top talent becomes just as important as recruiting top talent, companies are investing more to keep their employees satisfied — which means recruiting young professionals who can bring innovative ideas to the human resources department and help define and maintain company culture," according to Glassdoor.
Some employers have multiple employees in an HR role, so a new grad may start out in a different job title, such as HR coordinator, which can lead to a rewarding career path.
Glassdoor Pick No. 3: Marketing manager
Median annual salary: $90,000
Marketing managers often have a diverse range of responsibilities — from assessing existing products and managing events to developing company content. This makes it an exciting position for new grads. According to Glassdoor, it's also a great career path due to the high number of job openings, as well as the high career opportunities.
"As companies grow and interact with different stakeholders, they'll look to hire more young marketing professionals who can find unique ways to promote their offerings and seek out potential long-standing partnerships, followings and clients," according to Glassdoor.
Glassdoor Pick No. 4: Finance manager
Median annual salary: $115,000
A finance manager is responsible for controlling the transfer and investment of funds, in addition to analyzing operational performance and budgeting. The finance industry has experienced tremendous job growth over the past few years, which has translated into a high number of available positions for new grads as well as high compensation, according to Glassdoor.
Glassdoor Pick No. 5: Nurse practitioner
Median annual salary: $99,500
Coming in fifth place on Glassdoor's list are nurse practitioners — advanced practice registered nurses, trained to promote healthy living as well as diagnose and treat patients. Thanks to significant growth in the health-care industry over the last several years, the category is ripe with job opportunities, many of which offer high compensation for employees.
UC San Diego Extension Pick No. 1: Software developers
Median annual salary application developer: $90,060.
Median annual salary systems software developer: $99,000
Software developers, a job category that includes developers of apps as well as systems software, top the list of hot jobs, according to UC San Diego Extension. This is largely a result of the world's increasing digital-centric mentality, which has spurred demand for people in these roles.
"People in these jobs are in the driver's seat as they are developing and maintaining the systems that are the control panel for modern life," Shapiro said. Job growth for software developers is projected to grow by 23 percent between 2012 and 2022 — much faster than the average for all other occupations.
UC San Diego Extension Pick No. 2: Accountants
Median annual salary: $63,550
"It's a good time to be a bean counter," Shapiro said, adding that as the economy has rebounded, it has translated into an increased demand for accountants and auditors as more companies start and grow their businesses. Employment in this category is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022.
UC San Diego Extension Pick No. 3: Market research analysts
Median annual salary: $60,300
Market research analysts, who are charged with analyzing social and economic trends, defining and attracting new clients and assessing what those clients want, take the third spot on the list. "Big data is changing the field of marketing," said Shapiro. "Marketing is about more than snappy slogans; it now relies on mining databases, gathering data on consumer demographics, studying consumer-buying preferences so you can target the right audience with the right message with the right medium." These jobs are expected to grow 32 percent from 2012 to 2022.
UC San Diego Extension Pick No. 4: Computer network architects
Median annual salary: $91,000
Computer network architects, or "urban planners of the digital world," as Shapiro calls them, create the structure and systems to ensure computers and other digital devices can communicate easily and effectively with each other.
Demand for these jobs is increasing as companies expand and upgrade their mobile and wireless networks. Growth in health-care technology is also helping to fuel demand. This category is expected to grow 15 percent between 2012 and 2022.
UC San Diego Extension Pick No. 5: Management analysts
Median annual salary: $78,600
A management analyst is a professional problem solver — someone who understands how a company works and develops ways to improve efficiency and performance. It's also a position that can require a lot of travel, which may be seen as a perk for some new grads.
"These jobs are increasingly in demand as organizations of all sizes are looking for ways to streamline processes to boost efficiency and profitability," Shapiro said. Management analyst employment growth is expected to grow 19 percent between 2012 and 2022.
While these lists can offer new college graduates some direction in their future career choices, Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, said new graduates should "cast a wide net during their job search."
Doing so will allow them to "find jobs that will provide them with not only a great company culture but also the salary requirements and career advancement opportunities that can turn an entry-level job into a viable career path," he said.
— By Jennifer Woods, special to CNBC.com