June 10, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Lucy Parker-Barnes Ph.D.: Many graduates and undergraduates are impacted by the changes that COVID and the post-COVID vaccine world have had on the job market. Particularly, in the mental health field, our students have been impacted by an increase in the clients they need to serve while also being limited due to safety concerns. Additionally, our students endure common existential angst that other students are dealing with during COVID, including isolation due to being home, Zoom fatigue, and the existence of continued ambiguity due to the pandemic.
Lucy Parker-Barnes Ph.D.: For our counseling program, the various certifications and license requirements needed for career seekers include obtaining their National Counselor credential (i.e., by passing the National Counselor Examination), their state licensure, which in Pennsylvania includes the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) status, among others.
Lucy Parker-Barnes Ph.D.: Students graduating from counseling programs will increase their earning potential through specializing in their practice. For example, various private practice facilities and agencies seek to have various counselors representing folks focused in various areas. One such credential includes the CADC or Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor status. As described earlier, the most efficient way for students to earn more money includes gaining their full certification and licensure (NCC and LPC).
Melinda Blackman Ph.D.: I think that organizations will see that for many positions that their employees can successfully work from home. Many organizations may give up their physical space and turn into virtual workplaces to save money.
Melinda Blackman Ph.D.: Statistical analysis skills are key for organizations that want to evaluate their productivity, the effectiveness of their training programs and look at trends within their company. Also survey development skills are another bonus to have as well as critical thinking skills.
Melinda Blackman Ph.D.: As for faculty/professors' salaries, they have increased moderately over the years with the cost of living.
Whitney Wall Ph.D.: While we have all felt the impact of the pandemic and there will be many enduring impacts yet to be seen, I'm proud of our students' ability to remain on-track academically throughout this past year. Many had to adjust to online learning for the first time while caring for children and other family members and managing their own health and wellness. On top of all this, many of our students work full time. Despite these tremendous barriers, most of our students remained on-track with their degree plans. We've also been able to provide student struggling during the COVID pandemic with additional COVID-specific accommodations to limit the academic impacts. While some enduring impacts related to this year are inevitable, I think our students have demonstrated great resiliency! I also believe that there will be positive enduring outcomes that will come from this year: faculty have increased their knowledge of technical resources, students have become more familiar and confident with online learning (a growing trend prior to the pandemic), and we've certainly all been forced outside of our comfort zones which is where personal growth happens.
Whitney Wall Ph.D.: The field of psychology is broad, which is great, however, any specific training/skills that you can gain/demonstrate within your area of interest can be helpful. Depending on your personal goals, gaining hands-on research experience can be very important and can open doors, especially if you hope to attend graduate school. Internships and/or relevant work experience are also recommended.
Whitney Wall Ph.D.: Psychology majors experience great training in communication, writing, critical thinking, and research, which are great assets to the workforce and are skills that increase earning potential. As with most fields, obtaining a graduate degree also increases earning potential.
Department of Psychology and Human Services
Dr. Richard Farmer: Yes. Two major changes will be a continuation of remote learning for athletes and those stuck in rooms or at home. This will require new technologies and teaching strategies. Second, this year has opened up a new phase of online learning for us as an institution.
Dr. Richard Farmer: 1. Our New Faith and Mental Health classes.
2. Combination of Graduate and Undergraduate Courses for Seniors and our new MA Programs in Counseling Psychology.
3. Our Addiction course offerings.
Dr. Richard Farmer: Quality internships, practical skills emphasis, combination of psychology and human services, and liscensure in large need areas.
Nancy Ann Hamilton: It is really too soon to tell. Prior to the pandemic there was a large gap between the workforce demand for PhD clinical psychologists (as well as mental health professionals), especially those who work in hospitals, and the number of PhD clinical psychologists being trained. There is little doubt that the pandemic has increased the number of people in need of mental health services. However, funding at all levels has been strained to the breaking point and sadly, mental health care is often treated as a luxury, rather than a necessity. So, it is difficult to know how the tension for need and funding will be resolved.
Nancy Ann Hamilton: Clinical psychologist training follows strict accreditation guidelines from the American Psychological Association. So, all clinical psychologists have competency in a range of skills including delivery of empirically supported treatments for a range of common types of mental illness including depression, anxiety disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc., psychological assessment, and research methodology. Some psychologists, called Health Psychologists, receive additional training that allows us to practice in medical settings in order to work with patients who have mental health needs that interact with their physical health problems. It seems likely that during and post-pandemic these types of skills will be in higher demand.
Nancy Ann Hamilton: Salaries for clinical psychologists have remained rather flat because there are constraints in billing that limit psychological practice.
Christopher Was Ph.D.: It is my sense that this will largely depend on the setting in which our graduates find employment. Large universities are still struggling with maintaining social distance and other safety protocols in order to keep students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy. Smaller colleges are able to maintain face-to-face classes due to smaller class sizes. The greatest, and perhaps most enduring impact, is how we conduct research in experimental psychology. My laboratory has been closed since March of 2020 and all of data has been collecting via online platforms since then. New graduates with advanced degrees in experimental psychology will need to work in these virtual settings to succeed.
Christopher Was Ph.D.: For recent graduates, as well as those of us currently in the field, it is going to mean spending more time working at home, attending virtual meetings, and working with students remotely.
Christopher Was Ph.D.: The technical skills that will stand out are virtual/remote teaching skills and virtual/remoter research skills. Experience teaching online in platforms such as Blackboard and others will be seen as valuable by universities and colleges as more students demand online courses. Also, programming experiments for online platforms will also be highly valued. I am hopeful that university psychology laboratories will continue to reopen as we move out of the pandemic, but being able to reach research participants beyond of the undergraduate subject pool has broadened the generalizability of studies in experimental psychology.