January 22, 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.
Alice Lloyd College
The University of Tennessee
Georgia Southern University
University of Delaware
Kennesaw State University
The University of Alabama in Huntsville
University of Indianapolis
Indiana State University
Alice Lloyd College
Natural Science and Mathematics Department
James Craft Ph.D.: I think that we will see a huge increase in virtual style jobs even in the Kinesiology field. Telehealth is becoming more common in healthcare and even with your fitness/rehab sciences it is very useful. I also believe that more and more people are seeking out graduates in the kinesiology field because now more than ever we are experiencing issues like musculoskeletal pains and a decrease in health due to the constant sitting and sedentary lifestyle that the pandemic has created.
James Craft Ph.D.: Most of your careers associated with the kinesiology degree are person oriented. I would advise the student to find an internship or a health professional to shadow or work for. The student will gain communication skills, person to person interaction, and also gives them an idea of what it looks like in a real world setting to be a specific clinician they plan to be.
James Craft Ph.D.: Stay passionate. Love what you do and love doing it. The passion will drive all the other necessary things that are needed to begin a new career. When you learn and understand your personal why then that is the foundation of a successful career. Seek opportunities, don't hesitate to ask for advice, and stand strong and work hard. There will be mountains and valleys but the passion will give you the energy to keep going.
Department of KinesiologyWebsite
Christie , M. González-Toro Ph.D.: Since the public school system in New York City closed in mid-March, physical education teachers have been developing innovative and creative lessons regardless of the delivery method (in-school learning, distance learning, or using a hybrid learning approach). With no access to equipment, gymnasiums, sports fields, open areas, or playgrounds, P.E. has been one of the most challenging subjects to teach remotely. Regardless of these challenges, P.E. teachers are committed to continue providing a well-rounded education. Because of the large number of children who are sitting while staring at a screen for extended periods of time, physical education has become more crucial than it already was.
Physical Education Teacher Education programs are educating future P.E. teachers to adapt the subject to unexpected changes. Physical education professors are committed to educating pre-service teachers to be informed consumers in the use of technology such as the use of different video conferences (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet), Google Classroom, and interactive platforms and to record and edit videos. In addition, prospective teachers are encouraged to attend professional development conferences.
Christie , M. González-Toro Ph.D.: Opting for a gap year is a choice that can be taken into consideration but should be carefully analyzed from different perspectives. Input from a professor, family member, counselor, or friend can be helpful. One benefit from taking a gap year is that the graduate can gain life experiences and professional growth by becoming active in the field. A disadvantage can be that the graduate can lose momentum or motivation to achieve previously established goals.
It will be a good opportunity for the graduate to explore career paths such as teaching and coaching in public or private elementary, middle, and high schools, fitness facilities, athletic programs, municipal recreation, camp settings, boys and girls clubs, and community programs. Some of these career options require additional licenses or certifications; graduates can work toward the completion of these requirements. Additionally, the graduate can explore and apply to different graduate programs, study and take any entrance exams, and work on any graduate program requirements.
Christie , M. González-Toro Ph.D.: Stay informed about your field! Join a national and state organization in your field (e.g., SHAPE America and The New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) and attend local and virtual professional development and workshop events. Attendance at these events facilitates the graduate to learn and share best practices, innovative programs, and problem-solving. In addition, it provides the opportunity to network and meet other professionals.
The year 2020 taught us to adapt and innovate lessons from in-person to remote in a short period of time. I advise beginner teachers to become familiar with the technology. Spend time with Google Classroom (develop learning activities, assessments, learn about features, Google Meets), Zoom, and teaching websites. Record yourself teaching a learning activity and in the video practice your voice projection, camera angle, teaching position, captioning, platform uploading, and such. Create a professional Twitter account to keep in contact and share teaching ideas with other educators.
The University of Tennessee
Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies DepartmentWebsite
Rob Hardin Ph.D.: The job market will definitely be tightening as a result of the pandemic as organizations will assess exactly what their personnel needs are. The concept of what is a traditional work week has changed as the work-from-home trend continues. Employees will seek out opportunities to continue to work from home, and organizations will look to maximize efficiency with employees. There are obviously jobs that do not allow people to work from home, but employees and employers will seek out opportunities to make sure time is used efficiently.
Rob Hardin Ph.D.: Recent graduates should continue to develop soft skills. The ability to communicate effectively in regards to oral, written, and visual communications will always be skills that professionals need. Recent graduates should continue to develop those skills through online training, hands-on training, job shadowing, and workshops. Developing communication skills is not unlike developing sports skills - practice. Recent graduates should practice their interpersonal and group communication skills as well as their writing skills. Consider every one-on-one encounter an opportunity to develop interpersonal communication skills, and take advantage of every opportunity to develop writing skills.
Rob Hardin Ph.D.: Young professionals should take advantage of every opportunity to develop their professional network. This can come via attending conferences, joining professional associations, and participating in professional development opportunities. Young professionals should also seek out mentors to assist in the their professional development. Recent graduates should develop professional goals and work toward those goals. It is important to have a plan and to work toward that plan. Control your own career rather than your career controlling you.
Georgia Southern University
Department of Health Sciences & KinesiologyWebsite
Gavin Colquitt: The job market for teachers is fantastic. Many school districts have faced teacher shortages. Opportunity and demand vary from community to section, and most districts have their application system. Apply to several neighborhoods to increase chances.
Gavin Colquitt: Online learning is here to stay. New teachers should be masters of Zoom and Google Meets. Additionally, these platforms are continually featuring new updates and functions. Teachers must become experts in online communication. Also, many classrooms are using the G-suite of applications. This links Google apps with Google classrooms, and many districts now require teachers to post all classroom materials online for students.
Gavin Colquitt: Salaries do not tell the entire story for teachers, although the benefit is substantial. According to the Georgia Department of Education, a teacher's starting pay, with a bachelor's degree, is ~$37,000. However, school districts often provide an additional local supplement, which can significantly increase their starting salary.
Additionally, pay in the teaching field is based on education and experience. Each advanced degree- masters, specialist, and doctorate- corresponds with a 10% raise. For example, a teacher's starting salary with a doctorate is ~$52,000 in year 1! The base salary for a teacher with a doctorate and 21+ years of experience is ~$76,000!
The long term financial gains for teachers are the benefits. Teachers have great insurance plans and are one of the only fields with a defined benefit plan. A 401k is a defined contribution plan, and there is a lot of variabilities. In Georgia, teachers can retire after 30 years with full benefits, earning 2% of their salary each year. Therefore, a teacher retiring after 30 years will be making 60% of their pay for the rest of their lives. When considering that retirement and other benefits are no longer taken out of that pay, this is a substantial and secure retirement plan with a take-home income similar to full-time earnings.
University of Delaware
Department of Kinesiology and Applied PhysiologyWebsite
Brittany Overstreet Ph.D.: Kinesiology refers to studying the principles of mechanics and anatomy about human movement (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It is a broader term that can be applied to many jobs/careers, including Exercise Physiologist, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer, Clinical Exercise Physiologist, etc. It can be hard to put all of these career paths under one umbrella as individuals in these fields work in very different settings, with diverse populations, and require varied training to be a qualified professional.
Hardly to anyone's surprise, I believe the most significant trend we will see in the field, due to the COVID19 pandemic, is technology use. Using and transforming exercise programs and research projects to be accessed virtually will be critical for kinesiology. Specifically, I think online platforms that provide examples of exercises, instructions for participants, and demonstrate proper techniques will be of great need to professionals. Furthermore, I predict that activity trackers (there are many on the market now!) will become even more popular as individuals rely more on themselves to collect data and track outcomes to report to professionals, compared to collecting this data in person. Lastly, I believe that social media will play an essential role in connecting clients, provide a personal touch to the virtual world, and assist with maintenance/enrollment of exercise/research programs.
Given that exercise is a highly useful tool to improve/maintain health and wellbeing, trained professionals will be in high demand over the next five years. However, it will be critical for individuals to seek out highly qualified professionals as they would in any other health-related field. Thus, I foresee education and certifications becoming even more important than they currently are. As the area continues to grow, the criteria to become a professional are becoming more specific. Accredited education and training will be of great importance for students wishing to work in this field over the next decade.
Department of Health, AT, Rec & KinesiologyWebsite
Michael Mucedola Ph.D.: While numerous skills can assist a new graduate as they navigate the upcoming workforce, some proven skills from the past will still serve them well. Working hard, perseverance, positive attitude, effective communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and so on can help lay a pathway for students to enter the workforce. Skills related to technology, adaptability, being trained in multiple areas, and not becoming complacent are all keys. The ability to spot value and opportunity is vital, and being cognizant that everyone has to start somewhere. If a person is willing to relocate and live anywhere, there is a job available.
Michael Mucedola Ph.D.: The medical and health fields, in general, are in high demand, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects workforce need and growth over the next ten years. There are several places for work opportunities, including major cities (New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, etc.). Still, there is a need in rural areas with limited accessibility and availability to medical technicians and similar fields.
Michael Mucedola Ph.D.: The country is ripe for unforeseen opportunities in this field. Putting oneself in a position to take advantage of those opportunities is crucial, and thus, education, building a resume through various work-related experiences, and networking are vital. Telemedicine and other related fields are expanding, and technology is the bridge to bring different entities together.
Kerrie Berends Ph.D.: Employers want to see practical experience - from observation hours to internships to hands-on experiences in the classroom. Much of kinesiology is working, hands-on, with people, so knowledge and communication skills, motivation, health psychology, and professionalism are essential. At Calvin University, we focus on practical skills and competencies, which help graduates become top-notch professionals or gain entrance into top graduate schools in the nation.
Kerrie Berends Ph.D.: The pandemic has made it clear that telehealth and remote exercise training and therapy are effective. Graduates should have skills and experience using software and synchronous platforms (like Zoom, Teams, and WebEx) to train clients and patients effectively. This year, Calvin University seniors gained experience in telehealth using online personal training software, apps, and live meetings to conduct health and fitness training for the university's volunteers. This fall, our students learned from a local DPT who has extensive experience delivering physical therapy, strength and conditioning, and rehabilitation remotely. We will continue to integrate telehealth skills in our pre-professional and exercise science programs.
Kerrie Berends Ph.D.: Will there be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates? There is some grieving for the loss of graduation ceremonies, varsity sports, and social gatherings, and it's good to acknowledge the failures of those experiences. Still, I do not believe those losses were not something that can't be overcome. I hope that students will use their experiences during this pandemic to make them more resilient, persistent, and adaptive. They have learned to be more flexible and creative when pursuing their academic and career goals, and those skills will carry over positively for a lifetime.
Department of KinesiologyWebsite
Carol Barnes Ph.D.: Three things are essential to have on the resume:
- Volunteer (Community Service) experience
- Activities, Awards, and Honors, to include honor societies and scholarship. Employers like to see that applicants were very involved on campus in college. This also shows that they have likely had experiences dealing with people of all backgrounds, that they can multi-task, and are not just one dimensional.
- Experience in a related field. I highly recommend that my students volunteer to coach teams in sporting leagues or consider getting a part-time job as an OT or PT, depending on their field of study. It is so beneficial to gain experience in the area so they can learn to speak the
language of that profession.
Carol Barnes Ph.D.: I think that our students have learned so much about the benefits of technology, in the past six months since the covid hit, and I believe, that the use of technology will continue into their professions as well. Many of our students are going into the medical field. They will likely use telehealth when working with patients and instruct them about therapies to recover from injuries. We have used many forms of technology to deliver instruction and allow students to submit reports and assignments online.
Carol Barnes Ph.D.: I hope that we will focus on the positive impact that this pandemic has had on our students and faculty. We found that we can pull together and improvise under challenging times, and take advantage of new ways of doing things in the professional field. I think that our students have learned to appreciate the opportunities they have been exposed to. They have taken the initiative to learn new methods of learning information about their field of study.
Kennesaw State University
Department of Exercise Science & Sport ManagementWebsite
Yuri Feito Ph.D.: What stands out in a resume for a Kinesiology student is a practical experience - including certifications. Kinesiology programs are all different, so having documented practical experience in a specific area, along with certificates of some kind, allows employers to narrow down each candidate's knowledge and how this may pertain to their needs.
Yuri Feito Ph.D.: When you mention a "graduate," you refer to an undergraduate student, not a graduate student. If so, I would say the best thing to do would be to "work in the field." Although some jobs require a Master's degree, the reality is that most only need a bachelors. So, obtaining a career in the industry would be most valuable and would position students well for a graduate degree. However, if the student is interested in pursuing a graduate degree outside of the Kinesiology (i.e., Physical or Occupational therapy, Physician Assistant, Medical School, etc.), it would be wise to address any academic deficiencies they may have, for example, taking prerequisites for those graduate programs, or improving any grade that they think may not be adequate. With professional programs becoming exceedingly competitive, it is paramount that students have the highest GPA possible.
Yuri Feito Ph.D.: If 2020 is any indication of the years to come, I would say online platforms and the online environment will be essential. The COVID pandemic has demonstrated that we can do many of the things we typically did in-person virtually, so that may shift how work is done in the future. For example, some cardiac rehabilitation programs, which were usually an in-person event 3-days/week, mainly moved to "online coaching" to maintain patients' engagement. The online environment and activity apps that would allow seamless communications between individuals and healthcare providers will see significant growth in the years to come.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville
Department of KinesiologyWebsite
Dr. Ryan Conners Ph.D.: I believe that young graduates are going to need to be able to adapt and modify the way they currently operate and market in the field of Kinesiology moving forward. As federal and state mandates occur, young graduates are going to have to rely more on technology in the field of Kinesiology because of social distancing and business closures. Graduates are going to have to use email, online platforms, and social media to communicate with their clients/athletes and to be run a successful business. Students in the field of Kinesiology are taught the importance of sanitation, proper cleaning, and using personal protective equipment when necessary. These skills will be even more important in the workforce, as a result of COVID-19.
Dr. Ryan Conners Ph.D.: All of the country, in some shape or form, is being impacted by COVID-19. For graduates in the field of Kinesiology, locations in the country that have more temperate climates will be able to offer more job opportunities. I also believe these areas of the country will be able to offer more outdoor conditioning and exercise options for their clientele. Furthermore, I think that this is also a good opportunity for graduates to continue in the field of Kinesiology and obtain a Master's or Doctoral level degree.
Dr. Ryan Conners Ph.D.: It is my belief that the field of Kinesiology will forever be impacted as a result of COVID-19. Technology has made a tremendous impact on the way we teach, learn, and provide services in the allied health professions. There will now be more competition for fitness facilities, athletic clubs, and other exercise outlets. Zoom, YouTube, and other social media outlets will now be major platforms for both client recruitment and exercise opportunities. Graduates in the field of Kinesiology are going to have to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities to offer their clientele/athletes specialized levels of exercise testing and prescription.
University of Indianapolis
Department of Kinesiology
Dr. Michael Diacin Ph.D.: With regard to service-related industries, such as hospitality, tourism, sport, and recreation, students will have to become proficient in developing, and then communicating, value-added incentives to new as well as existing customers. Because consumers will be less likely to engage in nonessential travel and other luxurious pursuits, the competition for this smaller pool of consumers will intensify. Those who will be effective in selling value to consumers will survive, and those who don't will cease to operate.
Dr. Michael Diacin Ph.D.: Because these areas are going to be ranging from slow to stand-still for the foreseeable future, these areas will not be adding new labor to their workforces. In the short term, graduates in these fields should give some thought to entering industries that deal with the distribution of goods. Massive distribution centers need qualified management to keep these operations running efficiently. Although these students don't supply chain majors, management skills are transferable; therefore, students from these majors could still be assets to these operations.
Dr. Michael Diacin Ph.D.: Because the service industry is less technology-driven and more driven by the experience customers receive, there wouldn't be a particular computer program to learn, for example. That doesn't mean that employees can remain ignorant of technological tools and expect their businesses to survive. Since there will be fierce competition for a smaller pool of consumers, the use of social media platforms will be used. Even more than just knowing how to post content on social media platforms, the critical aspect will be what you're posting, in order to convince the consumer to spend their money with you rather than elsewhere.
Indiana State University
Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and SportWebsite
Dr. Nathan Schaumleffel: Absolutely. The pandemic was the tipping point for realizing that employees can be trusted to work remotely, be held accountable, and appropriately supervised, and facilitate better work-life integration by not just working from home, but by working from anywhere. Graduates will need to deepen their technology skills, learn to work more effectively in the cloud, and learn how to be supervised, and to supervise using online tools.
Dr. Nathan Schaumleffel: Yes. Everywhere! If the pandemic has done anything, it has reminded our country of how important parks, recreation, open space, and public lands are to our health and well-being, communities, economy, and the environment. Since mid-March, park use has been at record numbers, especially at the local level, near peoples' homes.
Folks are re-recognizing how important leisure, recreation, and physical activity areas are as tools to mitigate the difficult and transitional times in our lives, like a pandemic, retirement, the loss of a spouse or partner, or to deal with the everyday stress of work and raising a family. America realizes recreation, leisure, and play; especially outdoors, are very, very powerful tools for youth, human, family, and community development. Park and recreation systems need a talented and prepared workforce to manage our public parks, recreation facilities, and programs. It takes superbly trained program leaders to plan and lead intentional experiences that achieve the outcomes our residents want and need.
There are, and always have been, great career opportunities in the field of park and recreation administration. Jobs that pay well, with generous benefits packages, doing work that employees are passionate about. Graduates have to be willing to get experience, paid and unpaid, expand their professional network, earn professional certifications, accept mentoring and coaching, receive constructive feedback, demonstrate a positive attitude for the work, and be willing to move.
Colleges and universities, across the United States, are experiencing recent enrollment declines for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, park and recreation management degree programs have been experiencing enrollment declines for almost 20 years, as current students seem more interested in other fields, like professional sports management and tourism. It is really unfortunate that so many colleges and universities have decided to divest of their park and recreation degree programs, simply because of enrollment trends, instead of recognizing the public good and the need for a professionally managed public park and recreation systems for the health of our residents and communities. Dollar-for-dollar there is no better investment of public tax dollars to improve the health of residents than to ensure everyone lives within a 1-mile, 10-minute safe walk of a professionally managed free public park.
Dr. Nathan Schaumleffel: Current students and recent graduates need to realize that their day-to-day technology skills of playing on their phones, playing video games, and streaming Netflix are not good enough for the professional use of technology and software in the field of park and recreation administration. Veteran and seasoned professionals assume post-Millennials are technologically savvy with everything. And, quite frankly, they are not. Time and time again, students on internship and recent graduates come to the realization that they are no more technologically literate than the professionals that are retiring. Colleges and universities continue to make the assumption that today's 18 to 22-year-olds don't need technology literacy, in and across the curriculum. Students have to realize that colleges and universities are wrong about this assumption. Students need to develop their technology skills, whether it is required for their degree or not. If they don't, their opportunities for employment in the field will diminish markedly. A college education is between a student's ears, and not framed on his or her wall! Technology literacy, required or not, must be between the ears of eager graduates wanting to work in the field of park and recreation administration.
In the next five years, park and recreation agencies will make tremendous investments in hardware, software, and networks that will allow for remote work, agile leadership, increased data-driven analytics and decision making, agile strategy implementation, and a return to relationship-based interactions on-site and online throughout communities. Park and recreation professionals will find ways to use technology to work smarter, but it won't make them work less. The increased use of technology will continue to demand that professionals focus on work-life integration, work-life balance, and, most importantly, setting boundaries on online availability to limit burnout and employee turnover. Technology will demand that both employees and employers recognize that self-care is not selfish. Park, recreation, and leisure professionals are some of the most overworked, unbalanced, and burnt-out professionals in the working world today, as they work nights, weekends, and holidays, ensuring everyone else is having meaningful and fun experiences when the masses are off work.
In the end, the increased use of technology in our profession will continue to reorganize how and where we work, which will impact how we interact with each other on a day-to-day basis and how work gets done, which ultimately will change our organizations' cultures. Culture always trumps strategy, and strategy drives structure! Technology will change the culture of our workplaces, which will demand strong social and emotional learning skills for those wanting to be successfully employed in the field of parks and recreation.