September 22, 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.
Southeastern Louisiana University
University of Tulsa
Keiser University Latin American Campus.
Florida Atlantic University
University of New Haven
University of Central Missouri
Murray State University
University of South Alabama
Washington University in St. Louis
Montana State University
University of Pittsburgh - Bradford
North Dakota State University
Southeastern Louisiana University
Department of Computer Science
Dr. Ghanssan Alkadi Ph.D.: Working on Software projects that involve team communication, Agile Process, and working with either the MERN, MEAN, or .Net stacks.
Dr. Ghanssan Alkadi Ph.D.: The most important soft skills are how to elicit requirements from clients and how to present the developed software to non-Information technology professionals.
Dr. Ghanssan Alkadi Ph.D.: Analytical and programming skills to solve problems at hand.
Dr. Ghanssan Alkadi Ph.D.: Web and Mobile App development will help you earn the most.
University of Tulsa
School of Accounting and CIS at the Collins College of Business
Sal Aurigemma Ph.D.: We constantly work with employers that recruit our students, and for the past several years, there has been an almost insatiable need for workers with skills in data analytics & visualization, agile software development, cloud system architecture and administration, and cyber security.
Sal Aurigemma Ph.D.: All the soft skills are important, but a few are absolutely critical in today's hybrid workforce. With the uncertainty of COVID delaying the return to the office, many companies are embracing hybrid work and/or 100% remote for some or all of their employees. Today's employees must be able to effectively communicate over a range of different modalities, both synchronously and asynchronously, while still being able to actively build and maintain relationships as they participate in one or more teams of coworkers, customers, and other stakeholders. Today's IT workers need to be honest with themselves on the work environments they can and cannot succeed within.
Sal Aurigemma Ph.D.: Students graduating with Information Systems and related degrees usually have little problem finding employment upon graduation. However, the pandemic upended that paradigm for some. For those who recently graduated and are still looking for employment, keep the faith and develop your technical skills. Developers should show prospective employers that they are familiar with agile programming methodologies and modern DevOps stacks and processes. Data analysts should be focused on presenting their ability to work with structured and unstructured data, effectively query data using SQL & NoSQL, and, most importantly, provide actionable insight by making data accessible and relatable to decision-makers at all levels of an organization. Those interested in cloud architecture and cyber security careers have to keep current on their skills and certifications. Cloud engineers need to stay aware of the constant changes happening at the major providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) and, as with all other IT fields, provide tangible evidence of your skills via real projects that you have worked on. Prospective cyber security analysts should first focus on identifying their first specialization because there are too many security roles to learn them all at once, especially as beginners. Two popular entry-level cyber security jobs include information security consultant and Security Operations Center (SOC). Both of these roles require a sound foundation in networking fundamentals, vulnerability identification and mitigation, and an understanding of organizationally relevant security and privacy frameworks and regulations.
Sal Aurigemma Ph.D.: Each of the areas and skills mentioned above is important. The way to earn the most in any of the varied specialties in IT depends on having the right blend of technical and soft skills for a particular employer and, frankly, being the right person at the right time for the right employer. That sounds ambiguous, but the point is that those looking for IT work need to research which companies, locations, and specific jobs pay the most with open positions that match their skillset. And, if you find that dream job with the dream pay but you don't have the requisite skills, there are plenty of opportunities to show a potential employer that you are willing to learn the skills to succeed in that position.
Keiser University Latin American Campus.
Software Engineering and Management Information Systems (MIS) Department
Elio Rivas: Of course, due to the pandemic impact, a lot of companies have been forced to downsize. Nowadays the companies are looking for highly experienced professionals instead of new graduates. Even though the working modality has changed to remote, the exigencies/requirements for job applications are getting harder for new graduates.
Elio Rivas: English is 95% percent required in most of the applications. The new graduates face the challenges to know and have experience in almost all the programming languages and companies ask to be certified in most of the cases.
Companies in Nicaragua don't have a culture for training their workforce. This means that neither new graduates have the budget to get certified nor experienced workforce.
Elio Rivas: All the graduates should have customer services-oriented, teamwork, emotional intelligence, patient, persistency, audacity. Negotiation skills to get better paid.
Alan Cheville Ph.D.: A good job is always one that aligns with a student's interests and has the possibility for advancement. There are so many individual factors unique to each graduate that it is nearly impossible to broadly identify "a good job". Students come out of college with different levels of debt, ability to relocate, etc. so what may be a good job for one is not for another.
Alan Cheville Ph.D.: Technical skills stand out to employers if they are the ones their organization needs. So understanding an employer and their needs is quite important - internships are a good way to gain such understanding and build relationships. More generally being able to show that you understand the underlying theory but also have the skills to put that theory into practice along with a demonstrated capability to continue to learn on one's own are highly sought after in technical areas that are changing rapidly.
Florida Atlantic University
Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Maria Larrondo Petrie Ph.D.: Students graduating during the pandemic are missing career fair and career service events that the universities and professional association offer, which are very important to get an internship and an entry level position. So their entry-level position may be not in their major and not at the salary and responsibilities that they had hoped. This impacts subsequent offers.
Maria Larrondo Petrie Ph.D.: I teach engineering and computer science, these areas are less prone to the pandemic as they lend themselves to transfer well to virtual work employment. The President's focus on building the infrastructure also is great for these majors.
Maria Larrondo Petrie Ph.D.: The potential employee needs to be comfortable and flexible to learn different technologies needed to be successful in the virtual work environment. More importantly than the technical schools are the soft skills that give the employee the self-discipline and communications skills to be effective and productive in a virtual work environment. The non-technical major needs to be computer literate and have the mindset to learn new technical skills.
Christopher Martinez Ph.D.: I always tell students to practice for an interview by thinking about how they will answer behavior questions such as how to do your work on a team, how you lead a team, how you learn from a failure, etc. This year I would add a new question to this list, and that is how you work remotely. Students should consider how they work with classmates to find a remote work style that works for them. They should explore how to work with Slack or Microsoft Teams to communicate and organize their team. I think we will see that remote work is a trend that will remain with us for the foreseeable future so students should work to become more comfortable with this new work style.
Christopher Martinez Ph.D.: Courses that have a heavy emphasis on hands-on projects can have a massive impact on your job prospects. In the technology field, you want to make sure your resume has many tools/skills that the industry uses, from hardware, test equipment, software tools, and programming languages. If you can take a course that will allow you to learn what industry uses while teaching you theory, you should run to take the course.
Christopher Martinez Ph.D.: The best job you can have out of college is a job you have passion for and will set you up to advance your career. If you have always wanted to work in aerospace, then you should seek out that field from the start. I hate to see students settle for a job because of pay or because they feel they can move to their dream field later.
Kevin Treu Ph.D.: Be a sponge! Use every resource at your disposal to learn all you can, not only about the tools and techniques for the projects you've been assigned but for everything your new company does. These resources will most likely include in-house training, but don't stop there. Do online research, work through tutorials, pick the brains of your new colleagues. Never stop learning! That is a huge key to success.
Also, start your career with attention to a healthy work-life balance. Most companies explicitly value this concept and provide opportunities for you to tend to your own mental and physical wellness through various programs. Take the time to rest and recharge, and most importantly, enjoy what you're doing!
Kevin Treu Ph.D.: Seek out courses that have a major project component, ideally with students working together in teams. And as paradoxical as it may sound - the best experiences are those where the teacher is less of a teacher and more of a facilitator. That is, they create an environment where the onus is on you to go and find the tools that you need to produce the required outcome. At Furman, we have several such courses in topics such as Web-Based App Development, Game Design and Development, Systems Analysis, and Human-Computer Interaction. Sometimes it can be disconcerting - for both student and teacher - when a project-based, "just in time" learning paradigm is used. It's so different from what we're used to! But time and time again, our alums have reported to us that these experiences most closely mirror the actual work experience and thus have the greatest impact on job success.
Kevin Treu Ph.D.: I'm least confident about answering this question. I have talked to alums about this, however, so I'll give it a go. Recent Computer Science and Information Technology grads might be surprised about the flexibility that they'll find in a typical day working a tech job. The classic 9-to-5 expectation isn't predominant any more. You'll be assigned to a team that is responsible for multiple projects. For the most part, you'll be expected to deliver those completed projects by a deadline while working and communicating effectively with your team. If you can do that best on a non-traditional schedule - working evenings, perhaps, or powering through in a marathon session and then taking some time off - most jobs are going to be fine with that. Expect to use your verbal and written communication skills! There will be lots of team meetings.
University of Central Missouri
School of Computer Science and Mathematics
Dr. Phoebe McLaughlin: A good job out of college is some sort of entry-level actuarial job as an analyst. Typically, this is the first position in a traditional rotational program for insurance companies. Also, most employers will only expect this candidate to have 0-2 exams with a possible internship.
In general, any job within the field that pays would be good; experience is great, even if it's underwriting. An employee can always jump from job to job within a company. I just need to find a company where this is expected.
To be more specific, students should look for a work team that fits well. Some work teams are very distant, while others spend a lot of time together even outside of work. Also, they should consider the company and its values. They need to make sure that their personal goals fit within the values of the company.
Dr. Phoebe McLaughlin: Most employers we work with look for candidates with experience in programmings such as Excel/VBA, Access/SQL, and others such as R and SAS. It is noted that life insurers are more likely to use SQL and SAS since their data is much bigger, while health insurers typically rely mostly on Excel and VBA.
Dr. Phoebe McLaughlin: It seems like more employers will start looking away from expensive programs like SAS and transition towards free, open-source programs like R. The SOA is already starting to do this with their PA exam, we expect employers are going to follow.
Murray State University
Computer Science and Information Systems
Dr. Matthew Tennyson Ph.D.: I'm no economist, but based on what I've seen, the job market in the computing industry has stayed relatively strong. There are still lots of software development and IT job openings right now. Since the pandemic has started, the biggest change is the move to working remotely. More people are just working from home now. There are currently way more remote job postings now than I've ever seen, though many of them state that working remotely is only temporary. Since schools have closed, that also means people have to deal with working while also trying to keep their kids on track with their school work. It's a difficult time for everyone right now.
Dr. Matthew Tennyson Ph.D.: A bachelor's degree in computer science is extremely valuable. It has been and continues to be one of the most valuable college degrees a student can pursue. I really think all areas of computing are in demand, but web and mobile computing might be one of the strongest. Some employers do like to see extra certifications in addition to the bachelor's degree. There are literally hundreds of certifications available in the computing industry. They all vary in the required amount of time, effort, and money. I think anything that can set a candidate apart from other candidates is valuable, and that includes any certification. I would not recommend investing thousands of dollars into additional certifications after completing a bachelor's degree, but I don't think it's a bad idea for students to pursue one of the free or lower-cost certifications that are available - especially those students who might not have strong internship experience, extracurricular activities, projects, etc. to put on their resumes. I think anything DevOps related or cloud-based like Amazon's AWS or Microsoft's Azure are especially valuable right now.
Dr. Matthew Tennyson Ph.D.: Any job is a good job out of college! Even if it isn't a perfect fit, that first job can be used to gain experience, and can be used as a stepping stone toward that ideal job. Gaining experience is key. It should really start before graduation. Ideally, a student would have at least one summer internship before graduating. Internships can often lead to permanent job offers after graduation. I've even heard of students, who might struggle to find a permanent job offer after graduation, pursue an internship to not only gain experience but also with the hope that it will lead to a permanent opportunity with that company.
Bob Sweeney Ph.D.: I don't think so but I can't predict the future. The job market in this area seems to be solidifying and there are numerous local, regional, and national employers participating in our University's career fair this semester.
Bob Sweeney Ph.D.: Very likely there will be more remote workers at least for the near future. Many organizations are hiring and expecting workers in their facilities. Students have been getting more exposure to Zoom, Slack, Discourse, Discord, Git, and other remote collaboration tools during their last semesters which should ease their transition to a workplace using these applications.
Bob Sweeney Ph.D.: Strong database skills including big data and SQL are always valued by local employers hiring our IS majors. While not technical, written and verbal communications skills are always important.
Dr. Tao Ju: History has proven that engineers have fared well in the most challenging job markets; the aftermath of this pandemic will be no different. If anything, we may see some industries pull back on hiring while other industries pick up (health care, technology, consumer products, etc.). As the global economy remains a bit turbulent, it's likely that we'll see more just-in-time hiring. Companies may be cautious to hire new grads 6-9 months prior to graduation like we've seen in recent years, but it will only be temporary. Until things stabilize a bit more, companies may turn to hiring more interns or contractors to fill gaps. However, the overall demand for engineers will not slow for a significant period of time. We'll see companies use more virtual recruiting strategies because they have seen the success they can have with multi-school virtual sessions, online job fairs and video interviewing. More and more companies will integrate artificial intelligence to standardize and simplify their recruiting process. We'll also see an upward trend in diversity, equity and inclusive (DEI) hiring practices as more candidates seek out diverse and inclusive employers and more attention is drawn to ongoing challenges.
Dr. Tao Ju: Graduates should research their targeted industries, companies and positions to identify which skills are in highest demand. Every job description has required qualifications and a desired qualifications section. The focus should be on trying to develop those desired qualifications. This could include learning a new programming language or working towards a certification (EIT, LEED, Six Sigma, etc.). Having said that, the specific skills themselves are less important than demonstrating the drive, passion and curiosity to continue developing. Do something. Take a course, volunteer, take on a short-term project, or teach yourself new software. The more graduates have developed their technical and transferable skills (leadership, communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving, etc.), the more competitive they will be as they enter the job market, and the quicker they will make a difference in an organization.
Dr. Tao Ju: They are not in this alone. The opportunities are out there, but it is up to them to be proactive and take ownership of their career. They should become familiar with and use all of the resources available to them-alumni, faculty and career advisors, job search sites, mentoring programs, career fairs, professional associations, and networking events. Take advantage of their existing network and seek out ways to make further connections. Keep an eye on trends, follow news, and research companies. Dream big but be flexible. In this time of constant transition and change, graduates who can shift their plans to the conditions of the job market will have less stress and more success. Talk with companies they've never heard of and explore careers they've never considered. They might be surprised at what they find and where it leads them. Lastly, remain confident and positive. They've worked hard to get to this point and they can be rest assured that their choice to pursue engineering will pay off in the short and long run.
Dr. Brock LaMeres Ph.D.: Businesses that do primarily computer-based work have not been impacted by COVID as much as trade-based businesses. They have figured out how to continue operations with the majority of their employees working from home. I feel like the types of jobs that people will hire into will have a significant "work-at-home" component. There will also be a surge in businesses trying to provide the resources for work-at-home employees.
Dr. Brock LaMeres Ph.D.: All companies are looking for some experience beyond the classrooms. This can be through internships or doing research at their universities. But students still need to show an acceptable GPA to show employers that they understand the fundamentals of their discipline.
Dr. Brock LaMeres Ph.D.: The fields that are booming right now are cybersecurity and military/aerospace. These fields tend to be pretty geographically spread out through the US.
Dr. Y. Ken Wang: The major impact on our students is the shrink of internship opportunities. Students, especially those living in rural areas are more difficult to find internships. Online internships are insufficient in terms of quantity or quality. The lack of internship opportunities a challenge to both students and their families. Students from resourceful families are less affected. But those from first generation, rural, and minority families often feel frustrated and helpless.
Dr. Y. Ken Wang: Other than San Francisco Bay, Seattle, New York, Boston, DC, we found Pittsburgh is a popular place for our students as well.
Dr. Simone Ludwig: So far, companies are still employing our students. As far as I have heard most of the students get employed when they finish their degree, which is good. The start is definitely different since most start working remotely usually with a couple of weeks of online training.
Dr. Simone Ludwig: The different roles our students take on once they complete our program are developer, programmer, software engineer, and development analyst positions. All of these positions involve some type of software development, be it on the front end, e.g. application development, or on the back end programming server or database applications. Besides the technical skills, the ability to communicate well and to work individually but also collaborate in a team environment are important.
Dr. Simone Ludwig: Capstone experience, Internship or Co-op experience, and working on a research project will stand out on a resume.