November 25, 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.
University of Arizona
Department of Physics and MCBWebsite
Charles Wolgemuth: Whether a student is applying to graduate school or to industry; work and/or research experience really stands out. From what I understand, specifics like which school someone attended, what grades they got, or what awards they received are secondary to having evidence that they can apply their education in a work environment.
Charles Wolgemuth: This is, of course, going to depend on the specific industry that a student is applying to. However, one skill that I have heard that is largely sought out is problem-solving. Any activities that allow a graduate to improve their problem-solving abilities will be beneficial, especially if the activity provides a demonstrable outcome to highlight the graduate's problem-solving abilities. In addition, computers continue to play a larger role in most industries, and the ability to code is a skill that will be more and more sought after.
Charles Wolgemuth: This, too, is going to be highly dependent on the specific industry. Automation is definitely going to impact more and more industries. A current technology that has been gaining a lot of ground in this area is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. However, my own feeling is that these techniques are going to quickly run up against their limitations and may not continue to grow (though that may be more like 10-15 years in the future, not 3-5).
University at Albany, SUNY
Department of PhysicsWebsite
Dr. Cecilia Levy: I think most importantly, right now, are computing skills and data analysis skills, which are usually covered in advanced experimental/computational physics classes. These give students opportunities to work as data scientists or in various analysts jobs. It's particularly important this year, where the job market is highly impacted by COVID: any job that can be performed from home is a plus. For the coming years, the beauty of physics is that it trains students in many different areas: some will become technicians; others will become teachers. Others will go get a job in the industry, work in a lab, or become analysts. Some will use physics to go into banking or enter med school or law school. But regardless of where they end up, I do think that strong computing and analytical skills are the sine qua non requirement.
Dr. Cecilia Levy: I don't think so. As with everything, cities and higher population density areas offer more opportunities.
Dr. Cecilia Levy: Things change a lot and fast, and physicists tend to be aware of new discoveries. Usually, these can then be integrated into upper-level classes. As far as technology, physics is not engineering, but advances in technology can also be discussed in class. As far as impacting the field, there is always the possibility that new technological advances become very useful and incorporated into experiments. However, physics is a very, very broad field, and people specialize in many different areas. Some overlap very little. So some areas will be more impacted than others by a different technology, and experimental physics is probably more generally impacted than theoretical physics.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringWebsite
Supriyo Bandyopadhyay: The job market in physics and related fields will shrink worldwide, certainly in the U.S. academia, in the near future, because of the economic downturn brought about by COVID. It is not that the research funding in the U.S. has dried up, but most universities rely on student tuition as a steady revenue stream, and that has been adversely affected. Universities are experiencing hiring freezes, which does not bode well for Physics Ph.D.s. Industrial and government labs are not inundated with funding either. Increasingly, physics graduates in the U.S. should look overseas, where there may find better opportunities.
Supriyo Bandyopadhyay: Quantum computing technologies, particularly those that can accelerate drug discoveries through vastly increased computational prowess, nanotechnologies that can impact the health sector, etc., will become more popular in the field of physics because of the job opportunities that they will offer. Clean energy technologies, technologies that pertain to renewable resources, will also become more important and prevalent. Science, like most other fields, is driven by demand. Technologies that are in demand will grow.
Supriyo Bandyopadhyay: This depends on how we handle the pandemic and other future world events (e.g., wars, conflicts, economic recession, etc.). If there is stability, the demand will grow. Otherwise, it will shrink. I expect the demand to grow rapidly in newly industrialized nations, if there are no unforeseen events, and the pandemic is brought under control.
East Tennessee State University
Quillen College of MedicineWebsite
Dr. Reid B. Blackwelder: A constant need is for graduates to have an ingrained approach to having the legendary "bedside manner," which is best exemplified by the comfort with patient-centered communication skills. Attending to rapport, active listening for cues and clues, obtaining the patient's perspective of illness, and comfort in recognizing and responding to emotion are essential abilities.
In this new age, being able to translate those skills into telehealth visits will be essential.
Dr. Reid B. Blackwelder: Family physicians actually are the most recruited specialty, according to Merritt-Hawkins, for the last 14 years! So family physicians can find a good job in communities with needs easily. Family physicians do tend to locate in rural and underserved areas, more than physicians in other specialties.
Dr. Reid B. Blackwelder: As noted, telehealth will now be a routine part of providing care. However, this will be limited by another kind of patient access challenge. Many of the current patients cannot do a full telehealth visit because they do not have the right phone, computer, or internet access.
It's suspected telehealth will open the door to various medical smartphone apps.
I call current systems "EBRs" - Electronic Billing Records. They have nothing to do with health! We need an electronic record that actually focuses on health and not like current systems, which are all about billing. Physicians do more chart care than patient care. This has to change.