September 17, 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.
Winona State University
Grand Valley State University
University of La Verne
University of California, Irvine
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Winona State University
University of North Texas
Winona State University
Steven Baule: The key focus for any educational leader must be the ability to improve learner outcomes. This can be measured in a wide range of ways, from graduation rates, test scores, improved attendance rates, etc. A second important consideration for an educational leader is the ability to manage professional development and mentor the educators under their charge. Given today's mixture of remote and traditional learning, experience in engaging online students will be sought after. Experience in leading or working in diverse settings will also be highly desirable.
Steven Baule: Communications skills are essential for all leaders regardless of industry. Educational leaders have to be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders ranging from students through parents to staff and community leaders. Skills and experience in managing student behaviors are often one of the most sought-after sets of soft skills, and aspiring educational leaders will nearly always be queried on their experiences on this front during interviews.
Steven Baule: The needed technical skills will vary based upon the organization looking to employ the educator. In more online-focused institutions, expertise with learning management systems and student information systems might be desirable. However, beyond strong instructional skills, educational leaders need to be able to analyze student data gathered from both classrooms and standardized tests in order to develop effective school improvement plans. This ability to measure student success is essential given the current culture of accountability in most areas of the county.
Steven Baule: Bilingual leaders and others with experience in working with diverse cultures will be the most highly sought after as America's student population becomes more diverse. Strong technical skills, strong instructional skills, and documented experience in implementing successful school improvements are always in demand. Experiences with a variety of learning management systems and other administrative systems may also command larger salaries in some situations.
Sherie Williams: Covid-19 has seen many changes in the world of education. Most striking is the shift to virtual learning and the impact this has on teachers and students. As a result of this shift in delivery, the future of teaching will see a shift from traditional, face-to-face learning to online and/or hybrid learning.
Sherie Williams: Especially in PK-12 learning, technical skills allowing for virtual learning will be a highly desirable skill set for new teachers. Employers will be looking for individuals with the knowledge to deliver instruction in both the traditional manner as well as via online. Adapting teaching skills to a virtual format takes a whole new set of skills many educators in the field are currently learning.
Sherie Williams: Even in this new world of virtual contact, teaching is an important profession that still allows new graduates to impact the future.
University of La Verne
LaFetra College of Education
Betina Hsieh Ph.D.: I think we'll need more qualified, competent and thoughtful educators. The need for more teachers who can teach using technology and/or in hybrid forms, as well as, hopefully an emphasis on social emotional learning, cultural responsiveness and a need for innovative supports for neurodiverse students and students with disabilities. Whether schools continue to meet virtually, hybrid, or return to in-person, the need for engaging technology skills in K-12 teaching has really come to the forefront. This time has also brought for the inequities for students in low income homes and students with disabilities so we'll need to have teachers who can respond to and support those students.
Betina Hsieh Ph.D.: Teacher credentials, particularly special education credentials are going to be really important, as well as certificates that focus on educational technology, trauma informed teaching and neurodiversity
Betina Hsieh Ph.D.: I'm biased, but I would say that teaching is a great job out of college, once you've obtained a teaching credential, and in the meantime, building up your teaching skills through work with students in afterschool programs and even substitute teaching. Working with students allows you to make a difference in their lives. All new grads have a lot of power to mentor younger students; traditional undergraduate students have the advantage of being closer in age to youth, and returning students can contribute their life experiences in mentoring and working with youth.
Doron Zinger Ph.D.: In teacher preparation we see a number of trends as a result of the COVID pandemic. First, we see a larger than usual number of teachers leaving the profession. This includes teachers who are retiring, sometimes early due to potential exposure to COVID, as well as very challenging working conditions due to COVID. This has created an opportunity and improved job market for prospective teachers who are now completing credential programs.
Additionally, there is lots of talk about the "new normal" and that for some students prefer remote instruction, and that a small but significant proportion of students may not return to an entirely face to face schooling experience. This may create a need for teachers specific for online or remote instruction schools and programs, and we may see growth in these areas.
Finally, we are also seeing a greater reliance on technology and technological tools to engage students, the skills and practices that current teacher candidates are picking up will likely translate to face to face instruction as well. This means that although many of the teachers being prepared today may have limited face to face experiences with students, they will likely have additional preparation and skills in teaching with technology.
Doron Zinger Ph.D.: In teacher preparation STEM credentials tend to be in shorter supply, and teachers who can teach multiple science subjects, or multiple STEM subjects such as math and computer programing will be more marketable than teachers who have a single credential. With a growing emphasis on technological literacy, professional certification from companies like Google or Apple also provide prospective teachers with an advantage of presenting themselves as technologically savvy.
Doron Zinger Ph.D.: When it comes to teaching, and teaching credentials, finding a teaching position is the outcome desired by most graduates. With that said, districts and sometimes schools can vary in terms of working conditions and pay scales. There may be a disparity of as much as $10,000 in starting salaries between districts that are less than 50 miles apart. Benefits can also vary from district to district including medical and professional development resources. Finding a good fit that matches a teacher's vision and values, as well as providing opportunities for growth and collaboration are important considerations. Some schools experience high turnover rates and others have stable staffing. Getting a sense of school culture during interviews and talking to teachers at the site to see if they enjoy their jobs are good ways of getting a sense if you would want to work at a particular school or district.
Lauren Nicolosi: I think we're seeing a lot of remote opportunities, or those that are flexible in format. Because some roles don't translate to remote work as well, though, we're definitely seeing that some students are having to be creative in finding opportunities outside of what they initially planned for.
Lauren Nicolosi: This very much depends on the field. I work with students mainly in liberal arts and sciences where there is much diversity in the types of industries and opportunities my students are interested in. I recommend career research and preparation so that there are no surprises and so that students have opportunities to take classes to build their related technical skills, to utilize platforms like LinkedIn Learning in order to broaden their value, and to generally have a plan of action to fill in any gaps in skills.
Lauren Nicolosi: Broadly, a good next step during or after college is to secure an opportunity that will add value. Students can assess what they will gain in skills and experience and determine whether it helps them towards their ultimate goal(s). I think being open minded is best because this can frequently look like something different than planned. It might mean volunteering or interning after college and having a part time job to help with financial obligations. It's important to keep in mind that the first step is a stepping stone to something larger, not where one has to stay. Being positive and open minded will yield the best results during this time and show resiliency in your applications and interviews while applying for the next opportunity.
Elizabeth Hinde Ph.D.: In education one of the biggest trends will include teaching technologies that are reliable and flexible to be able to be used both in PreK-college classrooms as well as remotely. There is no going back to purely non-technological teaching. Remote learning, in various forms is now a part of the education ecosystem. For instance, hyflex classrooms will become more prevalent so the technologies need to be more accessible and refitting classrooms with the technologies will be needed.
In addition, the social-emotional needs of children and mental health issues are already becoming front and center in schools. So, trends will include the need for more social workers and school psychologists in schools, as well as different kinds of training for teachers that help them recognize and address trauma and mental health concerns in classrooms.
Life is going to be different after the Pandemic and schools will be too. It will be a while before the emotional and mental toll that the Pandemic has caused will be alleviated, and the technologies are here to stay and will - or should - only get better.
Elizabeth Hinde Ph.D.: For educators, in addition to all the other skills that are needed, using technologies that allow for both in-person and remote teaching will be necessary. Being able to make connections with learners both remotely and in person so that they can learn effectively will stand out. Interpersonal skills takes on a whole new dimension since they have to be effective on a screen as well as in person. They also need to be able to problem solve tech issues without having to call IT often.
Elizabeth Hinde Ph.D.: In education, a good job right out of college is teaching. Teaching is the boots-on-the-ground work that lays the foundation for all the other jobs in PreK-collegiate employment. Even just a few years of actual teaching of the next generation provides an abundance of skills, knowledge, and dispositions that will help in a multitude of other professions. Learning how to relate to people from a myriad of diverse backgrounds is vital in most professions, and nothing provides the kind of training and experience for the future like teaching does.
Dr. Kelley Barger: There will be enduring impact on our students and our classrooms from the Coronavirus pandemic as they will face classrooms that look very different when they graduate and begin their teaching journey. Our Fontbonne University graduates have faced many quick shifts in instruction and expectations for social interaction in the classroom. In Education courses, we are teaching our students to face these quick changes in their future classrooms so we must model new tools and classrooms environments. As faculty, we had to shift and learn at a fast pace to move our classrooms online for remote learning. Our students had to adjust to remote classrooms and online dissemination of material. I have learned in the last 8 months how flexible our students are with change. Many of the online tools have been available to us for many years but the pandemic created a compressed learning curve for those who can learn and thrive and those who will fall behind. When our current graduates enter the field, they will be prepared to use these online tools to supplement their classrooms whether on ground or online.
Dr. Kelley Barger: The teachers of tomorrow will need a greater neural plasticity as they will need to think not just ahead but behind, in front, and all around. They will need to speed their ability to learn to catch up to new tools and new perspectives in our pandemic environment and post pandemic. I believe many of our online tools will enhance classroom in the future and will stay in our world long after we can once again interact within 6 feet of each other. Teachers going forward need strong motivations to search out resources, seek grant funding, and an ability to teach through any modality.
Dr. Kelley Barger: I look at work experience paired with the candidate's educational background. When I look at their academics and then I see work experience that is not using that education, I wonder why. Secondly, I look at volunteerism and if that is on their resume to see if they made time for those in their field that don't fall into a paid position. This tells me where their motivation comes from.
Department of Environmental Studies
Ulil Amri Ph.D.: In the short run, there is a significant impact. Since the economy is highly impacted by the pandemic, many schools/universities have tightened their budget and have reduced job openings. But I am optimistic that, in the long run, everything is going back to (new) normal with a hope that government plans/actions will develop a great balancing act between public health and the economy. Since Biden administration prioritizes environmental issues like climate change and environmental justice, I am optimistic that there will be more jobs available in the near future for environmental studies graduates.
Ulil Amri Ph.D.: In my opinion, one of the core skills is ability to promote diversity, equality, and inclusion in classroom. We need to make sure that our classroom is a safe space for all identities and abilities. This skill prepares us to work in a diverse environment. In addition to that, teaching in the pandemic era has taught us to equip ourselves with hard and soft skills. We need to equip ourselves with skills to design and deliver high-quality online instruction (fully remote or hybrid) using cutting edge technologies; We also need to develop skills in empathy. We are now dealing with students who have faced various difficulties in life during the pandemic (some of them have lost family members, their parents have lost jobs, and they have experienced isolation and anxieties). Based on my experience, teaching with empathy has positive effects on combating such anxieties and on improving the quality of classroom relationships and achievement.
Ulil Amri Ph.D.: I will say our past work experiences and accomplishments. These can be skills, knowledge, professional development, or any activity relevant to the job that we are targeting. We should make sure that these experiences and accomplishments add value to our prospective employer.
Winona State University
Department of Physical Education and Sport Science
Dr. Raymond Martinez: There exists both a challenge and an opportunity for teacher education graduates with Covid-19. Graduates of today must be ready to teach virtually immediately upon acquiring their first teaching position. Although this situation may not be what started them on the path to teaching, this generation of graduates has had more exposure to technological hardware and software and are poised to meet the challenge in the short term if Covid-19 persists. Additionally, graduates have the opportunity to fill the void left by retiring teachers. Many veteran teachers have decided to retire instead of delivering courses virtually, as it is the face to face interactions that drew them to teaching and what they want to continue. But Covid-19 has dramatically changed the educational landscape and taken away the joy of seeing students each day that allowed more meaningful connections with them but has become more difficult over Zoom or other platforms. Current graduates also want the same opportunities to teach face to face, but will work hard using skills that they have acquired over a lifetime of technology usage or educational training for educational delivery for today's students.
Dr. Raymond Martinez: Certifications or courses may include: Trauma Informed Teaching resilienteducator.com, Social Emotional Learning casel.org , American Red Cross Psychological First Aidwww.redcross.org
Additionally, using the best technology practices that allow for students to interact with one another as a part of their educational experience and with the resources that students can access and that parents and care givers can assist them with.
Graduates who use more Cooperative Learning theories and teaching strategies to engage students and allow them to work together and learn the materials in a safe group environment will meet the needs of many students who are longing for interaction and a positive group dynamic.
(this is not an exhaustive list, but a start to an awareness for impact faster in a teacher starting out a new career).
Dr. Raymond Martinez: Graduates of today will need the ability to connect with students who have been isolated in the virtual world they have been living in. The certifications mentioned in point #2 open up the ability to become more aware of the needs of the students beyond curricular content. Student-centered practices that focus more on students' ability to solve problems and develop solutions through challenge, self-expression and active engagement, are skills that are more powerful for learning than direct instruction and teacher centered practices.
Master of Arts in Religious Education (MARE) Program
Dr. William Mascitello Ph.D.: Unfortunately, downward. The field of RE in the United States is not generally lucrative. Additionally, many parishes and institutions have scaled back due to lack of financial means. That is not to say that there are no opportunities. Most of our students are currently employed in ministry and seek academic credentials. There is hope that we will rebound and the job market will improve.
Dr. William Mascitello Ph.D.: Academic credentials are important for those seeking a professional for a RE position. Connection with the Church and experience in RE are also important.
Dr. William Mascitello Ph.D.: In the United States, larger archdioceses with higher concentrations of Catholics tend to offer more opportunities, but this is not always the case. There is a shift from traditionally good areas for RE ministry work. New Jersey is in the midst of a population decline, as is New York.
Daniel Krutka Ph.D.: The enduring impact of the pandemic is unclear and will likely be tied to the larger economic recovery, state funding, and districts' priorities. Many of our graduates look to move into new positions within districts. Many of these positions such as curriculum coordinators are critical to schools and should remain.
Daniel Krutka Ph.D.: All our graduates have a mix of courses from our course and in an area of specialization. Overall, we want graduates who are prepared to better know themselves and advance equitable educational opportunities for an increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse K-12 student population here in Texas. We want students to critical consumers of research and advocates for students, especially those are more vulnerable to being ignored, harmed, or miseducated.
Daniel Krutka Ph.D.: We want our students to be critical thinkers, empathetic listeners, and morally conscious decision-makers. Educators are conscious of their own sociocultural worldview are better able to understand who schools are designed for and advocate for students may feel unwelcome or unrepresented. We focus on antiracist pedagogies and approaches that help our graduates make more just schools.
Briana Asmus Ph.D.: The same trends as all K-12 educators. A mass exodus of teachers leaving/retiring and teacher shortages in many areas. Despite this, bilingual teachers are in demand due to student populations including more bilingual students over time.
Briana Asmus Ph.D.: Experience in different types of bilingual settings with students in various age and linguistic abilities, experience with screening and assessment (like WIDA, for example), and experience with different models of bilingual education. In addition, the ability to facilitate cross-cultural communication is so important.
Briana Asmus Ph.D.: Any place that has a high population density of bilingual students or English language learners tend to have more of a need for bilingual teachers.
Patricia L. McMahon Ph.D.: "Trends" may not be the right word, because it signifies short-term. The pandemic has caused us to reflect on beliefs and practices that require change. Online learning will continue to be a viable option schools will provide for students. There will be a more concentrated movement toward student-centered approaches to learning, such as inquiry-/project-/and problem-based learning. These learner-centered curricular approaches will necessitate a shift in assessment practices, with a gradual movement to competency-based education. We will also see continued focus on efforts to incorporate supports for students' social, emotional, and mental health needs. Culturally sustaining and innovative pedagogies will be a priority. Emerging leadership will be relational, not hierarchical, with administrative and teacher leaders working together on matters ranging from managerial responsibilities to professional learning opportunities. This includes building and intensifying participation in networked partnerships and professional learning communities. We are seeing job opportunities increase for teachers as well as for principals and superintendents, and for central administration jobs, such as ed tech leaders, instructional designers, curriculum coordinators, and directors of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
Patricia L. McMahon Ph.D.: The pandemic disrupted the routines and procedures of school and emphasized the need for school leaders who can innovate at the level of practice and problem-solve with a systems approach. In their capacity as systems thinkers, school leaders need to interact successfully with a variety of stakeholders at the school, state, and federal levels to build external networks and partnerships. As instructional leaders, they work with teachers to provide meaningful opportunities to design learning experiences that foster independent learning. They need to demonstrate strong communication skills to create a culture of learning and equity, and they must value and model interpersonal skills that advance a shared commitment to the dignity of all learners. As digital leaders, they must effectively use technologies and navigate an evolving digital landscape. As managers, they must be comfortable with data analysis for strategic decision-making.
Patricia L. McMahon Ph.D.: In addition to the usual attrition rate for principals, the pandemic has prompted larger numbers of school leaders to retire early or pursue new job opportunities. As a result, work opportunities in this field are opening across the country, especially in large metropolitan markets.