February 27, 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.
Michigan State University
Department of Community SustainabilityWebsite
Dr. Rebecca Jordan: The pandemic will impact us all for years to come. Students who were initially trained one way very likely had to finish their degrees in an entirely different manner. The internships and the ways in which these students were prepared for jobs were also quite different. This being said, not all sectors of the economy suffered at the same level. This means that opportunities do and will exist for students.
Dr. Rebecca Jordan: Students who are often attracted to sustainability related careers tend to have two things in common (in my view): an enjoyment of the outdoors and a strong sense of community development. In many ways the former will continue to happen but for the near term in separate transportation, with masks, and likely with restricted travel. The latter, working with communities, will likely look very different over the coming year or two. Individuals are going to be online more and conversations and community building events will be smaller.
Humboldt State University
Department of Environmental Science and ManagementWebsite
Steven Martin Ph.D.: Courses or certificates in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or more broadly anything in the field of geospatial science, which would include GIS, remote sensing, cartography, mobile mapping, and geospatial programming, would be a great addition to a degree in natural resources management or environmental science. Many if not most natural resource managers and environmental scientists use GIS themselves, or at least work closely with geospatial specialists. Having some background in GIS or the geospatial sciences in general will make an applicant that much more desirable to an employer. I'd also put in a plug for courses in statistics, environmental methods, and data analysis. Students sometimes tend to shy away from those if given a choice, but they are really valuable and would be desirable to most employers.
Michigan State University
Department of ForestryWebsite
Richard Kobe Ph.D.: Aside from broad societal level changes such as greater opportunities to work remotely, I don't think that the pandemic will have an enduring impact on forestry graduates, particularly employment levels. There has been a shortage of foresters for several years - we place nearly 100% of all graduates in positions. If anything, demand for forestry expertise has increased during the pandemic with a need for sustainably managing forests to produce wood for those many home-based construction projects that people pursued during the pandemic. Furthermore, climate change is again become a societal focal point, with the recognition that sustainable forest management and substituting wood for other materials - like concrete and steel - can have huge climate benefits.
Richard Kobe Ph.D.: There are so many great options with a forestry degree. Some of our graduates start as field foresters in wild areas, developing forest management plans. Others work for the tree care industry and advise property owners and supervise crews on how to best care for urban and suburban trees. Others manage projects for using trees to take up carbon from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change. Students can also pursue a research career through graduate school or may go in the direction of a more policy focused position.
University of Guam
Cooperative Extension & OutreachWebsite
Joseph Tuquero: I think the job market trends in Ag and related environmental fields will increase or remain consistent in that opportunities have occurred throughout the pandemic. Environmental job opportunities have been on the rise here and with the pandemic, small scale agriculture may rise in relation to food security.
Joseph Tuquero: Some horticultural, pest and disease monitoring, and computer skills including overall knowledge of sustaining natural resources.
Joseph Tuquero: Universities, US federal agencies (Dept of Defense, USDA, Dept. Of Interior, US Forest Service), state agriculture, biology, and environmental agencies, and private environmental/conservation/agricultural companies/organizations, public and private schools (sciences).
Yale School of the EnvironmentWebsite
Mark Ashton: Be flexible and adaptable in selecting your first job, and gain from that experience so that, even if it is not exactly what you want to do, it provides you the experience and a resume portfolio that makes you more attractive for getting the position that you do really want later.
Mark Ashton: Remote sensing and measurements of natural resources.
Mark Ashton: Mediocre. Starting salaries vary a lot by region and kind of job. A field forester or natural resource manager in a rural location - 40-55k; In a city 55-65k.