February 25, 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.
Appalachian State University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Coastal Carolina University
Baldwin Wallace University
College of the Holy Cross
University of North Florida
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Arkansas State University
Dr. James Buthman Ph.D.: The world has changed with the pandemic and associated issues of society. This, in my view, raises the importance of adaptability and resilience. One of the best aspects of getting a Political Science degree is that it helps to understand society and come to the realization of the complexity of the modern world. Therefore, that knowledge students gain helps them to be adaptable and build resilience within the complex modern world. Whatever career path one starts out on, they will build their skill-sets but being adaptable and resilient are important elements of their education.
Dr. James Buthman Ph.D.: Knowing how to be conversant about data is essential. However, the most valuable aspects of education come from actually analyzing that data and understanding what questions it does not answer. And professional skills, being thoughtful and communicating with others, are valuable because graduates will evolve over time.
Dr. James Buthman Ph.D.: Salaries are variable for graduates with a Political Science degree because there is such a wide range of professions you can pursue: for example, journalism, non-profit work, entry level governmental employee, or the private sector. The most important thing to remember is that your first job is helping to build on the foundation of skills and knowledge you have constructed throughout college.
Dr. Phillip Ardoin: I think we'll see a dramatic increase in opportunities for individuals to work remotely. We have several students who have landed jobs with DC interest groups and campaigns and they are all working from NC. From the perspective of political science, entry-level positions are cyclical depending on who holds the majority. Dems have lots of new job opportunities at this point.
Dr. Phillip Ardoin: Writing skills and data analytics are important for most positions.
Dr. Phillip Ardoin: Washington, DC, and most state capitals. Surprisingly, we are also seeing quite a few entry-level job opportunities in local government.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Department of Political Science and International Studies
Andrew Scerri: Yes, indeed. Until it is under control, PSCI graduates possessing knowledge of the public health policy terrain and the preferences of citizens will be in demand by representatives, and potential representatives, at local, state, and national levels. Once the virus is under control (presuming that it will be), PSCI graduates with this kind of two-dimensional knowledge will remain in demand, as will those with knowledge and skills in relation to the fairness and equity concerns that inevitably will be raised by any vaccine rollout. Being able to forecast emerging trends in public opinion, to compare policy experiments across jurisdictions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of policy experiments for different individuals, groups, or collective actors such as businesses or a whole industrial sector will also become more valuable.
Andrew Scerri: Increasingly, PSCI graduates will need both empirical skills (quantitative data analysis, appreciation of qualitative research methods) and theoretical knowledge (political theory and philosophy). If the pandemic demonstrates anything, it is that policymakers cannot simply "crunch the numbers" or "collect the facts" and enact effective solutions to social problems, such as public health. Very few people without both sets of skills foresaw the rapid uptake of hitherto marginal "anti-vaxxer" beliefs in the first months of the pandemic. Getting over this now, sadly, widespread phenomenon will require graduates with a solid appreciation of why "the facts" no longer matter. The same can be said of the "other big issue:" climate change. Denial of the reality of human-induced climate change has, over the last decade or so, become mainstream. Even media outlets that insist on presenting "both sides of the story" effectively deny the reality of the science. So, this is a big problem and PSCI graduates with two-dimensional skills are well-placed to offer representatives and potential representatives, regulatory and foreign service authorities, think tanks, and of course, schools, community colleges and universities, tools for responding to citizenly denialism and mass-media preoccupations with presenting "both sides."
Andrew Scerri: Demonstrating the two-dimensional skillset mentioned above, in terms of your electives, does stand out; as does having worked as a paid research assistant while a graduate student, especially for positions such as political staffer, research officer for nongovernmental or governmental bodies, or business consultant. Equally, paid or unpaid work (interning) matters. Voluntary work for nongovernmental organizations, lobby groups, and so on, counts. Often, graduates tend to "pad' resumes with extraneous information about sporting achievements, civic service (e.g., volunteering for a charity), and the like. Much of this kind of thing is merely taken as given qualities of any good citizen. What you're trying to show in your resume is that you are a skilled and knowledgeable professional with training in the discipline of political science. While at graduate school, make decisions on your time, which will mean that your resume reflects this.
Coastal Carolina University
Department of Politics
Pamela Martin Ph.D.: For Politics majors, local/municipal and state budgets, given the pandemic, have declined, but work on planning and resilience has been on the rise. The pandemic has afforded students the opportunity to develop new digital skills - particularly those regarding videoconference interviews and meetings; data analysis; and work flow management applications.
Pamela Martin Ph.D.: I would recommend they seek a digital internship. There are even global internships that can be done via distance with international institutions and corporations.
Pamela Martin Ph.D.: Be curious; try new courses and experiential learning/hands-on activities offered at your university. Be engaged in your campus and your broader community, which affords leadership development, networking, and a cultivation of your personal connection to a wider world.
Dr. Anjali Sahay: The Coronavirus epidemic of 2020 altered the employment landscape dramatically. The U.S. economy and labor market are experiencing some changing trends:
- Jobs that can be done remotely will have the flexibility to continue in that direction. As a result, companies will consider relocating workers to less expensive cities since the salary per person can be reduced.
- Education will see more hyplex classes with virtual options.
- The drop in labor force participation will be larger for women than for men, partly because of the childcare crisis.
- Jobs will increase in the goods as well as the supply chain industries as people will continue to buy online products. The service industry will take some time to recover. Bars, hotels, restaurants, air travel, cruises - they're going to be affected for some time. People are going to be scared to be in confined spaces with lots of people around.
Dr. Anjali Sahay: As folks search for jobs during COVID-19, it is likely that they will either find opportunities in the essential workforce or in remote jobs (even if only remote temporarily) as the country practices social distancing.
- Self-driven - as people work from home, motivation and self driven people will be more successful.
- Tech savvy (technological and digital Skills) - with more and more meetings, work projects, and classes going virtual, technological skills are more important than ever.
- Negotiation - in business, negotiating skills will always be an important skill.
- Adaptability - employers will want to know that you have what it takes to adapt to these changes brought on by COVID.
- Emotional intelligence - to deal with customers and vendors, this is an evergreen skill.
Dr. Anjali Sahay: In the field of political science - in and around Washington, D.C. That's where we have the bulk of government jobs. Also, New York for organizations and NGOs, but New York can be expensive for new job seekers. However, the state capitals in any state are good places for federal and state jobs.
For any IT field - California and Texas remain top, but remote working may enable folks to be based anywhere they want.
Department of Government
Daniel M. Shea Ph.D.: Unquestionably, colleges and universities are tightening their belt. There have been huge expenses related to bringing students back to campus and tuition discounts for those forced to use distance learning. On top of all this, many students have decided to step aside for a semester or year, not wanting to waste their tuition resources for a less-than-optimal experience. This will lead to fewer job openings, for sure.
However, there may be one mitigating factor. Some schools are offering generous early retirement packages as a way to save money, which might lead to new job openings down the road. Here at Colby, in the Department of Government, two of our colleagues took this option - and we're conducting searches for visiting professors as we speak. My guess is that there might be a lag, where most of these spots will be filled in a year or two, but they will probably be filled - one would hope.
Daniel M. Shea Ph.D.: Candidates who are truly interested in innovative teaching and who bring a fresh perspective to issues of diversity and inclusion will stand out in the coming years. In our field, political science, there continues to be a strong demand for job candidates with solid empirical research skills. I would add that we are seeing job candidates with hefty CVs. It seems increasingly common for candidates to have several publications before landing a full-time job.
Daniel M. Shea Ph.D.: Large state schools and community colleges will be an increasingly important source of employment in the coming decades. This might not be the first choice for many newly-minted PhDs, but these can be good jobs and are very important. Unfortunately, I suspect a shrinking number of posts will be available at private liberal arts colleges. The demographics for liberal arts is heading in the wrong direction - especially in the Northeast.
It's a tough time for budding academics, to be sure. Being a professor is a wonderful job, but would I push my students - or kids - to attend graduate school to become an academic? Probably not. The job market is just too tough.
Tom Sutton Ph.D.: Increased need for workers in delivery, grocery, and large retail, which also includes the need for managers. Technology and manufacturing will continue to hire. It will be interesting to see what happens with remote learning and office technologies and the need for expertise in these areas. Recent college graduates could apply their experience with remote learning to develop innovative approaches to remote work settings. There will also likely be demand for teachers, as there has been a loss of teachers due to retirements and loss of workforce due to the pandemic. Education graduates will benefit from job opportunities and should have advantages in having been in the "student seat" as remote learners.
Tom Sutton Ph.D.: The perennial skills needed by most organizations and businesses are professional writing ability, effective oral communication (especially using remote platforms), familiarity with communication and data management software platforms, efficient time management and task orientation, problem solving skills, and the ability to take the initiative and work with minimal supervision (especially now in remote work environments). The best way to enhance these skills during a gap year is to find employment in a smaller enterprise such as a start-up venture that requires rapid adaptation, flexibility, and ability to deploy a variety of skills in a changing environment.
Tom Sutton Ph.D.: Graduates need to have short- and long-term career goals for focus but also need to be open to opportunities that may at first not quite fit their notions of what constitutes an "ideal position". They will have long careers; getting started means taking risks and trying different types of work and environments to find what suits their interests and abilities. There is also the basic necessity of providing for oneself (and others if needed). For most graduates, income to pay monthly student debt is a personal finance starting point. Graduate school should be considered only if a graduate has a clear idea about why they intend to apply and how this will advance their career (i.e., don't go to graduate school to postpone student loan payments or because one "doesn't know what else to do").
Sandy L. Maisel Ph.D.: Clearly more working remotely - and I would think in different cities. Those seeking jobs in Boston, New York, or San Francisco might start thinking Denver, San Antonio, or Nashville.
Sandy L. Maisel Ph.D.: Obviously analytical and quantitative skills, working with large data sets, but also web skills, skills in visual presentations, etc. What I have already seen is that different kinds of communications skills are needed. An applicant who might wow a potential employer might not do as well in a Zoom interview and vice versa. We need to train students to do remote interviews.
Sandy L. Maisel Ph.D.: Still CDC and state capitals, but increasingly location does not matter as much.
College of the Holy Cross
Department of Political Science
Maria G Rodrigues Ph.D.: One of the stated goals of the Department of Political Science at the College of the Holy Cross is to prepare our majors for success in a wide range of careers. Though the majority of our graduates do find employment in government, politics, and law, over a third pursue careers in the areas of finance and technology. This range of career alternatives is testament to an education that encourages critical thinking, flexibility, and curiosity.
Mary O Borg Ph.D.: I think it is likely to be a tough job market for new graduates because so many experienced workers are currently out of work due to the pandemic. However, recent graduates should not be discouraged because eventually, the economy will boom because of the pent-up demand for goods, services, and travel experiences, which had to be postponed during the pandemic.
Mary O Borg Ph.D.: Critical thinking skills and good communication skills. Both of those are important in a knowledge economy, and both also help people adapt to changing environments, which the pandemic has shown can happen at any time.
Mary O Borg Ph.D.: Internships, especially in the field that you hope to enter. Internship experiences have become more flexible during the pandemic, and many can be done online. If you can't get your dream job after you graduate, explore doing an internship, either online or part-time, while you support yourself with a less than ideal position.
Louise Antony: As for advice to graduates, I'll pass on some of the things that have come up in the Mentoring Workshops I have been involved with. There are two categories of things to keep in mind: professional advancement and teaching/research.
Professional advancement: 1) get to know your chair. Schedule a meeting with them sometime during your first year to go over things like the schedule for reappointment and tenure, the department's expectations for tenure, and the procedure for tenure review. 2) If your department offers any kind of formal mentoring program, take advantage of it. If no such program is offered, try to identify a colleague or two who might be able and willing to advise you on teaching and research matters that might come up. 3) If your faculty has a union, join it. Attend any receptions held for new faculty and any general membership meetings. They may offer an orientation for new faculty as well. Learn your rights.
Research: 1) Focus on your main research interest -- work on what you love, not on what you think will "sell." 2) At the same time, when you have decisions to make about publication, consider your department's expectations: book or articles? Refereed journal articles or prestigious invited volumes? 3) Make connections with more senior scholars in your area of interest through conferences, discussion boards, webinars, etc. If you are in the audience at a scholarly talk, ask a question, and follow up, if possible, either in person or later, in writing.
Teaching: Be organized. Be respectful of your students. Be accessible, but set limits. Build on the teaching experience you've gained as a graduate student. Keep your goals realistic -- for example, don't construct a syllabus that is inappropriate for your student population or for the level of the class. If you are in a research-intensive department, try to connect your teaching assignments and your research as much as possible -- for example, if you are offered the opportunity to teach an advanced course, choose a topic that connects with your research interests.
Dr. Catherine C. Reese: As always, communication skills are very important; I'd say that critical thinking skills, combined with excellent communication, are the skills that will really take students places.
Dr. Catherine C. Reese: I do sense that a lot of folks are retiring or contemplating retiring, in no small part due to the many difficulties and stressors associated with COVID-19. So, along with the national government, all state and local governments are fair game!
Dr. Catherine C. Reese: Technology, in the form of data analytics, will be starting to drive governmental decision-making within the next five years. Where important decisions used to be ad hoc, they will be driven by data analysis in the future. Will data-based decisions remove the politics from the administration? That remains to be seen.