October 12, 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.
Saginaw Valley State University
The University of Vermont
Washington University in St. Louis
Arizona State University
Cedar Crest College
The College of New Jersey
University of Missouri- Kansas City
College of Education and Human Development
Michigan State University
The University of Texas at Dallas
Rocky Mountain College
National Association for the Education of Young Children
Saginaw Valley State University
Department of Teacher Education - Middle/Secondary Education
Dr. Deborah Smith: Actual classroom experience stands out, as do other interactions with students related to the position sought. So, for example, working with Special Olympics helps those seeking a SPED position. Coaching experience helps, especially if it's with students the same age as will be taught. Tutoring stands out, as do technological skills that can be highlighted with the portfolio submitted for the position.
Dr. Deborah Smith: Technological skills have become highly prized, especially since the pandemic, but even before that, it was clear that a teacher who can seamlessly fuse technology into lessons is more likely to engage students. In addition, the ability to organize, analyze, and use data to improve student learning is respected as a skill worthy of developing. The more action-research-oriented a teacher, the better.
Dr. Deborah Smith: Some districts pay more than others, but that's not based on any particular skills. Leadership skills are likely to lead to higher pay if one chooses to move into administration. I was told today by a student that $75/hour was paid for those willing to teach summer school in 2021, so another way to increase pay for teachers is to be flexible enough to teach beyond the school day.
Dr. Deborah Smith: The characteristics of effective teachers include organizational skills, clarity, content knowledge, and 'dynamic presence' according to a 2014 study by Standford. Of these, I think all but 'content knowledge' qualifies as a soft skill. When we talk about this in class, students add compassion/empathy and a sense of humor quite often, but we agree that the research has it right. Soft skills are crucial for building a classroom community where teachers and students support each other and feel a sense of belonging, thus allowing for students to take risks necessary to learn. The MDE recently released new professional standards that emphasize social-emotional learning, making it clear that soft skills are valued in education.
The University of Vermont
Ellen Baker: In general, employers are interested in the breadth and frequency of authentic field experiences where the candidates have the opportunity to align theory and practice. They also look for extra activities that the candidates have participated in after school, during the summers, and on weekends that enhance their skills and knowledge. These experiences are evidence of initiative and dedication to the profession.
Ellen Baker: There are many soft skills that we encourage and measure through our Professional Attributes and Dispositions assessment. These are skills like communication (ability to articulate their teaching philosophy and experiences), initiative, collaborative skills, and independence. They also look for candidates who truly enjoy working with ALL students and have a growth mindset and a strengths-based perspective. They believe that all students can learn if the instruction is appropriate to the needs of the students. These often come through in interviews.
Ellen Baker: Working with technology as an instructional tool as well as record keeping and gathering of data. Candidates need to be able to look at data regarding a student and utilize that data to inform their instruction.
Ellen Baker: If you are talking about money, the above skills will be crucial, and then each state and school has its own salary schedule. In general, however, if a student has a dual endorsement in special ed, ELL, coaching, then they will possibly earn more. If a candidate has a master's degree, then they will earn more.
Dara Soljaga Ph.D.: I find compassion, communication, collaboration, and accountability stand out the most for me on educator resumes.
Dara Soljaga Ph.D.: In addition to those stand-out skills, I value leadership qualities, problem-solving abilities, and a growth mindset as other important soft skills.
Dara Soljaga Ph.D.: Important hard or technical skills, complementing the aforementioned repertoire, include proficiencies in supporting learning through the creation of authentic and meaningful learning experiences and assessments, the ability to facilitate engaging discussions, and the wherewithal to employ these skills in both face-to-face and online learning environments.
Dara Soljaga Ph.D.: In my opinion, demonstrating mastery of the aforementioned skills in flexible and relevant ways will help educators earn the most.
Business Administration Department
Thomas Matula Ph.D.: The ability to handle the technology and software for remote work. Students who have taken multiple courses online will have an advantage as successful remote learning requires the same skills as successful remote work.
Thomas Matula Ph.D.: The ability to communicate in a digital setting and the discipline to work remotely. Also, remote work requires a very different mindset. Instead of focusing on inputs, like hours at a desk, the focus shifts to output, the number of completed tasks accomplished each week. This is going to be especially hard for managers who are used to counting inputs and not measuring outputs.
Thomas Matula Ph.D.: Understanding the Apps used and being able to use the devices needed for remote work.
Thomas Matula Ph.D.: The skills to be a successful remote worker and to manage a team remotely. This means having familiarity with both the technology and the habits of successful remote workers.
Jo Ann Donnenwirth: When reviewing resumes, it is always important to view clinical experiences, specialty areas, technical skills (including educational platforms), online teaching, and various course content delivery methods.
Jo Ann Donnenwirth: Soft skills are important in every professional career. The soft skills that I find most important and look for are enthusiasm to keep listeners' attention, approachability to help answer questions, confidence, and integrity in their work.
Jo Ann Donnenwirth: Basic management skills such as organization, time management, communication skills, as well as technical skills on various platforms, and the willingness to learn new technology are important. In the current educational environment, these skills are the most important.
Jo Ann Donnenwirth: Soft skills and hard skills are essential in every career. Faculty at Aultman College have a set wage scale unless they have a master's or doctorate. We are always looking for master's and doctorate-prepared faculty, and those who obtain those types of degrees earn higher wages than the nursing support staff.
Washington University in St. Louis
Andrew Sobel Ph.D.: Demonstrable, marketable skills: critical thinking furthered by interdisciplinary study, intercultural sensitivity and awareness, adaptability and flexibility, etc.
Our grads land in a wide variety of settings such as grad school, many head to policy-oriented jobs in DC or in NGOs here and abroad, consultancies, corporate positions, etc.
Andrew Sobel Ph.D.: Specific hard skills such as data analysis and computer science will initially produce the largest jump in incomes. Over time, the analytical and intercultural skills often provide our students with the greatest ability to adapt, be flexible, and respond to changing circumstances.
Arizona State University
Beverly Johnson: Behavior management, critical thinking, and time management are all critical skills for educators. They are best showcased by being incorporated into accomplishment statements as part of experiences instead of listed in skills sections without context.
Beverly Johnson: Communication, teamwork, enthusiasm & creativity. Be thoughtful about how to incorporate these into a resume. Again, listing them in a skills section is less impactful than demonstrating them in the experiences.
Beverly Johnson: Organization skills, lesson planning, and presentation skills.
Beverly Johnson: Increased education and certifications, along with time in the profession, will help increase salary potential. Some positions, such as Special Education or administrative positions within education, may pay more.
Jessica Tangen Daniels Ph.D.: Resume advice can be challenging because a resume review and hiring committee evaluation can be so subjective. Experience in grant writing is always considered valuable, as is (evidenced) ability to analyze data and research and develop data-driven recommendations critically. However, documenting this experience in a compelling and interpretable way is also necessary, which reiterates the importance of researching the hiring organization, role, stakeholders, and perhaps even the search committee members - so that the applicant is best able to translate their experiences into a relevant context.
Further, stand-out experiences will significantly differ, based on their role and context. For example, Dr. Ayrn Baxter, a professor in our program and also an administrator from the University of Idaho and Arizona State University, reminds us about the importance of understanding the shared challenges and contributions/potential synergies between domestic equity and diversity work in higher education and the creation of international educators facilitating internationalization and global engagement.
Jessica Tangen Daniels Ph.D.: Dr. Marta Shaw, a professor and administrator in our program is also a professor at Jagiellonian University and lives in Poland. She promotes a skill highlighted by UNESCO, which they refer to as "futures literacy." Their Global Futures Literacy Design Forum was an exciting event dedicated to this concept. More generally, and perhaps a more challenging skill to enhance, would be that of systems thinking. The global pandemic is illuminating the inadequacy of linear cause-and-effect models.
Additionally, collaboration is a crucial skill, so any experience working at the intersections of local and global issues would be valuable.
Jessica Tangen Daniels Ph.D.: Based on domestic and international student data patterns and employment trend lines, I think we will continue to see growth in online and hybrid learning modalities, degree offerings, remote work arrangements, and virtual exchanges. We are so learning management systems, customer engagement software, work tools, and platforms. But again, while the technology will be critical, it will also continually evolve and be used effectively. So the ability to learn new (and old) technology systems and take advantage of the functionality will be necessary. Further, the practices around how technology is managed and used - the personal, interactive, and human elements, will also need to be prioritized
Cedar Crest College
Melissa Kamyab: Teachers have such a wide variety of skills that they bring to the classroom; it is important to capture these skills on a resume by thinking of the actions which convey our skills- facilitating, organizing, developing, creating, strategizing: this gives employers a strong picture of who a candidate is and what they have accomplished in their career. Pre-service teachers who were student teaching during the pandemic in the virtual classroom and then transitioned back to in-person learning will be highly valued for this experience!
Melissa Kamyab: Now more than ever, it is important for our teachers to demonstrate flexibility and the ability to adapt to what feels like an ever-changing landscape in education. The pandemic has taught us that we can deliver quality learning experiences to our students. It may have felt hard and imperfect, but the stick-to-it-ness and grit that developed because of this are hallmarks of effective educators and stand the test of time. In combination with a student-centered focus, this is the philosophical underpinnings of the soft skills we consider important: patience, flexibility, and the ability to monitor and adjust.
Melissa Kamyab: Educators need to have a deep understanding of three elements of teaching and learning: how students learn, how to build a community of learners and content pedagogy. Skillsets which support this, such as proficiency in technology, planning, and organization, are important to convey to future employers, but the effective educator knows that these skills are the means to the end---designing instructional opportunities which support student understanding and academic growth.
Melissa Kamyab: Educators are often paid based on their experience and continuing education, so newly hired teachers will need to enroll in a graduate program to pursue a Master of Education degree. Doing this adds to their earning capacity, but it also allows them to obtain further certifications, which add to their professional portfolio, increasing opportunities for positions outside the classroom. Reading Specialist and English as a Second Language certifications are two valued and needed programs in k-12 schools.
Amber Gentile: Experience working with children stands out due to the experience itself and that it reflects an interest in working with youth. It also helps if teacher candidates have experience working in an urban setting or an underperforming school to appreciate the challenges that may exist in the field. It allows candidates to speak of personal experiences in an interview that highlights the challenges they have witnessed/experienced and how they worked to overcome them. Educators need to be in it for the kids.
The experience that shows leadership capabilities and active involvement in projects is a stand out as well. We need teacher leaders and educators who get involved and make active contributions to the betterment of the community.
Amber Gentile: It is recommended that graduates continuously look to enhance their inter and intrapersonal skill sets. It is when we "push ourselves" beyond our "comfort zones" that growth is maximized. Graduates should get involved in something that matters to them and challenges them. Being passionate about something experienced and of interest helps a teacher candidate to stand out. Volunteering in schools and organizations that are mission-oriented in improving children's lives is very beneficial for both personal and professional growth.
Being involved in experiences interacting with and supporting children's holistic development can help build a skill set to guide future work. Social, emotional, and relationship-building skills are critical in the classroom. The key is knowing how to help students develop these skills. It is also an excellent idea to enhance one's comfort with, and knowledge of, technology and how it can increase engagement and student learning. This enhanced skillset can be accomplished through formal courses, webinars, and personal exploration.
Essential skills include data-driven decision-making, lessons to support kids' social and emotional needs, community building, culturally relevant and sustaining education practices, understanding of trauma-informed practices and instruction, and current best practices in literacy and math instruction are essential.
Amber Gentile: Due to the current need to pivot instructional modalities and the subsequent awareness of inequities, teaching may be changing considerably. There is research being done on lessons learned from these recent experiences that can guide our next steps. There will need to be more of a balance between targeted academic instruction and explicit support for kids' social and emotional needs.
It will and should continue to be data-driven. However, schools will most likely be redeveloping instructional practices to maximize learning in various data-driven modalities in person, or through a virtual, online platform. For example, teachers may be frontloading lessons into pre-recorded videos, using online tools to further their students' learning, differentiating more effectively and continuing to explore ways to meet every child's individual, holistic needs. Increasing one's awareness of, and skill set in, the use of instructional technologies will be a must!
Someone starting a career in elementary education will need to be confident in creating engaging, productive lessons regardless of the modality (face to face, hybrid, online, etc). Given the recent need to pivot to virtual instruction, it has become a necessity that teachers are knowledgeable with online modalities, platforms, instructional techniques, and best practices for virtual learning including pedagogy and classroom management. Ultimately, having a skillset that utilizes technology in making meaningful and engaging lessons while addressing social and emotional needs is a must...regardless of instructional modality.
Dwight Schar College of Education
Dr. Peter G. Ghazarian: Schools and other organizations are looking for flexibility, diversity of experiences, and technological expertise in their educators. Educational organizations have gone through a trial by fire over the past couple of years, requiring them to repeatedly make sudden, drastic changes to how they operate. These changes have relied on folks willing to blaze new paths, venture beyond their comfort zones, and use new resources as they become available. A resume that demonstrates those abilities will stand out.
Dr. Peter G. Ghazarian: Communication skills are the key soft skills for educators. The ability to communicate ensures that ideas and information are effectively presented during instruction. It also helps regulate the social tone of the learning environment and resolve classroom management issues. Of increasing importance is the ability of educators to effectively engage with their students' families. They need to demonstrate that they are ready and able to initiate contact, establish good relationships, and build trust.
Dr. Peter G. Ghazarian: Beyond licensure and content area knowledge, teachers are increasingly required to have strong technical skills. As schools adopt new technologies and software to enhance students' learning, educators must integrate these resources into their instruction and troubleshoot issues that emerge. A technologically adept teacher can ensure that their students effectively engage with this new technology and serve as a mediator and facilitator of their students' learning.
Dr. Peter G. Ghazarian: Educator earnings vary by district, sector, and role. Most educators' salaries are governed by union contracts, and these contracts differ in each district. For insight into what skills or qualifications are valued in a particular district, it is necessary to refer to that district's contract. Private education organizations vary even more dramatically than public institutions, with some paying significantly less or more than their public school counterparts. Finally, educators who move into an administrative role within their organization are likely to see a significant increase in their earnings. An educator must cultivate strong time management, organizational, and leadership skills to move into an administrative role.
The College of New Jersey
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Janet Gray Ph.D.: Future trends in the job market will depend, on some significant degree, in public policy and funding changes following the 2020 elections. I would expect public health, health care, mental health, public policy, social work, social advocacy, and other social service forms to continue to be growing fields. STEM skills will be essential across employment sectors as people continue to depend on remote access for a wide range of needs and activities.
Janet Gray Ph.D.: WGSS graduates enter every employment sector, so technological trends for our graduates will follow various sectors' directions. Among the most common careers for WGSS graduates are law, social work, and education. The capacity to work remotely, and do so effectively--may depend more on having access to sound technology and good training, and devising more effective ways to use the tools available, than on any new technology becoming available.
Janet Gray Ph.D.: I think an increase, though not dramatic. WGSS majors graduate with a capacity to analyze and strategize about a wide range of social justice issues, including racial justice, LGBTQ rights, immigration rights, and disability rights, in addition to gender equity. Very few employers require a degree specifically in WGSS. Still, many employers value the skills students gain through their major, and I would expect social justice skills to be increasingly in demand, across employment sectors, in the coming years. Most WGSS majors take second majors as well, and their combined majors give them an edge in a broad range of fields--including mental health, public health, law, education, politics, business, and government.
University of Missouri- Kansas City
College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Erik Olsen Ph.D.: In my professional experience, outside of academia, employers were interested in good applied skills. Experience analyzing real-world data is precious, so having demonstrated skill in this area is very valuable. This can be gained through internships with companies or on-campus through applied research projects or work-study jobs in research labs, etc. Good writing skills are also essential. Useful analytics is useless unless the results can be conveyed effectively.
Dr. Erik Olsen Ph.D.: Any work experience in a situation that uses economics is helpful. The main areas for this are finance, government, and research-based work in the private sector. Most medium-large companies have research or economic analysis areas. If you can get your foot in the door this way, you will be well-positioned for employment when you graduate.
Dr. Erik Olsen Ph.D.: Statistical programming languages have long been in demand and will continue to be. The older generation of languages (SAS, STATA, SPSS) will continue to be in order, while the newer open-source languages (R, Python) are increasingly in demand.
College of Education and Human Development
Dr. Belinda Flores Ph.D.: In addition to completing degree and certification requirements, employers want to see robust communication skills, digital literacy, and community engagement.
Dr. Belinda Flores Ph.D.: If graduates are taking a gap year, I would recommend that they volunteer or engage in service-type activities, such as tutoring or working in another capacity with children and adolescents, assisting with community gardens, observing the world of work in business and other industries, volunteering/working in a museum, leadership development, etc. Given that we live in a global society, I also recommend that they learn a second or third language, engage in cultural activities and cultural, historical experiences. These activities will help them broaden their experiences and help them as teachers make connections to the knowledge and skills that their future students will need to acquire.
Dr. Belinda Flores Ph.D.: Technology is ever-changing, so it is essential to have digital literacy. This can be demonstrated by attaining digital badges, such as in Google Classroom, SeeSaw, and other platforms used for learning and teaching.
Michigan State University
Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages
Jason Merrill Ph.D.: In the Russian job field? Perhaps a combination that is already strong - Russian with an area studies focus on one of the many sites where Russia has a presence: Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, or Asia. There will be a need for candidates with vital language preparation, those who can use Russian at a professional level to research or conduct interviews.
Jason Merrill Ph.D.: Maybe knowledge of the Russian internet and social media - how they are used and their particular linguistic features.
Jason Merrill Ph.D.: Increases in demand for graduates with Russian knowledge have been forecast for a while, making sense. Russia is the largest country globally and has a massive presence in world affairs, becoming increasingly active.
Shannon Dunn Ph.D.: They will need skills, including critical thinking, writing and making coherent arguments, and reading for understanding. The fields of religious studies and theology equip persons in all jobs to do these tasks. These skills are needed not just to become a good employee but to be an engaged citizen.
Shannon Dunn Ph.D.: Many graduates go into the fields of law, journalism, and other graduate programs. Some graduates choose to work in religiously-affiliated schools and other religious institutions and houses of worship. One thing that may surprise people to learn is that a degree in religious studies can prepare a person for all careers. Because curiosity about what people believe and how they act is at the root of religious studies, students in this field are often lifelong learners and put their critical thinking skills to work in any career they choose.
Shannon Dunn Ph.D.: Technology will continue to make possible new types of research and connections in theology and religious studies. However, religious studies scholars will need to examine the impact technology has on our collective lives, happiness, and the nature of the social conflict. The great news is that students of religion and theology have a great foundation in critical thinking to undertake that type of study.
Dr. Kimberly Hill Ph.D.: During an economic downturn, the experiences that show professional breadth and flexibility stand out on resumes. The likelihood of layoffs or partial closures makes it essential for staff and administrators to understand other company roles beyond their own. The team will need to adjust by combining their skills in ways that may be unforeseen. Liberal arts, humanities, and interdisciplinary studies help students prepare for that kind of flexibility.
Dr. Kimberly Hill Ph.D.: A gap year is an excellent opportunity to develop skills relevant to working within an increasingly diverse population. I recommend studying at least one additional language and practicing through volunteer work or travel. Volunteer work will also help graduates practice active listening and cultural sensitivity skills that will be advantageous as they apply for jobs.
Dr. Kimberly Hill Ph.D.: We can expect that virtual meetings and work-from-home options will remain in demand in the next 3 to 5 years. Familiarity with the different platforms facilitating online work and e-shopping will be valuable for graduates in various fields. There is growing recognition of the need for strategies that support students and teachers without reliable high-speed internet access within education. The demand for expanded internet options will increase, but we can also expect a continuing market for remote educational technology that does not require high-speed internet.
Elizabeth McNamer: Critical thinking.
Elizabeth McNamer: Every state.
Elizabeth McNamer: Very much impact on technology.
Rhian Evans Allvin: Graduates will need skills tied to these competencies: link
Rhian Evans Allvin: Demand for early chlldhood education coincides with areas where there are large numbers of famiilies with young children either living or intending to move into an area.
Rhian Evans Allvin: Technology should streamline early childhood business practices from an administrative perspective. From a classroom perspective, technology is a teaching tool, like blocks, music, etc. See NAEYC's position statement on technology for more details: link
Rachel Goldberg Ph.D.: We consistently hear from employers that they need employees who have strong communication skills, written and oral, problem-solving and collaboration, the ability to adapt and respond to changing circumstances, and the ability to work through difficulties collectively. Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) majors are taught to excel in all these areas. The world will continue to change, so our ability to analyze, adapt, problem-solve, and collectively solve problems is what will help us all continue to survive and thrive. All the DePauw PACS majors graduate as trained mediators, and I consistently hear from them once they enter the work world that they were told they rose to the top of the pile of applicants because they had that skill set.
Rachel Goldberg Ph.D.: As we say on our website (PeaceandConflict), PACS majors are excellent candidates for :
-Human Resources professional
-Environmental/Public Policy Dispute Resolution
-Public and participatory engagement processes
-Government agency work including in-house ADR specialist
-Mediator, Arbitrator, Facilitator, Professional Negotiator
-Labor Relations work
-Church/religious institutional and organizational change work
-Organizational change and development work
-K-12 and Higher Education work like running Restorative Justice and Peer -Mediation programs
-Ombuds or In-House Neutral
-Educator or Professor
-Policy analyst, think tank researcher, strategist.
-Business Executive or Manager; work in leadership development
-Paralegal or attorney, especially Collaborative Law
-Government or agency work
Or bring productive team management, problem-solving, and constructive conflict engagement skills to any job.
Rachel Goldberg Ph.D.: The field is growing in exciting ways. ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) has been increasing for some years now. Recently, some tech companies have begun to develop public consensus-building and public participation software.