April 13, 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.
Wentworth Institute of Technology
School of EngineeringWebsite
Abigail Charest Ph.D.: -Students getting their Masters if they didn't get a job offer
-Less early offers from co-op employers
-Trends include continued connections online with clients, conferences, presentations
Abigail Charest Ph.D.: -Graduate are ready to get back to "normal" but students will need to possess professional online skills, ie professional Zoom calls
-Presenting (in person and online)
Abigail Charest Ph.D.: Salaries have not changed much over time
Indiana University Southeast
Department of InformaticsWebsite
Dr. Sridhar Ramachandran: For the last several decades, we have been seeing consistent and regular technological change that has slowly but surely permeated into our personal and social life. The pandemic is facilitating a technological revolution. The move from technological change to technological revolution comes with impacts that will definitely influence the world we live and work in. For example, the need for contact-less processes because of the pandemic had made way for revolutionary adaptation of automation. On the same vein, this pandemic has exposed the underlying digital divide and has thereafter facilitated in narrowing the identified gaps. For example, schoolchildren now have access to digital devices because school are providing them with computers and this generation of school kids have now had an early start in digital literacy. The same goes for college graduates because graduates of 2020 and 2021 have had to adapt to newer communication mediums as workplaces have become multi-modal (from job interviews over VoIP to remote work). Taken together, the pandemic has added more modalities to how our graduates can engage with their employers and this can have an enduring impact in how they will maintain their work and life balance.
Dr. Sridhar Ramachandran: This is a good time to improve ones' digital literacy skills and so taking courses or getting certified in technologies and skills that are now more widely being adapted can increase ones' chances of employment. For example, becoming proficient in using multiple operating systems can help a graduate adapt to whatever employer machine is provided to them for remote work. Most companies require you to use the company provided laptop for company business since it has the security built in and has proprietary software installed on it. On the same lines, taking courses in computer networking, cybersecurity and computer assembly and architecture will help you become comfortable with troubleshooting computer and technological issues on your own when you are working remotely. Highlighting these skills on your cover letter and in your resume can help communicate to your prospective employer that you can work independently when working remotely.
Dr. Sridhar Ramachandran: Having an interdisciplinary skill set will definitely help people move between projects at their workplace and increase their earning potential. Having good management skills will help people get management roles as they advance through with their career. Having good leadership skills will help people accomplish tasks assigned to them and their team and that too will help in increasing their earning potential. Most importantly, in this era of internationalization and globalization in the context of this pandemic, having diversity consciousness and cultural intelligence will open the door to employment opportunities around the world because now many companies are open to hiring remote workers. The money saved by the companies because they do not need to have dedicated office space can translate into higher pays for the remote worker employee.
Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryWebsite
Dr. Jeremy Ramsey: As with all aspects of the pandemic, it is difficult to know exactly what the long term prospects will be for graduating chemistry majors. I believe there will always be opportunities for candidates with a strong set of skills, significant practical experience and the ability to solve difficult problems-hallmarks of a quality Liberal Arts and Sciences education offered at Lycoming College.
Dr. Jeremy Ramsey: The ideal first job for a chemistry major is one that provides advancement opportunities, possibilities for career development, and the ability to develop new skills. It may be that a first job after the degree will not provide all of these things, but any job in the chemical field will provide the opportunity to gain experience that can then lead to more desirable employment opportunities.
Dr. Jeremy Ramsey: Earning a degree that ensures hands-on experiences to enhance their learning. Our chemistry and biochemistry students build skills in the chemical laboratory and develop the ability to solve difficult chemical problems through research and internship opportunities. These experiences help to position new graduates for high quality employment possibilities and to achieve the salaries that they desire.
Kazuo Inamori School of EngineeringWebsite
Tim Keenan Ph.D.: This is difficult to predict, as responses to the pandemic have varied from state-to-state within the U.S., and from country-to-country around the world. With regards to how routine medical visits are conducted, I think this transition to a more electronic interaction will continue to gain momentum, as well as further development of the concept of medical personnel traveling to treat the elderly, rather than the other way around, and so I believe there will be an increase in opportunities for jobs related to telehealth and traveling medical personnel. Additionally, we are rounding the 1-year mark from which many people abstained from having elective or non-critical procedures conducted, and so I believe the next several years will see a dramatic increase in medical imaging and orthopedic, dental, and cosmetic procedures, in order to catch up with the accrued demand. This likely will not only lead to an increase in the number of professionals directly associated with conducting these procedures, but also with the professionals involved on the manufacturing side of the materials and instruments required for these procedures, which includes everything from R&D, QA, production, and packaging personnel, to financial, sales, marketing, and management personnel. Lastly, this pandemic has introduced many people to the fields of virology and epidemiology who may not have otherwise ever encountered these topics, and so I believe these fields will linger in the collective mind of the public for many years, and could potentially influence future policy decisions, which could ultimately act to procure significant funds for expanded growth in these fields.
Tim Keenan Ph.D.: Pandemic aside, every graduate in the modern era should have the ability to effectively communicate across multiple platforms. Even before video chats and e-mail were the primary modes of communication between students and instructors, employees and employers, and patients and doctors, the ability to effectively communicate through both verbal and written modes has been established as a necessary attribute across many fields for quite some time. Particularly, in any field even peripherally associated with medicine, it is not only important to clearly communicate so that information pertaining to diagnoses/procedures/materials/devices is correctly received and acted upon, but also to instill confidence in those receiving the information that you know what you are doing, and that you are a trusted source of this information. This includes taking the time to properly structure and edit e-mails and memos, to sufficiently prepare and appear presentable for any virtual interactions you may have, and to not only speak clearly and confidently when meeting face-to-face, but also attentively listen to those you are meeting with.
In addition to effective communication, it is also natural to assume that eventually, many positions will once again require on-site labor, and so emotional intelligence will once again become an essential skill for every graduate to develop. It has become easier than ever to express our frustrations throughout the workday, as a simple click of the "mute" and "camera" buttons during meetings allows us to vent in ways which will not be possible once on-site days become normal again, and we can no longer simply disappear from the meetings or workplace. Learning to effectively work alongside both those you adore and those you loathe is not only a skill which will help graduates obtain thier first position, but will also allow them to excel throughout their entire careers.
Tim Keenan Ph.D.: I am a relatively young biomaterials engineer, and so I cannot draw from a long career of working in this field, but I can say that I would not have spent nearly a decade in school to obtain knowledge across mathematics, chemistry, biology, and engineering if the statistics had not suggested that it would eventually be worth the time and effort. As any graduate with a degree related to biomedical engineering surely knows, this is not a niche field, but rather, a nearly all encompassing one, and so it is very difficult to point to the history of the salaries of one particular cohort of professionals to answer this question. With that said, it is generally suggested that with increased demand comes increased opportunity, and so with an ever-increasing global population and expanded life expectancies, and now with an accrued backlog of patients awaiting medical procedures, it is logical to assume that this industry will continue to grow, along with the salaries of its employees. One point which graduates should also consider is not only the salaries associated with positions, but where those positions are located, and how the employer is willing to allow you to work (i.e. on-site vs. remotely). When surveying the data on starting salaries, as I did when deciding my career path, there is often little consideration for the cost of living associated with where those types of jobs may be located. A large number of the companies associated with this sector are situated in some of the most expensive places to live across the entire country, both in terms of real estate costs and taxation, and so some of the salary information may be misleading if those additional factors are not also considered. So, although there is no doubt that graduates in this field can expect to earn a relatively high starting salary, I would urge them to consider their offers in terms of both salary and cost of living, so they can determine which is the most financially advantageous, especially if they are exiting their education with loans which need to be repaid.