December 2, 2020
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.
Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy - CSWA
East Tennessee State University
The USA Hockey Foundation
Pacific Lutheran University
ASCP - Associated Skin Care Professionals
Frostburg State University
Nicolle Zellner (on behalf of members of the CSWA): I believe (hope) that the effects of the pandemic will be short-lived and that there will be a surge in job opportunities once a vaccine is available. Nevertheless, greater flexibility and versatility in skills are always useful. For example, astronomers who have analyzed large data sets or worked with machine learning algorithms will be in significant demand.
Interdisciplinary studies are also on the rise. New fields like astrobiology are rapidly growing, and there are ripe potentials for researchers with unique combinations of expertise or who can work with broad collaborations spanning disciplines.
With the growth of data, especially from large astronomical surveys, technical skills like computer programming and experience with data science tools and machine learning is increasingly useful. The ability to communicate complex ideas to a range of audiences is a necessity in most fields, and astronomers generally have great relevant experience with community outreach.
Nicolle Zellner (on behalf of members of the CSWA): I think that permanent and what might be considered more "traditional" astronomy research positions like tenured professorships are more difficult to attain, primarily because of a short supply in the availability of those positions compared to the number of qualified candidates. Looking more broadly, there's a wide range of relevant positions for which many astronomers have very useful and increasingly more recognized skillsets - outreach/education positions for a variety of age groups in STEM, technical program/project management, scientific writing, and data science in industry, as examples.
Nicolle Zellner (on behalf of members of the CSWA): Advances in optics technology (laser frequency combs, for example) have already impacted high precision radial velocity measurements that the exoplanet community has been using to search for Earth-sized exoplanets. In the next five years, this technology will continue to be developed and used by other sub-fields in astronomy, including cosmology and Galactic dynamicists.
In planetary science, there are a number of advances that are rapidly changing how we do an exploration of our solar system. For example, NASA is strongly pushing for commercial partnerships that may facilitate delivering scientific payloads to the Moon, and small satellites (e.g., CubeSats) are opening up a lot of new options for both scientists, technologists, and engineers to get more involved in solar system missions.
Computational and algorithmic advances make it easier to aggregate and analyze large datasets, especially with the increasing prevalence of astronomical sky surveys. The increasing popularity of open-source tools and cloud usage for sharing data, I think, is and will be pushing reproducibility of research to be a more heavily emphasized expectation of the standard research process and evaluation metric of a researcher's work.
Dr. Frederick Gordon Ph.D.: Graduate students will need to refocus on the changing institutional role, being both remote and in-person, and impacting agency goals and performance.
Dr. Frederick Gordon Ph.D.: Budgeting skills are essential, as well as apparent, logical written ability.
Dr. Frederick Gordon Ph.D.: Program concentration and meaningful internship experience.
Theresa Earenfight Ph.D.: As a historian of the European Middle Ages, I'm struck by how students this past year have acquired something scarce: historical empathy. The past can seem so remote, so very different from our lived experiences today, and this can make history seem irrelevant. But this fall, I was teaching a section on the bubonic plague, which historians of medicine now know was a global pandemic, not just an epidemic in Europe. Usually, students are fascinated by the gruesome medical details, but not this group.
They did not need or want to look death in the eyes. They wanted to know how did people react? How did they get back to normal? When we ticked off the list of reactions--fear, distrust of science (such as it was in 1348), xenophobia, scapegoating, economic collapse, hoarding supplies, turn to religion, gallows humor about worms crawling about corpses--they got it. When we talked about the aftermath--eat, drink, be merry, and protest the inequality--they got it. That is historical empathy, and I'm sad that this was how it had to be learned, but it will give them broader compassion that can encompass people alive today.
Theresa Earenfight Ph.D.: Science. They will need to learn and trust scientific knowledge-social work. We have a lot of work to do to repair the social fabric. Art. We need to know to express our pain in creative ways.
Theresa Earenfight Ph.D.: Altruism. Anyone who reaches out and does work that repairs the shredded world and does not ask for an avalanche of cash. And an understanding of how privilege works and a desire to work to rein in the harm of unchecked privilege.
Tamara Tranter: Remote, remote, remote. I also believe we will see more people trying to enter different fields than the fields they were in pre-pandemic. Our norms have shifted, and almost everyone has had to pivot in some way to show their value. People with experience in different areas will be able to add more value to a company that has had to downsize.
Tamara Tranter: Communication skills. Take a communications course. Read books on communication and leadership. You may not want to be the leader, but learning about leadership will help you understand what type of leader you want to work for and learn from. Pick up the phone and call people you think you want to work for or learn from, don't just email them; making cold calls teaches you character. Learn to stand out. What can you do during that year that will add value to your life and career buckets? Read and learn about emotional intelligence - understand who you are and how to best interact with others.
Companies who are hiring are going to want to know you were doing something to grow and learn during the year if you were not employed or going to class during that time. Don't fake it. Tell us that you were taking an online class in a different program you wanted to learn about or that you were a stay at home parent that had to help your child/children with remote learning. Talk about the things you were motivated to do each day and the things that challenged you. Tell us if you had a family member that was ill. We want to know that you did things to help you grow and add value to yourself - reading books, taking up running, helping out your neighbors. We know everyone faced some type of struggle during this, but how did you manage it?
Tamara Tranter: Take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, and don't go into interviews with big expectations. Many qualified people have been impacted and are going to get many of the jobs because they have past experience. So be realistic, be positive, and be a team player.
Pacific Lutheran University
Jordan Levy Ph.D.: Any research project where students develop independent research skills. This can be part of the coursework, or part of an internship, or through a summer research assistantship. Anthropology is known for its holistic and comparative perspective and our ability to communicate effectively with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Our qualitative research methods, in particular, have a range of applications. If students can develop interview skills and their capacity to make sense of human behavior, while also pursuing their undergraduate degrees, this knowledge and skill set will be attractive to a range of employers. As the U.S. becomes more diverse, our society will demand a workforce to better understand and interact with people from a range of cultural backgrounds.
Jordan Levy Ph.D.: Some students enter college having taken a "gap year" between high school and university. Any kind of volunteer or work experience that further develops their interpersonal communication skills is beneficial for the range of discussion and small group work that university-level classes require. Some students do service projects in other countries, which is great because they also gain international experiences that contribute to their overall formation as informed global citizens. These experiences can then tell what kinds of classes they take in university and can remain a source of inspiration for what careers they pursue.
Jordan Levy Ph.D.: Most of the students I work with are, fortunately, very quick to learn new communication technologies. This is so important because, as the COVID pandemic has shown us, the ability to work remotely is crucial. Communicating in a range of formats (writing emails, recording videos, participating in group discussions via Zoom, etc.) while also making your arguments and content clear to a range of audiences is essential, now more than ever.
Namita Sugandhi Ph.D.: Historically, pandemics have created significant shifts in both the social and economic conditions of life, and this one is no different. The most influential trends that I expect in the job market are tighter hiring practices that will require candidates to have multiple skillsets, pushing many workers into increasingly unsafe and unfair positions. An unfortunate mantra of gratitude developed amongst the employed, early in the pandemic, was, "At least I still have a job." I think that sentiment still exists for people. Many employers know this and will continue to use it to their advantage. They pressure their employees to work under conditions that are increasingly unhealthy and untenable for themselves and their families. This will exacerbate many of the existing inequalities that this pandemic has already highlighted. In addition to becoming more ruthless and exploitative, I think future hiring patterns will highly value a candidates' ability to demonstrate resilience and innovation during the pandemic. A candidate's technological prowess - even for a non-technical job - will also be much more visible and impact standards and expectations of professionalism in the job market.
Namita Sugandhi Ph.D.: Documentation and public engagement will remain crucial parts of Anthropological work, and technology that allows us to record, analyze, and share data will continue to be necessary. Over the next several years, it will be essential to find new and innovative ways of connecting virtually to audiences' broader network. This will require the ability to think out-of-the-box and adapt to unique circumstances and new technologies. Technologies that allow people to build relationships across space will continue to transform how we experience social life. Those who are new to the job market will have to master these new virtual strategies of communication and self-promotion and need to understand and navigate the impact of this pandemic on the non-virtual world.
Namita Sugandhi Ph.D.: There is an absolute need for employees who can think anthropologically, but this is probably not where most jobs will lie in the next five years. There is no perceived "demand" for Anthropology graduates in most circumstances; this is not new, but it is to our detriment as a society when most people no longer have the capacity to critically understand the social and historical circumstances of the labor market. This will continue to erode at safe and fair conditions for many working people in America and worldwide. That being said, new candidates will have to be adept at doing new things in new ways - not just replicating the same old things in new ways. I do not think the training for this will come from the professional fields of medicine, law, or business, which are traditionally more conservative. I suspect there will continue to be a declining demand for professional Anthropologists but increasing demand for skilled graduates with an anthropology background. They can apply the social and historical insights of these subjects to whatever field they practice.
John Marston: Critical thinking, the ability to communicate in writing, and problem-solving skills are essential in archaeology.
John Marston: Private contractor companies are operating in the consulting space, termed "Cultural Resource Management."
John Marston: More opportunities for remote work as organizations become more comfortable with small platforms.
ASCP - Associated Skin Care Professionals
Emily Morgan: The skincare industry is not slowing down. Our world may have been put on pause for a moment, but this industry and the professionals who work within it are resilient and won't be taken down quickly. But that doesn't mean things are going to go back to how they were... Not only will newly licensed estheticians have to demonstrate their overall professionalism and knowledge of skincare techniques and sanitation protocols but, likely, they will also need to display a keen understanding and ability to adhere to individual health and safety procedures that are a direct result of COVID-19
Emily Morgan: Standards are elevating in the skincare industry, and this is a good thing! However, esthetic graduates may find that the basics needed to pass their state board exams may not cut it for gainful employment. Estheticians looking for a new job should be prepared to show that they have a strong knowledge of sanitation and safety protocols, treatment techniques, and ingredients. Certifications in more advanced esthetic services will improve the chances of gainful employment. This demonstrates to potential employers that the esthetician is eager to learn, grow, and offer a new means of income. Belonging to an association such as Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) also shows an impressive level of professionalism and maturity, and shows that the esthetician is serious about protecting and flourishing in their new career, which will be very attractive to employers.
Department of Philosophy
Dr. Steven Coutinho: I suspect that it is likely that, globally, there will be an overall shift from the employment of people to the utilization of machines, robots, and automated software, to reduce human contact and minimize costs, due to health and hygiene. The jobs that will be least affected will be those that cannot be mechanized or automated. These are the jobs that involve training in the so-called "soft" skills: reasoning, writing, persuasion, creativity, analysis, ethical sensibility, and human understanding. These are the skills that are cultivated intensively in the Philosophy major and minor.
The Philosophy degree itself is very versatile as these skills are transferable to a variety of jobs. Philosophy majors typically go on to careers in law, medicine, education, politics, entrepreneurship, and business.
One of the unique opportunities provided by training in philosophy is ethics: environmental ethics, business ethics, medical ethics, etc. Ethical discourse has been severely lacking in our economic culture. Still, the current pandemic and the ecological crisis (climate change, species extinction, etc.) have highlighted the need for greater ethical awareness in all employment sectors. Employers who are thinking creatively about alternative approaches will be on the lookout for those trained in the humanities and who can make compelling ethical evaluations of policy and appropriate recommendations.
However, I would strongly advise against a career as a Philosophy Professor, as it is excessively competitive. The number of openings appears to be decreasing, while the number of candidates with Ph.D.s increases.
Dr. Steven Coutinho: Since Philosophy majors get jobs in any and every sector, the technologies they will need will depend on their specific employment area.
However, anyone considering a career as a Philosophy professor will have to develop online and distance teaching expertise. This has changed the teaching experience dramatically, as the technologies and skills are vastly different from those required for in-person instruction.
Dr. Steven Coutinho: This depends on how the field responds to current changes. If Philosophy Departments focus on training graduates for successful careers outside of academia, especially training in applied ethics, politics, and other areas of contemporary concern, I would predict an increase in demand for graduates, given the reasons stated in 1. above.
Dr. Adelaide Kelly-Massoud: Special Education may be unique in a COVID-19 era because the demand is not expected to waver. I would argue now, more than ever; the school will be looking deeply at candidates' qualifications. A teacher candidate entering the field will want the resume to reflect their abilities and what they can offer to school culture. During this time, schools will want to see that candidates have varied experiences with face to face, virtual, and possibly, hybrid instruction. Some, if not many, teacher candidates are entering the field with all of their clinical experience being a reflection of virtual COVID-19 era teaching. If that is the case, I would advise candidates to highlight experiences with pre-K-12 students that informed their decision to join the field. Highlight the spark of passion moment and past jobs working with kids.
Current trends and future directions of special education will require candidates that have a pulse on the social justice issues that face today's children. Candidates' resumes should reflect their ability to create a safe and inclusive classroom for all learners. The achievement gaps that already existed in education will continue to grow in the face of the global pandemic. A resume reflecting a special education teacher has the passion and skills to use data-driven, research-based interventions to narrow the gap and show a more profound commitment to creating meaningful change.
Dr. Adelaide Kelly-Massoud: Well, every teacher and teacher candidate was thrust into distance learning. Misguided attempts to foster understanding often leaned our adult distant learning pedagogy. Teachers, and those who prepare teachers, found their job to research, define, design, and implement meaningful teaching and learning using a virtual platform. Words such as synchronous and asynchronous are now a part of our everyday vernacular. But there is a much more optimistic change on the horizon that we can thank coronavirus for.
Communication and collaboration have been forced to change. Parents and Teachers are more connected and have been put in a position to leverage technology to build networks of support and consistent dialog. I urge teachers to leverage this in their future as we work to reopening schools; we should learn from this experience to leverage technology to keep us connected.
Dr. Adelaide Kelly-Massoud: How could there not be? The coronavirus era's teacher candidates are leveraged to be the most influential teachers in our nation's history. I believe this to be true. Children, across the country and world, have been exposed to social isolation, a disruption in learning, political, and social unrest. Now, more than ever, students, ALL students, need teachers who can create the therapeutic learning environments that will allow students to thrive once again. Access and inequity have long plagued our academic system and led to significant and horrifying achievement gaps. The coronavirus forced that outside education to see the disparities play out on their television screens and social media feeds. As the quarantine lifestyle became the new norm, the divide grew. Those who could, and were willing to pay, could maintain face-to-face instruction, while others struggle to get access to technology.
Students whose academic career is driven by the goal setting and progress monitoring, often used in special education, were sent home for parents and teachers struggling to find a way to make things work. Enduring impacts on our graduates aren't all negative. I think teacher candidates that worked through the coronavirus and pursued a degree and have both a level of commitment and a clear image of teaching demands. I believe they saw first-hand how bad things can be and how vital their role is. I am optimistic that a silver lining to a terrible year is that teacher candidates persevered for their future students and that this quality is now deeply ingrained in their craft.
Dr. Sheying Chen Ph.D.: As one of the media articles pointed out, the crisis has hit public-sector jobs once considered safe. Due to social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders, many people have been working remotely. So, teleworking is one of the biggest trends we see in the job market, with more professionals working at home whenever possible. Even when stay-at-home orders are relaxed, many may continue working from home until the pandemic is fully contained.
Dr. Sheying Chen Ph.D.: The economy will eventually recover, though its structure and job composition may be quite different. Public administration has to adapt to those fundamental changes with retraining, renovation, etc. with more muscular accountability control, particularly for new entrants to the labor force. Experts suggest that the pandemic's primary consequence is to accelerate the timeline of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) we had already anticipated. Policymakers should push for investments in institutions that closely tie worker skills to employers' needs, as the economy recovers after COVID-19.
Dr. Sheying Chen Ph.D.: State and local governments re-evaluate their current capacities and plan for reduced revenues in the coming fiscal years. This will result in a shift in hiring in the public sector that may last for some time; thus, graduates should be better prepared for finding job opportunities, networking, etc. There is likely a decrease in demand for graduates in the next couple of years, although the trend is not unique to this field. It's an excellent time to go back to school and get a degree in active pursuit of new skills for the changing work environment. Active learners may demand more creative programming and increased networking that may also help to advance the field of public administration.
Frostburg State University
Jamelyn Tobery-Nystrom: Special education needs are wide and varying, depending on position and state/jurisdiction needs. In general, knowledge and experience in the Autism Spectrum is a high need area. Knowledge and skills in behavioral/mental health are also in demand. Indeed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to adapt instruction online is a new skill area for special education teachers.
Jamelyn Tobery-Nystrom: Special education teachers are needed everywhere. Urban areas have more openings; however, rural areas struggle to find qualified candidates because their number is limited. We are not producing enough teachers in the United States, and we have a real crisis in special education.
Jamelyn Tobery-Nystrom: Technology impacts special education in many ways. First, technology is the primary tool for kids with communication disorders. So, knowing how to find and use technology with students is critical. Second, instruction is now online for many of our students; therefore, learning new ways to teach using technology is needed. Technology will continue to evolve and be central to instruction.