November 15, 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.
Kentucky Christian University
University of Alabama
Old Dominion University
University of Wisconsin UW Milwaukee
Northern Michigan University
California State University, Fresno
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Missouri Baptist University
Lewis and Clark College
Dr. Rob O'Lynn: In terms of the ministry job market, it has always been a tricky market to navigate. There are still more candidates than there are positions. Also, over the last couple of decades, the number of full-time jobs in ministry have decreased. Now, many congregations can only afford a part-time minister or rely on a heavy cadre of volunteers. Yet, there are also congregations across the country that are growing -- some at phenomenal rates.
These congregations employ a vast array of full-time and part-time ministers and support staff persons. I think most ministry positions in a post-pandemic society will continue to trend toward positions at mostly smaller congregations, and then primarily part-time. This will require many ministers to seek bi-vocational employment, something that many associates, youth and worship ministers (and academics, like myself) have been relying on for several years.
Dr. Rob O'Lynn: Technology has long been a friend to the Church, as everything from the Roman roadways to the Guttenburg printing press to the internet has helped spread the gospel. I do not see this trend going away anytime soon. If the pandemic has taught the Church anything, it is that the Church must adapt to technology. Many ministers are familiar with applications like Sermonary, Evernote, or Notebird. However, we have used those apps for personal preparation. We will need to turn more outward. We have lived in a post-website society for nearly a decade. No website means no traffic. However, Facebook replaced websites a few years ago -- which means that ministers must use social media, like Instagram and Facebook, both appropriately and effectively.
Additionally, websites are still needed -- and much easier to manage, thanks to servers like WordPress. Also, live streaming worship services and Bible studies are the future. There is mounting research that indicates that being online is the more sure way to maintain a connection with members -- and the broader community -- during the pandemic. Knowing how to use Facebook Live, YouTube Live, or a streaming website application could be the difference between closing for good and staying open during and following the pandemic.
Dr. Rob O'Lynn: I do believe the demand for ministers will continue to exist over the next five years. Ministers resign or retire every week. Positions remain open for months, even years, despite saturated candidate pools. As the landscape of religion in America continues to evolve post-pandemic, I think we will see a surge in ministry work, as has often happened throughout the Church's history. As older, declining congregations close, newer congregations will assume those properties and establish new plants that will need ministers to serve them. Communities that survive the pandemic and continue carrying on will still need ministers to help them. Larger and growing congregations are always looking for new staff to add to various ministry departments or affiliated campuses. Also, remember parachurch organizations, like campus ministry programs, chaplaincy departments, Christian camps, and higher religious education.
Dr. Reesha Adamson: With the current hybrid and virtual environments required within K-12 educational settings, knowledge around technology and resources is vital. There are multiple inexpensive certifications offered through Microsoft, Google, and Apple for educators, and these educational certifications make candidates stand out as competent and trendsetters. The format and context for education delivery typically fall within these platforms, and the knowledge of future teachers about their features allows them to build internal supports to differentiate instruction and use the technology as a tool to enhance and accommodate high-quality education but not to supplement instruction.
Also, future teachers documenting their abilities to adapt and be creative in their thinking is critical. We know that this year and potentially future years do not look typical. Their experiences within practicum and student teaching may be substantially different from their predecessors and potential colleagues. Therefore, highlighting their versatility and ability to rise above challenges and still get successful student outcomes is essential.
Creating high quality of engagement through innovative and authentic assignments that are versatile is critical. I believe it is essential for students to feature their abilities to develop multimodal lessons that could be implemented in person, virtually, and with potentially minimal support is a crucial component for educational success in the classroom. I also believe that thinking about the school and instruction beyond just the "school walls" has been a revolution that I hope catches fire and continues to push the educational community forward. We have a chance to reinvent public education and think about how to ensure that we are meeting all students' needs, across all formats, and within a framework of research and evidence-based practices. Students that can demonstrate their knowledge and abilities around using assignments based on research and outlets to access best practices will be the most qualified for academic positions in the future.
Finally, the knowledge around assessment and data collection is critical for any educator, but more specifically, for our special educators. Having formative assessments that are naturally embedded in instruction and can help determine instructional needs and design allows future educators to be playful in their approach to educational outcomes, have a targeted direction for implementation, and know that their practices are grounded within science. These distinctions create promise and possibility for student achievement beyond other formats.
Dr. Reesha Adamson: The use of technology to change the field is vital. However, there are some significant negative connotations around technology, and with the hasty introduction of virtual learning environments, there is probably going to be a stigma associated with their use. Primarily, schools were asked to pivot to virtual instruction with little warning or training, and many of the formats used were not conducive to student growth and development. Many were put together without considerable planning. The first step will be to show parents, specifically when discussing a student's educational goals and priorities, how instruction can enhance instruction. Schools and technology companies will be more in-line and partnering to help support a field that has been oversaturated with options. Our federal special education research office (OSEP) and our educational sciences institute (IES) have continuously put out vetted resources and possibilities for using technology effectively within instruction. They have also put out special funding to help answer the need to measure the effectiveness of the use of technology and prioritize making up educational deficits that may exist from our most vulnerable student populations missing education and not meeting targeted outcomes.
We are also working to address this challenge by embedding technology outcomes within our course, offering additional certifications for students within the coursework, and even initiating certificates and specialty training around technology and diverse learners. Ultimately, we can think about education in entirely different contexts than before and potentially create a generation of students ready to take on the current world and support a revolution in our thinking about how education and employment have to look. I can only hope we see the promise and expansion of technology positively within the next five years to make sure that we are a leading nation in developing resources and our students' support to make the most significant educational gains that they can.
Dr. Reesha Adamson: No graduate's experience is like that of any other cohort or generation. They are a cohort of resiliency, versatility, and change. We have seen these themes presented within an uprising of educators about the field over the past years. Still, this generation of students is in a place to advocate for themselves and the area like never before. Our nation has been facing a crisis over a pandemic and a racial problem that cannot be ignored. The use and scrutiny of social media and popular press have been discussed on national platforms, and ultimately answers continuously come back to the science and data behind decisions.
I believe that this generation of students, more than any other, know the importance of science and data collectively better than others, highlighting their experiences and decisions in the future. Graduates genuinely do have the power to change the world, and they are going to be entering the field of education in a time where a broken system of underpaid and understaffed professionals was highlighted on a national platform and impacted all generations and classes of individuals. Having Dr. Jill Biden in the White House, and as a long-standing educator with knowledge about our system and experience with this graduating class, can help catalyze a system that needs to be redefined.
I am hopeful of a nation of change and promise and the creation of acknowledgment of the valuable resource and commodity that teachers and educators are. We know what needs to be done to improve kids' outcomes, but the process to get there is complicated and is only compounded by an underfunded and continuously unsupported system. I hope that these graduates not only have been given the voice to speak up about the issues of injustice, but the knowledge and reasoning to be able to determine what practices are grounded in science and the ability to directly impact change across our nation to create the best possible outcomes for ALL students of ALL abilities.
Dr. Millie Dawson-Hardy Ph.D.: As a school counselor and with what I have seen this year and last, I would say the #1 requirement is the ability to be flexible, #2 be able to multi-task, and #3 take care of yourself well as your students. These are some of the very same characteristics I saw listed in books back in the 80s when I was getting my MEd in school counseling, but interesting, they are just as pertinent in the current situation. Specifically, knowing about eLearning and how to help students with the challenges of communication in eLearning and finally experience what anxiety looks like in school-age people and how to share coping skills with these students.
Suzanne Mayer Ph.D.: It is true, as the pandemic has made increasingly clear, that skills in communicating in a virtual world are needed to provide the platform for telemental health. However, the necessary skills of the caring counselor are still foundational: so, ethical decision making, genuine respect for each person's dignity, solid training, and mentoring. The early theory builders were not wrong that healing occurs in and through what happens in the relationship, so training individuals in the characteristics and capacity that lay the groundwork continues in the current workplace.
Suzanne Mayer Ph.D.: If, as this period seems to be foreshadowing, the location becomes among the least decisive variables in determining where the counselor practices, it should no longer prove a hindrance or advantage for a practice location. With telemental health reaching into even rural and underpopulated areas, and sending needed resources into pockets of the latest crisis or trauma, what those currently in training should look for is where they can exercise whatever specific skills they most value, what group[s] they see themselves as being called to serve, and where pockets of need loom most.
Suzanne Mayer Ph.D.: As is evident from my previous answers, the need to reach out to persons with technology needs will be made increasingly more available and affordable. Then, it remains for the young, bright, dedicated grads to go and get trained to reach whoever is the most in need -- burnt-out veterans, addiction clients who are almost at the point of giving up, overlooked and underserved populations who do not believe anyone can or will help and, most significantly, young people in pockets of turmoil, crime and decay.
Dr. Emily Goodman-Scott Ph.D.: I think it stands out when: (a) applicants come from a strong, accredited school counseling master's program that is known for producing exemplary school counselors, (b) applicants have a working knowledge of the ASCA National Model (American School Counselor Association) and comfort with data-driven school counseling practices, (c) school counselors have practical experience that relates to the job: internship, and perhaps other experiences working with children and adolescents, (d) knowledge and expertise that address current events, such as trauma; technology; college-and-career-readiness; diversity, social justice, and anti-racism; and mental health.
Dr. Emily Goodman-Scott Ph.D.: Getting experience working/volunteering in schools, and other capacities working/volunteering with youth: learn the culture of education, build rapport and be in relationship with youth and their families.
Dr. Emily Goodman-Scott Ph.D.: The coronavirus is changing education, perhaps forever; while many students struggle with online learning, others are thriving. I wonder if we'll offer more online learning in the future?
Jeanne Wagner: No, not in the long-term sense, as I think our graduates will be better prepared to handle a crisis following this pandemic. I also think they are learning to be flexible and creative during these challenging times. They may struggle initially with on-site normal client services post-pandemic, but I think this will be very brief in duration for most graduates.
Jeanne Wagner: Social workers are needed in all parts of the US, from urban to suburban to rural areas. There are more opportunities in urban areas due to the large number of organizations that employ social workers. Still, I believe that social workers can find jobs post-degree but may need to commute in some cases.
Jeanne Wagner: The pandemic has forced social services to engage in technology in a way that was not predicted; however, I believe that some of these technologies will become the norm for years to come, especially as clients become more comfortable in a virtual world. Technology is not a perfect substitute for traditional social work services, but it can supplement, when needed, to ensure that clients receive services.
Stacey Havlik Ph.D.: School counselors must be great at building partnerships and connecting students and families to resources. They should also be adept at brief counseling to support students' social/emotional, academic, and career/college development and gather evidence showing their effectiveness.
Stacey Havlik Ph.D.: Some states are better than others in terms of their school counselor to student ratio. In general, students should look to work in places with low student: counselor ratios and in areas that value and recognize the need for school counseling.
Stacey Havlik Ph.D.: There will undoubtedly be more online resources available for students over the next five years. School counselors will become more accessible to students who are homebound and working virtually. Over time, more and more creative tools will become available that school counselors can integrate into their practices.
Dr. Keith Lavine Ph.D.: Probably the best place to start is to look at the latest competency model developed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Below is the link to the webpage where individuals can learn more about the different competencies. Their model gets updated every few years, so it always reflects the latest thinking on what is essential for HR professionals in the field.
Of all of the SHRM competencies, the one that is perhaps most noteworthy because of its increasing importance in the coming years is Global and Cultural Effectiveness. This is partly due to the changing demographics of the U.S. workforce, the growing use of teams in organizations, and the economy's continued globalization. More and more organizations recognize the importance and advantage of being diverse, inclusive, and culturally savvy. Not only will HR professionals be expected to be competent in these areas, like everyone else, but they will be increasingly tasked with helping organizations develop these competencies in their workforce.
I also think that adaptability will be a crucial competency for young graduates to possess as they enter the workforce in the coming years. Adaptability is one of the sub-areas of Global and Cultural Effectiveness. But I'm thinking of it in an even broader sense. With globalization and rapidly-developing technology, organizations face constant change, requiring all of us to adapt to the change continually. Fortunately, many new graduates are accustomed to this and don't know anything different, as this has been an increasing trend over the last 25 years. Also, this recent pandemic has required most of us to adapt in a big way.
Dr. Keith Lavine Ph.D.: The great thing about this field is that most organizations have a Human Resources department, and there is seldom a shortage of work opportunities. It is a job that is not unique to a particular geographic area. Many HR jobs are housed at corporate headquarters, and often, company headquarters are situated in larger metropolitan areas. So I would say that graduates wanting to find HR work will have an even better chance of doing so in a decent-sized metro area.
Dr. Keith Lavine Ph.D.: Technology is already significantly impacting the field and is likely to continue to do so. It has increased and will continue to increase the speed and efficiency with which HR functions are completed. For example, in terms of recruitment, organizations can reach potential employees quicker than ever before through job sites like Indeed.com and can use resume-scanning software to make rapid screening decisions and keep track of applicant contact information. Technology has introduced new training methods that require less travel, provide greater access to employees working around the world, and allow for self-paced learning. It has taught new ways for employees to access pay and benefits information 24 hours per day.
On the surface, technology may lessen the need for certain HR functions. However, there will still be a need for HR professionals who understand and operate the technology systems. That's why one of the SHRM "sub-competencies" is HR Technology. There will still be a need for people who can provide live advice, counsel, etc. to employees. Technology can facilitate this, but not replace it. Perhaps most importantly, while some HR functions may be lessened by technology, it opens the door for HR professionals to play an even more strategic role in organizational effectiveness, helping organizations tackle issues such as:
- How to best manage change
- How to create a more inclusive corporate culture
- How to keep employees engaged
- How to attract the right employees to the organization
In this way, the HR professional of the future is more transformational and less transactional. So I think this is how technology is changing the field. At the same time, I think it brings us back to the first question and speaks to the skills the HR professional will need entering the workforce now instead of what was required 25 years ago. I think that makes this a more exciting field to be in than it was in the past.
Yan Ciupak Ph.D.: As in many other fields, high-level computer skills are becoming more and more crucial to work effectively. Sociology students have the advantage of gaining high-level computer skills since sociology is so data- and research-driven. Sociologists use the internet, software, and other computer skills to assist data collection and analysis, communications, and problem-solving.
Yan Ciupak Ph.D.: Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report in September 2019, sociologists' employment is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for sociologists was $83,420 in May 2019, and most Sociologists held a Masters's or Ph.D. Although few careers include "sociologist" in their title at the Bachelor's level, the sociological studies are excellent preparation for a wide variety of occupations. A Bachelor's degree in sociology is a perfect springboard for entering the world of business, industry, and organizations. Students with a BA in Sociology pursue careers in social services, higher education, human resources, policy or market analysis or government or nonprofit research, or apply to graduate school to pursue advanced degrees.
As your questions indicate, the 21st-century labor market is fast-changing, increasingly global, and technology-driven. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identifies eight Career Readiness Competencies and, based on the essential need in the Job Outlook surveys, the top four competencies have remained consistent the past three years: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Teamwork/Collaboration, Professionalism/Work Ethic, and Oral/Written Communications. Sociology is uniquely suited to help students develop these skills.
Jennifer Randles Ph.D.: Research, volunteer/internship, serving-learning, and paid work experiences related to one's intended field stand out most on resumes, as does coursework that reflects a demonstrated commitment to entering that particular field.
Jennifer Randles Ph.D.: If students need to take a gap year, I recommend enhancing their research, writing, and critical thinking skills in the interim. These skills are beneficial for any employment field, especially for those who ultimately plan to pursue graduate school in sociology.
Jennifer Randles Ph.D.: Zoom and related video conferencing platforms will continue to be prevalent in the coming years, as will technologies that allow us to have more virtual meetings, classes, and interconnected experiences. I don't foresee a full return to pre-COVID-19, in-person workplace structures.
Dr. Kathy McDonald Ph.D.: School counseling graduates seek work in public or private PreK-12 schools in schools that are traditional, vocational, technical, or online learning environments. Their home districts employ most graduates.
Dr. Kathy McDonald Ph.D.: The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 12% growth in the counseling field over the next ten years. With the pandemic, social unrest, and economic uncertainty, school students need school counselors' emotional support more than ever.
Dr. Kathy McDonald Ph.D.: Ours is a fully online program that draws students from across the United States and a few foreign countries. Although not all United States areas have a shortage of applicants, the need in many locations is apparent. Some students get hired before they complete the program. Others enter the program working as school counselors but need the degree to keep the position. Regardless of the area, whether there is a shortage of applicants or competition for jobs, well-trained and dedicated individuals are needed to serve students.
Dr. Lisa Burton Ph.D.: I think we are going to see more virtual school counseling positions open up. Many veteran counselors/educators chose to retire early with the pandemic, which means openings for graduates or even students being hired on the permit. As a clinical placement coordinator, many students have already been employed on the license in counties due to shortages of certified school counselors. This is a good and bad thing, in my opinion. I think our students' mental health needs will also be more significant from the pandemic, which means if students are being hired on a permit, they are not fully prepared or educated yet to handle some of the issues.
Dr. Lisa Burton Ph.D.: Technology that helps connect with students, if they are virtually attending school, like Zoom or Teams, I have found many schools using. Also, some have the platforms that they use to connect with students/parents.
Dr. Lisa Burton Ph.D.: The demand in the next five years, I hope it will be bigger than now. As I said before, many veteran counselors/educators chose to retire early with the virtual component being added to the mix and the fear of being exposed to COVID-19. Therefore, I think there will be more openings for school counselors due to this. I hope the state realizes that students will be struggling emotionally and mentally from being isolated for so long from the pandemic. Kids are social. They need to be social to thrive, grow, and learn. They need interaction with friends, teachers, staff, etc. to feel connected and a part of something. The pandemic has created isolation for everyone, and the mental health of our nation, states, communities will see this impact. Therefore, I hope those making budget decisions make good choices about funding additional school counselors to help with this need. Trust me - it will be needed.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
School of Social Work
Ananda Rosa: Social Work graduates will need to demonstrate an understanding of social work competencies, ethics, and values. They also need to have "soft skills" such as good listening skills, flexibility, practical communication skills, empathy, time management, teamwork, and leadership skills. Also, partly due to the pandemic, they need to have increased competency in providing telehealth services. Most students have the technical skills to operate online platforms. Still, they will need to incorporate and demonstrate all the skills listed above into that mode of service delivery.
Ananda Rosa: I don't have any "official" data around this. Still, it appears that a substantial percentage of our graduating BSW and MSW students were able to find jobs in Northwest Arkansas after graduating in May. NWA is growing and continues to have a lot of opportunities for our graduates.
Ananda Rosa: I believe that more services will be delivered remotely, which will have positive and negative ramifications. Remote services are more accessible to individuals in rural areas and who might not have transportation. However, it is dependent on available wireless services, which is sometimes a barrier. We have learned that many of the meetings we have had face-to-face in the past could be conducted remotely, which could sort of "water down" the community connections we have with community members. I hope that insurance companies will continue to pay for remote mental health services, because I think this has increased the accessibility for many individuals who might not have sought out counseling if required to go in person.
Missouri Baptist University
Department of Counselor Education
Christine Ward Ph.D.: The coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the need for school counselors to be actively engaged and present within the schools! Counselors are called upon to be help students with academic, social-emotional, and career success. With many schools shifting to virtual learning or learning via new hybrid models, many school counselors have had to switch their traditional methods for delivering in-person individual, group, and classroom counseling, and student planning to provide these services via synchronous or asynchronous technology.
Now, more than ever, our school counselors must proactively reach out to students and families and help students navigate transitions, connect students to the school and their peers, and monitor students' social-emotional, mental, and physical well-being. These unprecedented circumstances present many school counselors opportunities to think outside the box and find new and unique ways to do their jobs. Our graduates must enter the field prepared to seek creative ways to CONNECT with those they serve!
Christine Ward Ph.D.: There are many states where school counseling is thriving. States that mandate a ratio of students to school counselors (the American School Counselor Association recommends a rate of 250:1) include school counselors as part of the state's school improvement plan, have state-based mentoring programs and institutes for new school counselors, and have an active state school counseling association tend to be great states for school counselors to seek employment!
Christine Ward Ph.D.: I believe school counselors will continue to shift to online/virtual counseling to support their students' needs and find new and creative ways to interact with and engage students via technology-based tools. School counselors must maintain student confidentiality, so technology platforms must conform to FERPA regulations. Additionally, technology platforms must be easy for students' to use and navigate, and appeal to students' unique developmental levels. Tools like Google Classroom, Zoom, Flip Grid, Padlet, Spiderscribe, Jamboard, Kami, Buncee, and augmented reality can help students connect with their counselor (although many of these lack FERPA compliance, which will hopefully shift soon!) Graduate preparation programs will begin, including more training on virtual counseling and keeping up with current virtual counseling trends!
Lewis and Clark College
Department of Counseling, Therapy, and School Psychology
Dr. Joslyn Armstrong Ph.D.: Recent graduates in the mental health counseling field will need to clinically work with diverse families such as racial-ethnic families and LGBT+ and queer families. Our world is becoming more varied, and clinicians see rising numbers of racially and ethnically diverse clients or sexual and gender minorities. Thus, beginning mental health professionals will need to have experienced clinically working with various families. An essential skill that mental health professionals will need is to approach clinical work from a relational and systemic perspective. Being a marriage and family therapist (MFT), MFT graduates are trained from a relational and systemic lens.
I believe having a relational and systemic theoretical framework is a strength for MFTs to work with multiple persons and from a family perspective. Additionally, graduates will need to be proficient in working with significant mental health diagnoses and be informed on clients' DSM criteria. Finally, in the context of COVID, teletherapy has been influential within our field. All mental health programs have implemented clinical training that encompasses teaching or clinical cases involving teletherapy. Thus, master's level graduates in the mental health counseling field will need skills related to practicing and implementing teletherapy in their clinical practice. Also, within the context of COVID, graduates will need to have flexibility and adaptability in their therapeutic services.
Dr. Joslyn Armstrong Ph.D.: The beauty of the mental health field is that you can find work in any part of the country, because the number of people seeking mental health services continues to rise. Those numbers have increased drastically in the context of COVID. Thus, I believe, the mental health field and graduates from mental health programs such as MFT, mental health counseling, counseling psychology, etc. will continue to be sought after to work in all industries such as private practice, non-profit, community agencies, etc. I believe that there may be a higher demand for mental health clinicians and therapists in rural areas because those areas tend to be less populated with mental health professionals. Specifically, there is a rising demand for relational and systemic therapists, in every part of the country, for MFT. We have not yet seen the increased demand and need for mental health professionals until after COVID.
Dr. Joslyn Armstrong Ph.D.: I believe this is an essential question, because technology has significantly impacted the mental health field. In the context of COVID, this global pandemic has drastically shifted how mental health professionals deliver services to clients. Currently, most clinicians have to use teletherapy services with clients; hence over the next five years, I envision that clinicians will need to develop proficiency and comfortability with implementing teletherapy services in their clinical practice. Teletherapy sessions may be an integral component in clinical work moving forward besides face-to-face sessions. Technology can also be used to market/advertise yourself professionally and recruit your clientele. Thus, it will be crucial that clinicians have a media presence for themselves as professionals such as their website, social media profile, or organizational profile. Clinicians will need to know the best ways/forms to market themselves and advertise their services to the public. Also, mental health professionals will need to have consistent involvement in various social media sites as well.