April 13, 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.
University of Minnesota - Crookston
The University of Arizona
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
University of Toledo
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Eastern Washington University
Christine Bakke: For many years remote tech support has been a growing field, but it was not the norm. Today, remote tech support and IT management have become crucial for daily operations. Remote work requires a solid IT infrastructure, cybersecurity, capable equipment, and quality software. The need for educated and experienced MIS / ITM / CIS will continue to increase.
Trends toward remote offices will become more acceptable and common; while some companies will return to the office en masse, others will allow more flexibility or become hybrid, and some will truly embrace the remote office. Use of remote tools such as Zoom will stay strong, as they provide global access at a huge cost benefit.
Christine Bakke: MIS is a technical business degree which is offered with slightly different emphasis depending on the school's home department. For example, if a business department houses the degree it is often referred to as MIS; however, when Information Technology or Computer Science departments house this degree, the program would be called Information Technology Management (ITM) or Computer Information Systems (CIS). Each university has the autonomy to offer variations based on their specializations. Even though the programs can differ slightly, in general students receiving any of these three degrees receive an education in three areas: technical, management/business, and soft skills. Note that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics directs queries for all three fields (ITM, MIS and CIS) to the same data page (see answer to question 3).
Christine Bakke: In previous questions, I have used my own wording; however, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is the most accurate source for an answer to this question:
The median pay for ITM, MIS, & CIS (all listed together at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics):
$146,360 per year
$70.37 per hour
"Employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 531,200 new jobs. Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security. "
The University of Arizona
Computer science Department
Tyler Conklin: The impact of the pandemic on the job market is limited in computer science. We are lucky to be in a field where remote work was routine long before the pandemic. This isn't true of all software engineering jobs, but many can be done with only a computer and internet access. The biggest changes come in the interviewing process and how the actual work will occur. It may be a long time before new hires ever meet their coworkers face to face.
Tyler Conklin: A bachelor's degree in computer science will always help job prospects. I would consider it a great investment. However, some companies have made it clear that they are willing and happy to hire graduates of computer science boot camps. These are shorter courses aimed at teaching the student one specific technology or a very specific set of skills so that student can acquire a job in a certain subfield of software engineering. This is a much cheaper alternative than a traditional four-year degree. The tradeoff is less breadth of knowledge and more limited job options, and of course missing out on everything else that comes with a four-year degree. An even more efficient way to increase job prospects is to work on personal projects. Few things impress an interviewer more than a candidate showing off an application that he or she built on their own. What can show an interviewer that you can do the job better than a project demonstrating the required skills and knowledge?
Tyler Conklin: Computer scientists and software engineers have been fortunate in seeing salaries continually increase in the field. Computer science student enrollment has continued to skyrocket, leading to a larger workforce, but it appears that demand continues to grow even faster.
J.P. Mellor: I'm sure the pandemic will have an enduring impact on all of us. Our students are certainly experiencing new challenges as they strive to learn during the pandemic. They are aquiring skills and competencies associated with working remotely and engaging while doing so. These are skills that students in past years did not attain.
J.P. Mellor: I'm not sure that what our graduates do has changed at all. How they do it has changed somewhat. All of us are learning to connect and engage remotely. Whether they're a recent grad or a not so recent grad they all are learning new skills as a result of the impact of the pandemic.
J.P. Mellor: Our graduates are particularly good at making positive progress even when the way forward is not clear, they don't know how to do what needs to be accomplished, and/or they've never done it before. This is a skill set requires a solid technical foundation and makes our graduates especially valuable.that is part
Jared Onyango Oluoch Ph.D.: We are already seeing a lot of professionals working remotely. This trend will likely continue especially in domains such as software engineering. With this may also occur lack of social connections and team building that we have seen over the years with people working in offices or facilities.
Jared Onyango Oluoch Ph.D.: In databases - various Oracle database certifications; in networking - Cisco CCNA; in cybersecurity CompTIA security. Engineering and engineering technology graduates will boost their earning potentially by getting the Professional Engineer (PE) license.
Jared Onyango Oluoch Ph.D.: I think salaries in academia especially in Computer Science and Engineering Technology are rising and are expected to given the demand of graduates in these areas.
Janos Fustos Ph.D.: I think the impact will not be that much on the graduates but on the environment where they start their professional career and how they have completed their studies.
This pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives - among others how we work (or stat to work) and how we learn. Being in higher education I can definitely see both. The home office became the standard working environment with all the advantages and several disadvantages. You do not have to go/travel to your corporate office, you may be available even at odd hours to work, some find the home environment more relaxing, there are less formalities, some might communicate easier in writing or from behind a turned-off camera, they could take advantage of personal schedule and individual peek times, more control over their schedules etc.
But even as you work at home you may experience more disruption, you are more available for personal/family affairs, you may not have that much opportunity to interact with colleagues and miss opportunities for meaningful discussions for extending your knowledge base, networking, you have to deal with technical issues on your own or less support etc.
Some similar issues can be mentioned when it comes to changes in the way we participate in education. Most of the class meetings are online with limited individual interaction and/or access to teachers, less direct interaction with classmates, technical challenges, home office setup challenges etc. All these together impact students/graduates differently: some take these as an advantage while some others are impacted more by the disadvantages. But whichever we look at that I think there is a definite impact of the pandemic on all of us and while we have already spent about 10-12 month in this "splendid isolation" and survived more or less so far, we do not know if it may have more enduring or serious impact on our lives - that needs to be seen from a much longer perspective.
Janos Fustos Ph.D.: I hope students are asking that question before they enroll in the first course at a college because otherwise, they would waste lot of time and money to work on a degree or a career path that does not fulfill their goals and personal interest. In that sense any job is a good job that somebody understands, feels that he/she is a good fit and can live up to the imposed challenges, and has the knowledge/skills to work in the field. There are interesting and self-fulfilling jobs to choose from. Certainly, it starts with the definition what a "good" means to an individual, what are the attributes of that definition: is that the professional area, is the salary, is it the challenging nature, is it more about the working environment and the people they can work with, is it the promotion options, the high impact etc. There are several lists available on the internet that provide recommendations and track the different aspects of job selection options for seekers.
Janos Fustos Ph.D.: These days - since we went to the home office - everybody is looking for solutions that gives more and better support to remote workers. Organizations are looking for options where they can connect back to the organizations'' networks to complete their work. But that means much more work for the IT folks to make that happen and do that safely and securely. That means they are looking for individuals with technical skills that are in or closely related fields: security engineers and analysts, business analysts, data administrators, cloud service operators, network specialists etc.
Also, employers are looking for more experienced professional who can hit the ground running because their needs are more pressing and immediate, so they do not have too much time for training and education. But they are also looking for trainers to better educate users about their working environments and the changing working conditions. Users have to rely a bit more on these trainings because they cannot enjoy the immediate and direct IT support in their homes. In addition to that (or to extend that) helpdesk people are also in high demand who have the technical and also the people's skills to troubleshoot the problems that occur in highly uncertain and diverse environments.
Eastern Washington University
Department of Mathematics
Christian Hansen Ph.D.: Within the short-term, the biggest trend in the job market is currently an increased demand for workforce in the healthcare and technology disciplines. In the long-term, healthcare will remain in demand, but I predict the highest future increase will be in the areas of data science, software and computer engineering.
Christian Hansen Ph.D.: The soft skills that all graduates should possess include strong communication and teamwork skills regardless of the discipline. Analytical skills will be in high demand, as well as the ability to adapt and learn new technology. Data will continue to play a bigger role in almost any type of business; therefore, the ability to analyze and interpret data for decision making will be increasingly critical. Many jobs in the future are jobs that do not yet exist and as a result, new graduates must have the ability to adapt.
Christian Hansen Ph.D.: In the post-pandemic era, a typical workday for a recent graduate will likely involve some form of remote work. I predict that many businesses will benefit from the reduced cost of remote infrastructure compared to the cost of maintaining brick and mortar office space. Many new graduates will continue to spend their day on a computer while collaborating in teams via Zoom and other teleconference tools. People working in disciplines that have traditionally been "on the ground" will move towards more hybrid modes of work, reducing the need for travel and participating in face-to-face meetings and training.
John Russo: My sense is that the coronavirus pandemic has had an enduring impact on all of society. Our graduates this year will have missed out on the opportunity to present their senior project to a group and to participate in a poster fair. The pandemic will impact the way that graduates work, in the sense that they will have had to learnt to adapt to a new learning modality fairly quickly. This can be difficult for students who struggle with executive functioning. On the positive side, students have learned to adapt to change quickly. This is a very good skill to have, since working in a technical field often involves managing and dealing with change. Over the span of one's career, there will be much change in programming languages used, technologies, etc. Learning to adapt is something that often takes some time to learn in the workplace. Our graduates this year will have acquired this skill before being employed.
John Russo: Many companies will continue to have employees work remotely. This means that one has to be a self-starter, able to focus and stay on task. Some jobs, such as a network administrator, might not look much different than pre-pandemic. Others, such as software engineer, will be different. Much of the collaboration will take place virtually. One piece that will be missing from the workday for recent graduates is socializing and building a team outside of the boundaries of work.
John Russo: As I mentioned above, the ability to adapt to change. My favorite course is database management systems. I tell my students that the software that we use today likely will not be around for the entire span of their careers. They really need to learn how to quickly work with new technologies, languages and systems. In the span of my career much has changed. I have always found new technologies exciting and refreshing. Employers want to hire graduates who have a set of technical skills in programming languages, database management systems and techniques (such as data mining) but also can learn on the job and be excited to learn new things.