April 14, 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.
Joshua Raabe Ph.D.: I foresee an increase in the fisheries job market over the next few years due to the pandemics. Millions of people went fishing, many for the first time, because it was a great opportunity to get outdoors in a safe manner and now are hooked. Agencies will be able to hire more employees as budgets are directly influenced by license and tackle sales. Agencies are currently hiring employees that they could not went the pandemic started, as field sampling and data analysis needs to occur to inform management decisions.
Joshua Raabe Ph.D.: Many graduates' first position is a field technician, so being able to handle and identify fish, trailer and operate boats, and use a variety of sampling equipment are essential skills. Management and research requires data analysis, so statistics, computer programming, and GIS are valuable skills. Finally, writing and communication skills are absolutely necessary to communicate science to the public and each other.
Joshua Raabe Ph.D.: Salaries have been increasing slowly in the fisheries field, but hopefully the influx of anglers will result in more noticeable increases in the near future. We are honest with students that fisheries careers are not a get rich quick option, but are extremely rewarding as you work in amazing places, are making a difference protecting the fish and systems you are passionate about, and salaries increase as as you advance in your career.
Washington State University
Department of Entomology
Richard Zack Ph.D.: While the pandemic has certainly had a significant effect on agricultural communities, agriculture was and will remain one of the most essential of our industries. As we come out of the pandemic, I think that we are going to see a continuation of the growth in available positions and hiring. It is estimated that we are only producing 30% of the individuals that are needed to fill all available positions. This is especially true for students that are looking for well-paying, entry level positions with small to large sized firms. We, at the university, continue to receive requests from our industry partners for interviews with students. We believe that this fall, when we can hopefully get back to face to face meetings, we will have a pent-up demand for our career services and some of our largest, in terms of industry attendance, career fairs.
Richard Zack Ph.D.: Our industry partners and our advisory groups have been telling us for a while that soft-skills are very important to them. While they are seeking students with good technical backgrounds, they can and usually do fill in the details of individual types of positions through their own training programs. However, they want employees that are interested in what their companies do and how they operate, individuals that are eager to learn and progress through a system, individuals that have experienced and have an appreciation for working in teams, individuals that are creative but understand the chain of command, and as one large regional employer put it to me, individuals that show up for work on time and don't ask, as a first question, about vacation times and day's off. They are also very interested in employees that have cultural competencies and can work with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds. In many of our fields, it is important that students look for internships with companies in which they have an interest. Many of our students our hired out of internships. So, it is very important for an individual to present themselves in the best possible manner when they are interacting with possible employers.
Richard Zack Ph.D.: Salaries at all levels of employment continue to rise. Starting salaries in most of our disciplines are very competitive with other non-agricultural disciplines. It is a very competitive market for our best students and many of them will receive 4-5 position offers before graduation.
University of California, Riverside
Botany and Plant Sciences
Louis Santiago Ph.D.: This is hard to predict. Some academic interactions that they would have had with faculty were curtailed due to online learning, but I think that faculty should be willing to write letters of recommendation considering the situation. There is also a loss of interactions with their cohort, which is difficult to gauge. Beyond these university-based changes, there will likely be a shifing job market, since everything shifted towards remote activity for a year.
Louis Santiago Ph.D.: I am not sure. The concentration that we have had all year on a pandemic spread and vaccine development has put a huge spotlight on certain fields like virus evolution and epidemiology in general, but the long-term effects and how they relate to graduates remains to be seen. However, students graduating this spring will face a US that is half returning to normal, perhaps with co-workers beginning in person work for the first time in a long time.
Louis Santiago Ph.D.: In ecology, population ecology, and epidemiology, creativity and originality of ideas will always provide a higher career path. However, flexibility is also important. All else being equal, people who are willing to work in different ways and change with the times will always end up making more money. It takes more effort, but in the long run it pays off.