September 29, 2020
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.
Department of Biology
Linnea Ritchie Ph.D.: Absolutely. There will be an enduring impact on everyone. In the short term, the coronavirus pandemic has influenced the way people apply for jobs and how people interact in the workplace. This pandemic has highlighted the need for skilled and knowledgeable molecular biologists.
Linnea Ritchie Ph.D.: This is a difficult question. For health and safety reasons, students should be encouraged to look for jobs in areas with a low percent positive case rate. That being said, anyone deeply interested in pandemic research may find more concentrated research efforts being conducted in areas more drastically impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, cities in the US that were more affected by COVID-19 in the early months are beginning to show an increase in job recovery.
Linnea Ritchie Ph.D.: The technology significantly contributes to scientific exploration and is ever-evolving. In molecular biology, technology is constantly changing and advancing and allowing us to improve our understanding of the world under the microscope. Advanced technologies such as qPCR, Next Generation Sequencing, and CRISPR have helped improve our ability to study and understand the world under the microscope. Our ability to sequence the genomes of thousands of different microbes will lead to the discovery of entirely new species of bacteria. Careful use of CRISPR technology will allow us to more fully understand complex molecular processes like a disease.
Dr. Noelle Cutter: Skills for upcoming graduates...I am a big believer in graduates having a firm foundation in liberal arts and sciences. Employers are looking for employees who can advance in the profession, not just entry-level work. That will be the future of the workforce. The liberal arts and sciences provide a solid foundation for long term employment and career success. It is an approach to college learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change.
This approach emphasizes broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g., science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth achievement in a specific field of interest. In terms of skills, they are lifelong learning skills that are non-subject specific. These skills include the capacity to think critically, communicate clearly (both written and oral), and solve complex problems. I mean, think about the current pandemic....understanding and communicating the science of the virus is absolutely critical. The need for rigorous, critical, engaged thinking to understand the challenge and be informed citizens. It is absolutely critical.
Dr. Noelle Cutter: I think a science/biology major is such a diverse training across the US. Graduates will have success in finding job placements. Graduates can look to academia, industry, and even within their local community for job placements in very diverse areas.
In today's competitive, fast-moving economic environment, those seeking well-paying and rewarding jobs will require both specific pieces of knowledge in a field of study and a broad range of skills that extend across fields. Technology is ever-expanding, and really no one can predict where it will go in one year, let alone five. The unknown impacts of human ingenuity, climate change, and demographic shifts in an increasingly global world, among myriad other forces, ensure that the future will be unpredictable.
Dr. Noelle Cutter: In light of this, we need to prepare our students to have educational experiences that teach them about building civic capacity, broad knowledge about the liberal arts and sciences, and cultures outside the United States. One central goal of a liberal arts education is to prepare students for this uncertain future. A foundation in the liberal arts will teach students the set of skills that give them the opportunity to evolve and adapt as the world changes.