February 1, 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.
Colorado Mesa University
The University of Akron
California State University, Chico
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Dalton State College
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Indiana Wesleyan University
Northeast Ohio Medical University
College of Our Lady of the Elms
Youngmin Kim: That would depend largely on the students upon how they reacted. Statistics do show that younger students, high schools, freshmen who just came out of online semesters in high school, suffered quality education especially in math and science. A number of students in my classes sort of dropped out when the university platform moved online or hybrid. It would also depend on the quality of lectures their faculties could deliver. At the same time, students with good level of self-motivation did achieve similarly. They would not have a lasting impact. We noticed that the changes tend to polarize the students depending on their willingness and circumstances in health and finance. On another note, the cheating rates did go up significantly-nation wide.
Youngmin Kim: Laboratory courses, arts and apprenticeships, basically anything that requires in-person training got hit hard. Some portions were mitigated along the way, but the general quality and accessibility of such courses declined in general due to many restrictions imposed on campus.
Youngmin Kim: CODING. CODING. CODING. It doesn't really matter which specific language it will be. On professional level, the coding language will be specific anyway, but any background experience in coding will help graduates to learn and adapt quickly. This is a must requirement for anybody willing to find jobs through the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
School of Theatre
John Colclough: Oh to have a crystal ball. Things are evolving so quickly! Broadway sets the tone and Broadway is still full of unknowns: Will we still be doing big budget productions and juke box musicals? Will shows that had established runs return? How will seat capacity change? Size of casts? Audiences??, etc. Then the national tours and regional theatres will have to figure out their course. Tours are promising to start up in 2021, but will they really? Will regional theatres survive? Summer stock companies were already disappearing at an alarming rate (well established companies of more than 50 years were gone BEFORE Covid hit.). So where does this leave us? Fear and uncertainty for theatre artists and the effect has been palpable both in the professional industry and in higher ed. Young people are reconsidering their options and well established mature artists are scrambling to find any kind of opportunity to pay the bills and to stay relevant. I know of a number of colleagues who have gone to Los Angeles in the hopes of attaching themselves to the NETFLIX, AMAZON PRIME, HULU market. The notion is that streaming companies are/will be up and at it before live theatre gets going. Also, lots of entrepreneurial efforts are underway. Small groups of artists are working together to create video, live stream and "Drive-In" style productions-anything to keep the fires burning while we wait and see what theatre life will be like after a vaccine. In terms of trends, one thing that I believe will stay long after the pandemic has subsided will be in the audition/interview process. The use of the "self-tape" and virtual audition/interview will stay a part of the actor landscape. Back in the '80s and '90s I remember long lines for open calls. Actors would wait hours for the opportunity to share a monologue or to sing 12 bars of an up-tempo or a ballad. I don't think we'll be going back to that practice. In fact I would hazard the guess that the industry will continue to explore other methods of virtual casting, which would necessitate performers being more facile with equipment and workspaces to record their material.
John Colclough: This is a great question, and if I wish I had the answer. I do know this however, performers need to have a skill set that can subsidize their careers. The restaurant/bar industry, more than any other has answered this call. Unfortunately Covid-19 has impacted the restaurant/bar industry more than any other. So challenging on so many levels. What to do? Practical skills that correlate to an individual's unique interests seem like a good place to start. How can the performer utilize known skills to garner a paycheck? Everything from handyman/construction for those who excelled in their technical theatre classes, to personal assistants for those who have a flair for logistics could offer avenues for success if developed. With technology taking more of a central role in the industry, it's possible to enhance those skills during a gap year-this may not help with your monthly bottom line (financially speaking) but would make you better prepared once the year is over. Gap years are a perfect time to hone those skills that need a bit of TLC, for instance: dance classes, voice classes, picking up a second language or a musical instrument-anything that might add another skill set to the resume is worth the time and effort.
John Colclough: Be patient and stay informed. Many performers think their career is about the work in the rehearsal hall or in performance-not so, the real work is in the management of your business. Being an authority of WHO, WHAT and WHERE is key. WHO are the players in your market? The directors, actors, casting people, producing organizations, etc...these are who you need to know-your network. WHAT opportunities exist in your market? The theatres, video companies, universities (if you have an MFA you may be able to teach a class or two), Improvisation groups, any opportunity that allows you to grow your brand is worth your attention. And finally, WHERE are the opportunities-knowing your community and having a sense of how each company fits into the fabric of the community. Having a sense of where the company resides both geographically and virtually (web sites) and having a solid knowledge base of details of each company can inform your marketing tactics as well as provide you with specific details unique to each organization. Careers develop over time and keeping expectations realistic over the first year can be challenging. Be practical and methodical in your approach: save money (there's never enough), find a place to live (the best you can afford), find a side hustle (you're going to need money and routine), find out the lay of the land (WHO, WHAT, and WHERE), develop your skill set (take a class and meet colleagues), go to productions, screenings, workshops, document your growth (keep a journal or calendar to track your progress), celebrate your successes and be patient with your stumbles-Hard knocks are the best teachers!
Dr. Stephen Weeks: My guess is that healthcare will get a giant boost from the pandemic. We've already heard about mass retirements looming because healthcare workers have been stressed out beyond their limits, so that will open up a lot of jobs in an already growing industry. My guess is also that many people will be much more interested in hiring people with backgrounds in communicable diseases and epidemiology.
Dr. Stephen Weeks: Generally, employers like to see "hands-on" skills for graduates. So, lab-based classes, internships, volunteer work (e.g., in hospitals or other health care settings), and experience in research labs look great on resumes. Because biology is such a diverse field, I cannot point to specific skills for the entire range of biology. Generally, however, having good writing skills will almost certainly be helpful for any biology career.
Dr. Stephen Weeks: I do not know the answer to this question. Healthcare is the fastest growing job market in biology, and such jobs are located primarily in larger metropolitan areas across the country.
California State University, Chico
Department of Physics
Dr. Eric Ayars: If I knew the answer to this, I'd be buying stocks instead of answering emails. The one thing I can predict with reasonable certainty is that the job market is likely to reward people who are highly adaptable with a broad range of technical skills and the ability to learn new things rapidly. This is a good reason to study physics, incidentally: even if you don't go on to a career in physics, the rapid-learning and problem-solving skills gained as a physics major are valuable anywhere.
Dr. Eric Ayars: Learn a programming language, if you don't know one already. I'd suggest Python as it's very useful as a general-purpose programming language, and it's easier to learn than most. The ability to make a computer do something for you that isn't already programmed by someone else can set you apart as a potential hire. Pick something that you do every day on the computer anyway, and learn enough Python to make the computer do it for you automatically. For example, I regularly read three to four webcomics, so I wrote a program that pulls the new comic from those pages every morning and combines them on one page for me, ready to go by the time my morning coffee is hot. In the process I learned some useful programming techniques, which I've since used professionally multiple times!
Dr. Eric Ayars: There is no one way to success, nor is there one definition of success. At each "fork in the road", look as far down each path as you can, pick the path that seems best given the information you have available, and be content with your decision. It may not be the shortest route to where you thought you were going, or even be the same direction, but roll with it and make the best of wherever it takes you.
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Melissa Matusek: When DPMs enter the workforce after residency, the skills needed are many. First, they must have flexibility since the landscape and job descriptions of the profession of foot and ankle surgery are constantly changing. Those just out of training also must be motivated because the first few years out of training is when the stakes are high, when you are spending your time building a practice to prove your worth to patients and the profession.
Plus, aside from continuing to develop surgical skills and learn about the medical management of patients, there is an ever-changing need for a deep understanding of how the business of medicine works. Physicians are entering different work environments that place a variety of demands on them. Patients are also becoming more and more fixated on the costs of their health to themselves and are relying more and more on insurance coverage. These topics and skillsets are beyond the general knowledge base of resident physicians. They also need to be well-versed and adept in the changes in healthcare and insurance/billing practices.
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons offers not the surgical skills courses needed for foot and ankle surgeons but also a coding and billing course to help practice management skills and show surgeons at all levels how to get paid for the services they perform.
Melissa Matusek: Positions for foot and ankle surgeons seem to be available across the country, with no particular region presenting more opportunities than others. It all depends on the type of work a foot and ankle surgeon is looking to practice and what type of setting. There are many types of practice settings available in the profession; it's all about preference and lifestyle.
There are medium and large group practices looking to expand across the U.S. and a good option for graduating residents entering practice. Again, it would depend on locality and lifestyle preferences.
Those newly practicing foot and ankle surgeons should also look to rural areas in either health systems or multi-specialty groups. Many residents taking hospital-based/employed positions in these underserved areas can receive excellent compensation packages. These are locations that likely have zero to minimal foot and ankle services but need to expand to serve the growing demand.
Melissa Matusek: Technology is constantly changing. The future may hold more individual and customized treatments for patients. While this may complicate the physician's job, it ultimately could make for better treatment plans. Data may also be more apparent with respect to a patient's genetic code, which could allow for more individualized preventive treatments.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, medicine has been able to adapt more with technology in regard to telehealth visits. As long as insurance continues to cover the service, it could become a regular option for patients and foot and ankle surgeons.
Insofar as a technology with surgical procedure impacts, new technologies and devices are a constant in the ever-evolving world of medicine. Foot and ankle surgeons should expect new technologies, and embrace the advancements that may come their way for the betterment of the health of their patients and the profession. As device advertising becomes more mainstream, patients may also be starting to ask for new technologies and foot and ankle surgeons will need to be kept informed on the latest advances.
Dalton State College
Department of Allied Health and Social Work
Marcela Armenta: This pandemic has undoubtedly affected the lives of millions of individuals across the globe. Many have lost their jobs, had scheduled hours reduced, or some were even forced to take a cut in their salary. In my opinion, we will see the need for more remote work as it has become in great demand due to this pandemic. We have gone from e-commerce to online education to private healthcare. With the rise of working remotely, one of the most exciting trends that we will see in the job market is the opportunities and movement of skills worldwide. I can already see many companies source diverse talent more efficiently, especially from those that tend to be underrepresented in their area.
Marcela Armenta: I genuinely believe molecular diagnostic technology will be more meaningful and prevalent in medical laboratory technology in the next 3-5 years. It has become the standard practice when testing for various genetic diseases and gene mutations, pathogens, DNA-based tissue typing, molecular oncology, and many more. A relatively new procedure added to the molecular testing panel is the microarray essay used to measure gene expression. This type of medical laboratory technology will undoubtedly improve the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients.
Marcela Armenta: Right now, our profession is in a critical shortage of employees, not just in my surrounding area where I currently reside, but throughout the United States; it has become a nationwide problem. Employment in this field is projected to continue to grow as more and more baby boomers are looking at early retirement and creating more vacancies that are unable to be filled with qualified and skilled laboratory professionals. Our students typically receive job offers in their final semester while doing their clinical internship.
Philip Chang Ph.D.: Generally, when hiring postdocs in physics, we look at people with the right kind of experience and knowledge to plug into our research programs. So we look for knowledge, skills, and publication record.
Philip Chang Ph.D.: Over the next five years, I expect that there will be an increase in the number of people with crossover skills. So knowledge in more than one area. This will arise from the broader availability of useful software tools that allow people to gain domain knowledge in more than one place, rather than getting stuck in the weeds of specialized tools.
Philip Chang Ph.D.: It depends strongly on what happens to universities post-pandemic. I see the field becoming more competitive as the number of jobs in this area starts to shrink. I also see many people leaving this area, post-graduate, for careers in data science and artificial intelligence. This may change with geopolitical concerns about the U.S. losing its technological edge, but the current trajectory has physics as a shrinking field, by in large.
Dr. Haydee Encarnacion-Garcia Ph.D.: Public health values, traits, knowledge, and competencies become fundamental to developing emerging leaders working within the public sector during any given pandemic/epidemic situation. We must be aware of how the pandemic has changed the labor categorization of "essential" workers on a large scale and the impact on organizational strategies to respond effectively to the effects generated from the existing pandemic experience. Organizational shifts might include changes in policies, develop critical employee's competencies, and transition to social-behavioral interventions focused on population health.
Dr. Haydee Encarnacion-Garcia Ph.D.: We observe how telemedicine or telehealth has become critical/crucial as a distribution tool of health-related services and information via electronic venues. Telemedicine or telehealth has become a way to exchange data between clinician(s) and patient(s), incredibly popular among the influencers, and extremely important to promote long-distance clinical healthcare and health-related public health education for communities located in remote areas. Telehealth applications most require the need to educate and increase health literacy among certain groups, such as the elderly. Indeed, mobile health and remote patient monitoring applications will turn out to be an essential advance to disseminate public health information and clinical data based on accurate and well-designed surveillance systems.
Dr. Haydee Encarnacion-Garcia Ph.D.: For example, recently, Indiana Wesleyan University established a Master of Science in Nursing/Master in Public Health (MSN/MPH) joint program resulting in a dual degree. This interprofessional collaboration between the IWU School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences will provide an opportunity for bachelor-prepared nurses to gain both advanced skills in nursing education and public health practice. This joint degree program is very timely to the current pandemic crisis and the current healthcare climate needs. According to the Bureau of Healthcare Workforce, estimates a 16% increase in public health jobs over the next ten years. This number is increased by merging nursing and public health combined positions. Nevertheless, we know that the pandemic continues to evolve, and the public health and healthcare practitioners must continue to deliver high-quality care for all patients. Therefore, it is critical during a public health crisis to ensure a well-trained public health workforce prepares to emerge as future leaders in this field.
Brian Thomas Ph.D.: A degree in physics can open doors to working at companies in a variety of industries. Research and development teams at aerospace, computer, software, telecommunications, and other technical-focused companies employ people with degrees in physics at all levels. People trained in physics also work in other areas, including journalism, finance, even the entertainment industry. I don't know that I can recommend any specific companies, but generally, any company focused on technical solutions will likely be a good fit.
Brian Thomas Ph.D.: I think there will be an increase. We will continue to need new developments in technology, mostly renewable energy and communications. A physics degree gives one the skills and flexibility required to work in new, emerging technical fields.
Brian Thomas Ph.D.: I think there are opportunities everywhere. Some places may have a higher concentration of employment opportunities. A couple of examples would be Silicon Valley and the Seattle area, but technology companies are not just limited to those high-profile areas.
Justin Couchman Ph.D.: Even during the pandemic, the main things that stand out on a resume are internships and research experience. That might be online now or under strange new conditions, but still, get it where you can. Make an opportunity for yourself or suggest possible ways of getting involved in video conferences or online research. The methods are changing, but counselors are still working on Zoom and other platforms.
One of the most common interview questions is: "Describe a situation in which you faced great difficulty and how you handled it." Every recent graduate has been faced with great difficulty, and it is good to think about how you can handle it and pull as much good out of the situation as possible. In many ways forming your personal story is more comfortable today because there are many more challenges and many more opportunities to succeed.
Justin Couchman Ph.D.: Online counseling has been around for a while, but I think it will become a lot more mainstream, even after the pandemic. This will make psychological counseling a lot more accessible and in-demand.
Many apps either connect people to counselors or directly instruct people on how to follow different therapies or programs. In some ways, this is a potentially dangerous Wild West situation where anyone can make an app to help people. Some apps are great; some are not. We might start to see more regulation in this area.
Justin Couchman Ph.D.: COVID-19 will probably have many long-term effects on recent graduates. For starters, many colleges are reducing or eliminating graduate programs. This means there will be fewer opportunities to attain degrees and licenses and potentially a smaller counselors' supply. This could go on for years. Simultaneously, demand for psychological counseling has never been greater and will likely increase over time. Those beginning in the field have tremendous opportunities to do great work and make good money to learn to adapt to our new reality.
Julie Aultman Ph.D.: In terms of students in the social sciences and humanities, for example, I actually envision a bright future for these students who have been receiving their education and training without disruption (despite having to experience different pedagogical modalities of instruction). My clinical ethics and humanities students, however, have had the opportunity to examine the issues central to the pandemic, its impact on our healthcare system, our marginalized and vulnerable populations, and are incorporating those issues relevant to research ethics, public health, epidemiology, political science, etc. into their lived experiences.
I have already observed their refined abilities to critically think through problems; their moral development is heightened by the need for them to be courageous, resilient, and leaders of change. For my medical students (who are dual-enrolled in my program), while times have been tough, they have been successful on their Board examinations, and see the importance of their calling - to help patients despite the risks. I have been humbled by these students who regularly check in with their faculty, staff, friends, and family with the messages of "stay safe," "be well," and "we will get through this together." These students will develop their professional skills with grace because of this pandemic.
Julie Aultman Ph.D.: We need this future workforce to be innovative, to make important changes - from environmental and global warming initiatives (bioethicists who have a passion for environmental ethics) to being researchers and advocates for patients and others who might fall victim to the negative impact of the pandemic (clinical ethics, health humanities scholars). The transition to work will be slow, as the revitalization of our national economy, but there will be work.
We need these future minds more than anything right now. But again, mentors are going to be essential for helping these graduates get to that next phase in their lives. I am fully confident my dual-enrolled students (medical or pharmacy students who are also taking the Masters program in Medical Ethics and Humanities) will find work opportunities. For my traditional graduate students who are not in the health professions, there will be roles for these students in medicine and science (e.g., regulatory compliance).
However, I do encourage them to work toward a doctoral program as the MA degree is a non-terminal degree. I have had students receive work prior to the pandemic, and I would suspect similar opportunities post-pandemic, particularly in the sciences where ethics and compliance are so essential.
Julie Aultman Ph.D.: For medical ethics and humanities, technology will have a major impact on how graduates and experts in the field - as they will need to examine the impact of these technologies, their limitations, and the ethical dilemmas that might emerge in the development or utilization of these technologies. For those graduates in my clinical ethics track of the MA program in Medical Ethics and Humanities, they have already experienced the use of telemedicine and, perhaps, in the future, teleconsultations in ethics and the ways they might communicate with patients, families, and providers in the future.
Janet Williams Ph.D.: Students who wish to continue their education in healthcare (MD, DO, DMD, DVM, PA, PT, OT, and many other areas), should ensure that they have plenty of experience in healthcare by becoming certified as an EMT or CNA, and spend at least 1-2 years working or volunteering in that capacity. Students should graduate with strong GPAs, over 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, and should have taken all of their prerequisite courses. Students should be prepared to take standardized admissions exams, and plan to do well in them.
Janet Williams Ph.D.: PCR diagnostics are already critical, but they will become more critical as time goes on, since nearly all disorders or infections might be able to be diagnosed with PCR technology, in a matter of minutes, in the clinic.
Possibly, a little further out, will be genome sequencing to determine health risks for patients. It might even be able to prescribe lifestyle and nutrition best-practices for individuals, based on their genetics.
Janet Williams Ph.D.: Students destined for healthcare must always understand that every patient that comes into the clinic that presents flu virus symptoms might have something far more dangerous, such as SARS-CoV-2 or Ebola. Students must learn to adapt quickly and be prepared and conscientious when working with patients and human body fluids. I hope that the enduring impact for students would be the ability to adapt quickly and learn to exercise safe-practices to keep themselves and others safe and pathogen-free.