March 28, 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.
Jie Wang Ph.D.: The jobs in the computer field seems not as much affected by the pandemic as other fields. Some jobs, such as software development, database and web site management, can be done remotely from home. I do not anticipate a significant reduction in number of computer-related jobs in the coming few years.
Some jobs requires a Master's degree or higher. More and more employees are looking for people with work experience. For a fresh graduate, besides taking college classes, working with real and challenging projects and building a strong portfolio can become an alternative to work experience. Nowadays, a new normal is one has to be a life learner.
Jie Wang Ph.D.: According to the LinkedIn, data-related and cloud computing skills are required in a majority of top technology jobs more or less, varying with companies and locations. In order to be competitive in the current job market, students not only should gain a broad knowledge but also need to specialize in one or more desirable skills.
In regards to the data-relevant skills, students should be able to access databases with SQL, perform a data science project by using the popular packages from Python and R, and understand a few commonly-used learning systems and algorithms such as regression, classification, random forest and recommender system. Students will benefit from obtaining one or more certificates from the three major cloud computing platform which are AWS, GCP and Microsoft Azure.
Jie Wang Ph.D.: Overall, the salary for computer jobs have been constantly moved upward. Among them, software engineer is one of the jobs which has been safe, lucrative and constantly in high demand over years. The median salary in 2015 for a software engineer was around $95,000, with the highest close to $150K. The latest data in 2021 shows that the national average salary in United States for a Software Engineer is about $103,000 for a software engineer, and $113,000 for a data scientist. I would expect that in the next ten years, the salary for software engineer keeps moving steadily upward as software applications grows.
Virginia Military Institute
Computer and Information Sciences
Youna Jung Ph.D.: Yes, the pandemic seriously impacts the job market. As employers have frozen hiring or scaled back their businesses because of pandemic impacts, job insecurity has increased especially in entry-level or mid-level positions. Usually, our CIS graduates have received job offers before graduation but only sixty percent of students were able to secure their jobs before graduation last year and others had to spend few more months to find a job.
Youna Jung Ph.D.: I would say Software Engineering and Cybersecurity. Regardless which area you will work on, understanding of software systems including software design, development process, and system validation is essential. At the same time, cybersecurity is becoming more and more critical to all organizations, governments and individuals. When working in computer science/engineering fields, we always consider cybersecurity measures in order to ensure that sensitive data is secured and privacy is not breached.
Youna Jung Ph.D.: We live in an age where new technologies are introduced every year. Continuous learning is therefore inevitable in this field. Developing new skills can increase your value to the company. It may also allow you to take on new projects outside your normal job duties. This both raises your profile and increases your value. Attending webinars to learn about cutting edge knowledge or taking online courses to get a license would be good ways.
Peter Schubert Ph.D.: New graduates who experienced pandemic lock-down during their senior year are impacted by the challenges of working in laboratories and working in teams. While some students still get these experiences, some teams that have been working for me operated at effectiveness levels not the same as prior to the pandemic. Because these capstone or senior design courses help shape teamwork, cooperation, and hands-on practical know-how, there is the possibility that upcoming graduates will need more supportive environments in their work life to gain these important skills.
Peter Schubert Ph.D.: Engineering is a team sport. Meeting face-to-face by Zoom or teams is not a complete substitute for working shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues. The different configuration of on-line collaboration means more individual work, less socialization, and therefore the esprit de corps may not be as strong. Working with colleagues around the world has always been a part of engineering, and people are now more skilled at this. By not working within a cubicle farm or open concept collaboration center, without conversations at the water cooler, and over beers after work, means that interpersonal connections may not be as strong. I think people will miss this, and want to return to it, once restrictions are lifted.
Peter Schubert Ph.D.: Electrical and Computer Engineering is already attracting well-paying jobs. In my opinion, with the advent of distance collaboration and on-line meetings, the world is closer than ever before. This means there is greater and easier access to talent. So, the more important consideration, in my opinion, is to pursue post-graduate education, such as a Masters of Science, or a doctor of philosophy (of science, or Ph.D.). Investing in yourself is always a good choice. For those students able to do so, pursuing advanced degrees will generally mean higher starting salary, faster advancement, and longer career relevance.
Jim Helm Ph.D.: Within Information Technology, we will see more of a transition to working remotely. Many companies have found productivity has increased by employees who work remotely. Of course this is not possible for all IT disciplines, but there are many cybersecurity and networking functions which can be done remotely.
Jim Helm Ph.D.: For IT, the CCNA (Cisco) certifications, CISM (Security), CompTIA (Network), CCIE (Internetwork), AWS Certified (Cloud). There are also several advanced certifications
Jim Helm Ph.D.: Salaries have continued to rise. There are more open positions in cybersecurity than there are qualified individuals available to fill the position.