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.
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
George Washington University
Arizona State University
SUNY at Binghamton
University of Alabama at Huntsville
California Northstate University
Derek Nazareth Ph.D.: The pandemic will have a lingering effect in several ways. The current holding pattern on hiring that characterizes many organizations will subside as organizations move towards normalcy. However, a number of practices that moved online will remain that way, due to convenience and cost, including recruitment and on-the-job training. Graduates will need to be more savvy in terms of working independently, as well as communicating and collaborating with others in remote fashion. Other practices that organizations were experimenting with pre-pandemic have become more prevalent in some cases. This includes reliance on consultants and external workers as embodied in the gig economy. That would mean more competition for graduates from outside the geographical area. On the flip side, it also offers graduates the opportunity to compete in remote markets.
Derek Nazareth Ph.D.: General certifications are likely to be of little value in enhancing employability. Niche certifications, on the other hand, can be quite valuable, though they need to be well established and recognized. The TS-410 for example is will get you ahead if you are looking to work with SAP (a form of ERP software). There are a number of certifications popping up in the business analytics area, though none are well established, and it is unclear what impact they will have. One area that will experience sustained demand which has recognized certifications is information security. The (ISC)2 certifications are likely more valuable than others, but they are more advanced. CompTIA Security+ would represent an entry-level certification. In terms of coursework, business analytics is very much in demand, and provides the opportunity to work in a variety of industries.
Derek Nazareth Ph.D.: Adaptability. We live in a world with constantly changing technology and evolving business practices. The traditional jobs of yore are no more. Being able to quickly acquire new skills, learn new technologies, and apply them to different contexts, will ensure sustained employability and the ability to move ahead.
John Talburt Ph.D.: I see demand for data skills rising significantly. Due to their training, most of our graduates are being hired for data roles including data governance, data quality, data analytics, master data management, and data science. From the supply side, the pandemic has significantly reduced the number of international students coming into our program. However, this has been more than compensated by the increase in domestic working professionals enrolling in our online graduate programs. It appears that data professionals working online from home see this as an opportunity to also enroll in online graduate programs to upgrade their degree credentials.
John Talburt Ph.D.: While employers like to see technical skills like Python and machine learning, they also value experience in more people-oriented and team skills like courses in change management, project management, data governance, and data quality management. These are areas where the technology problems are easier to solve than the cultural change issues.
John Talburt Ph.D.: I see salaries continuing to rise for data skills, especially data science roles. Data science salaries are now on par with and sometimes more than salaires for programming and software development roles. Companies are beginning to value people who can build end-to-end solutions from customer requirements rather than those graduates highly trained in just one particular technology.
These are the major trends I see from the perspective of our programs.
Dr. Matthew Shirrell Ph.D.: The market for educational leaders will remain strong, overall, but the skills that are valued by the job market may shift to some extent. I think that, given the pandemic and other events of the past year, there will be several areas in which job seekers in the field of educational leadership will be in particular demand. First, the past year has seen deep disruptions to schooling, and educational leaders have had to adapt and improvise to meet changing demands. One area in which this has taken place has been in educational leaders' work to ensure equitable and efficient access to online learning for all students and families. I believe that educational leaders with strong backgrounds, training, and understanding of educational technology will be particularly valued in the job market in coming years. Given the events of the past year, there will also continue to be a particular focus on diversity in the field. This will involve recruiting and retaining more diverse leaders, but also an increased attention to leaders' training around issues of diversity. I believe that job seekers who have strong training that has prepared them to work with and support an increasingly diverse student population will have an advantage in the job market. Finally, the trauma that the pandemic has inflicted on many children and families will make the job of educational leaders particularly important in the coming years. I believe that prospective leaders who understand socio-emotional development, and how schools can support the socio-emotional health of students and families, will also be well-positioned in the job market in the years to come.
Dr. Matthew Shirrell Ph.D.: I believe that technical skills are less important to employers in the field of educational leadership than are dispositions, experiences, and orientations to the work. School districts and others in the field of education are not necessarily looking for leaders with a set of particular technical skills, in my experience, beyond the obvious understanding of the nuts and bolts of school administration and some experience with instructional leadership. If the last year has shown anything, it is that the entire circumstances of schooling can change very quickly and unexpectedly. Potential leaders who have shown the ability and willingness to adapt to changing circumstances, whatever they may be, will be particularly valued, I think, by the job market in years to come. In addition, leaders' backgrounds, training, and understanding of the areas I previously described- technology; cultural, racial, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity; and children's socio-emotional development - will all be valued by employers in the field.
Dr. Matthew Shirrell Ph.D.: Salaries have remained relatively constant, in general, compared to other lines of work. Educational leaders can expect to be well-paid, but they should also not go into educational leadership expecting to get rich. Educational leaders often work long hours, and are often expected to be on call at all hours of the day, including weekends. Relative to the amount of work that educational leaders engage in, and the challenges that educational leaders face, the compensation is not extraordinary. But educational leaders are rewarded in other ways, particularly by the influence their work can have on children and families.
Arizona State University
School of Computing Informatics
Hemanth Kumar Demakethepalli Venkateswara Ph.D.: The current batch of students graduating this year have all been equally affected by the pandemic. Newly graduated students are all facing the same challenge - the downturn in the economy which will affect the entire job market. As always, if the graduate is able to stand out from the crowd, they will have a better chance at landing a good job. The converse is also true - a poor job market will make it difficult for more graduates to find good jobs. The trick as always is to be better prepared. However, this situation will not last forever. The end of the pandemic will revive the chances of landing a good job. So, graduates should not despair if they do not get a good job in these times. They must be prepared to invest more effort towards improving their chances by taking up more courses and earning new certifications.
There is no doubt the pandemic is a defining moment in this century. It has set the marker for a 'Before Covid' and 'After Covid' timeline. However, with successful vaccination, we will soon see the end of the pandemic and get back to living how we did before the pandemic. Nonetheless, the pandemic has demonstrated the possibilities and opportunities in online learning. In the post-pandemic era, educational institutions and online learning platforms will take advantage of the promise in online learning. There will be an increase in demand for online learning leading to more affordable college education. We will reach a new equilibrium in the percentage of online to in-person curriculum. Students will benefit by having the opportunity to attend classes remotely. The benefits of online learning will outweigh the challenges. With improvements in technology and standardization of online pedagogy, online learning will be of great benefit to the institutions, faculty and the students. In this way the pandemic will have an enduring impact on the lives of graduates.
Hemanth Kumar Demakethepalli Venkateswara Ph.D.: There has been increasing interest in data science with the rise of AI related technology. This has led to most students opting for data science and AI-related specializations. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future. It is therefore a great time to invest in AI-related courses and certifications. However, students need to have expertise in one or more core computer science specializations like programming, databases, distributed systems, systems software, networks, full-stack development, etc. This will enable them to take advantage of the boom in AI. An AI-related certification on top of core computer science specialization is a great recipe for good job prospects.
Hemanth Kumar Demakethepalli Venkateswara Ph.D.: Technology is always rapidly changing. A tried and tested approach to improve professionally is by updating oneself through a process of life-long learning. For example, in the AI field, a researcher updates themselves by attending top-tier AI conferences, reading the latest publications from top-tier conferences, re-implementing the results published in a paper, testing out new libraries that are published, and attempting to generate new ideas. A similar approach can be applied to other areas as well.
Communication Studies Department
Patricia Coughlan: Human communication has experienced a paradigm shift due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Overly reliant "face to face" communication has shifted to embrace, even reluctantly, tech mediated communication. Yes, before the pandemic some of society was comfortable with emails and mobile phone use, while youthful society was more active on smartphones and social media, but now most everyone is experimenting and getting better at virtual communication. When the Oxford English Dictionary announced that it was not choosing one "Word of the Year" in 2020 but instead listed a series of words that reflect major societal change, it was not surprising to find many words related to workplace communication.
Words including unmute, remote, remotely, were up from previous years' usage by 300% or more (Collins, 2020). Plus, new words were coined and quickly became common place; Have you Zoomed? Were you Zoombombed? Clearly the popularity of workplace communication in our everyday speech shows that attitudes towards tech mediated communication has changed. The hesitance of both employers and jobseekers towards tech-mediated communication is no more. The barriers to using online professional resources or hosting/attending virtual events has diminished and is altering our notion of workspace and carbon footprints. Employers and jobseekers are seeing the potential benefits for maintaining brand relevance, posting timely information, and career networking. A new willingness to use tech is improving site navigation and personal online savviness. Competition in the workplace is now driven by deliberate acts of communication. Jobseekers are more conscious in the information they post.
Employers vet their job postings for accuracy and expectations to entice the most competitive of candidates. The ability at all hours of the day to seek jobs and hire employees from diverse global locations and times zones creates a cosmopolitan workforce. At the minimum, a best of all worlds approach that integrates tech-mediated platforms with "in person" components may exist after COVID-19 distancing restrictions are lifted. Future job opportunities will be better served through tech mediated communication platforms.
Collins, Barry. (2020). Zoom zings into the oxford dictionary words of the year. Forbes. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from forbes.com/sites/barrycollins/2020/11/23/zoom-zings-into-the-oxford-dictionary-words-of-the-year/?sh=5e8b0d78a465
Patricia Coughlan: Communication majors are posed for success in the current job market. The nature of the discipline focuses on understanding and executing effective messaging to diverse audiences, in varied contexts, and communication modes (traditional such as writing and new tech platforms such as social media). The ability to understand verbal, non-verbal and written communication positions a Communication major as ready to impact the needs of employers and their clientele in a variety of fields. Because of the broad nature of a Communication Studies degree, graduates have greater flexibility for their career paths and ultimately their earning potential. Typically, Communication majors have the ability to complete courses in strategic, interpersonal, organizational, political, business, health, leadership, small group, family, and intercultural communication. Having a large swath of these courses broadens a student's portfolio.
Moreover, Communication majors are trained to consider ethical issues, rhetorical arguments, diversity, the power of persuasion, social influence, and to conduct research. In today's climate their strengths in mass media and digital communities are in demand. Communication graduates are easily employed as assistants and leaders in Public Relations, Human Resources, Advertising, Politics, Marketing, Event Planning, Social Media, Healthcare, Jurisprudence, plus more. It is impossible to think of a field that does not have the need for effective communication. My advice to my students on how to increase their earning potential begins early when they are freshman - recognize that every company and person has a need to effectively tell their story and your major suits you to help them do just that!
Patricia Coughlan: Without doubt the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting both professional and personal communication. For nearly a year, we have been sitting behind screens. And despite tense shoulders, eye fatigue, and tech-neck (that is a real thing), the challenging screen time has taught us how valuable it is to possess good communication skills and the need to improve our communicative actions. Now more than ever, my students are realizing that the underlying assumptions of interpersonal communication that you cannot not communicate - "Hey, what's that going on in your background" and that communication is an interdependent process - "Why haven't you answered my email" are true!
Good communication relies on creating structure to our messages and to ensuring open channels to initiate and maintain relationships. Good communication requires time and acts of deliberation.
As I teach a course specifically designed for graduating college seniors who are transitioning to the workplace, I stress these assumptions. The impact of the pandemic is measurable. No longer can soon-to-be graduates attend "face to face" career fairs or interviews. A new dependence on online "mediated" platforms has emerged. Beyond what people think, creating a strong, effective, professional, yet personal, online persona takes lots of time, requires clear structure, real effort, and frequent upkeep. In the past students would focus on creating a strong resume based upon current professional resume trends, signing up to attend a career fair, and deciding what to wear on the day of the event to ensure professional appearance. Now students still need the polished, structured resume and professional look, but they also need to search for online events to attend, and spend numerous hours creating a grammatically correct, visually appealing, and professional online presence. They need to professionally dress for a remote interview, make sure that their background is professional looking, test their technology, and log on in advance. Finding the right platform is a challenge too. Do they use Zippia, LinkedIn, Indeed, another career site, or numerous sites? So, this spring while filling out forms to graduate and completing their studies, all students - regardless of major - have to be actively engaged in "online self-branding."
Alexey Kolmogorov Ph.D.: I can say that we have received about 25% more PhD applications this year. It could be because there are fewer non-academic jobs available at the moment or because our department continues to grow. Unfortunately, several admitted international students could not enter the country and have had to defer the start of their graduate study.
Alexey Kolmogorov Ph.D.: I have been in touch with a few BU graduates who joined strong PhD programs last summer. Their experience is consistent with what we see in our department: experimental groups have been indeed affected by lab access regulations but theoretical/computational groups have adapted to the remote work quite naturally.
Alexey Kolmogorov Ph.D.: I think the biggest impact on the academic research has been the lack of in-person conferences. Online conferences are useful but they are missing a traditionally important element for the development of young researchers, which is students' informal interaction and networking outside of presentation rooms.
Dr. Ravi Patnayakuni: Most definitely, in my opinion. There are going to be lasting effects which many have characterized as 'acceleration' of change and 'dispersion' of how work is performed. In the short term, I expect it will be harder for graduates to find employment as hiring adjusts to the new landscape of remote hiring and remote work. For the long term, both the nature of work and sectors of job growth will change.
Dr. Ravi Patnayakuni: That is a very individual choice. However, areas that will be seeing growth are areas that are ripe for disruption. Energy is one of them, where we will see growth in renewables. Similarly, delivery of health and healthcare as we watch Amazon and Wal Mart take initial steps into the industry. The pandemic has demonstrated the feasibility of telemedicine and this is one of the trends we will see accelerating. Information Technology continues to be the engine that is accelerating many of these changes. With Information Technology comes data which is the new oil and harnessing that will continue to see growth in the form of Analytics, Data Science and Cloud Computing.
Dr. Ravi Patnayakuni: Being agile and life-long learners. Having good communication skills. Taking initiative and demonstrating potential to be leaders.
Jami Cotler Ph.D.: In the past I've known of tech shops offering work hour flexibility often with required face-to-face team meetings. I think the pandemic has shown across many industries that work can be distributed while maintaining a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. I think we will see more employees in the tech industry having more work from home options post pandemic.
I think the need for tech has also been both recognized and has increased as we have had to rely on it to track and report pandemic data. I think there has also been a great awareness of tech tools such as web conferencing tools such as zoom that have now become commonplace tools for everyone to use. Online delivery services have also experienced greater demand, which increases the demand for tech professionals to work in these areas as well. As I tell my students, it is a really good time to be in this industry.
Jami Cotler Ph.D.: At Siena we have started to encourage students to get AWS certified. We had a long break and many students took advantage of it to get their certification. We are strongly considering making it a requirement for future cohorts. Having an understanding of cloud computing is important and demonstrating this knowledge in the form of a recognized certification has offered a really nice impact and competitive advantage for our students. Another area of certification is in security. Many of our students earned security certifications over the break as well.
Jami Cotler Ph.D.: Overtime, I have seen that the competition to hire our students has increased and with this the salaries have also increased. When I first started teaching, some students had a difficult time finding a job after graduating. Now I'm finding that close to 94% of our graduates either have jobs or are enrolled in graduate school when they graduate. Another trend I'm seeing is more students pursuing their PhD directly from undergraduate school rather than going for their master's degree first. The salaries are very competitive for our graduates and companies are offering additional incentives such as free food, longer time off, etc. to find and keep talented students.
Jacob Furst: Unlikely. While a significant phenomenon culturally, the pandemic has affected technology significantly less.
Jacob Furst: Any job that allows you to explore the limits of your knowledge and capacity, that you enjoy, and that pays the bills. If it occasionally makes you uncomfortable, even better. There is no "good job" without the context of the person working the job. Find a fit.
Jacob Furst: Anything you do in your work that goes beyond expectations will provide benefit later on. Extra education, certifications, volunteering for tough assignments, getting to know you coworkers better, creating a fun and interesting workplace for you and peers. Again, no magic. Always be looking for ways to be better.
Dr. Damon Meyer Ph.D.: Limited hiring and job openings due to the uncertainty in the economy. Some graduates may take alternative jobs instead.
Dr. Damon Meyer Ph.D.: Working in biotech or pharmaceutical industry since they pay well with good benefits.
Dr. Damon Meyer Ph.D.: Receiving a graduate degree (MD, PharmD, PhD)
Lauren Cole: We are currently seeing a trend of full-time employment at graduation falling an average of 10% over the last year, primarily due to the global pandemic. Though this may mean greater underemployment for a time and a longer wait for graduates to enter the workforce, thankfully the decrease was not quite as bad as first imagined. We do still have employers recruiting our students for internships and jobs, though the style in which they meet with students is now fully virtual. Since employers are now connecting with our students online, this has allowed for a greater variety of employers to be represented from a variety of locations outside of driving distance to campus. I believe the switch to virtual recruiting will be a lasting change in employer recruiting.
Lauren Cole: Since your article is focusing on the area of communication, I searched our First Destination Survey data to give you a sense of the type of jobs our communication graduates are pursuing because defining a good job is very specific to the individual based on their personality, skills, values and interests coupled with job market data. A popular industry for our communication graduates is the non-profit sector such as a student who took a job recently with the Equal Justice Initiative and another with a religious institution as a youth pastor. Journalism, Media and Publishing companies also rank high on our list of employers for these graduates. Since communication studies equips students with a broad skill set, several of our graduates went to work for private and public industries as well, ranging from insurance sales to staffing agencies and jobs in management and logistics.
Lauren Cole: New graduates will have a stronger resume, allowing them to negotiate for greater earning potential, the more experience they come out of college with. An internship, for example, is one way students can both solidify their industry of choice due to on-the-ground exposure, while also fortifying their resume, showing employers they have real-world experience. If approved by an advisor, our communication students have the option of receiving academic credit for internships, providing the job meets the learning outcomes required by their program. Other opportunities may include a part time job within their field of interest or simply shadowing or discussing the daily activities of a professional in the student's desired job sector.