September 17, 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 Alabama in Huntsville
Eastern Kentucky University
Jackson State University
Utah State University
American Massage Therapy Association
Montclair State University
West Texas A&M University
FSMTB - Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
Angelo State University
The University of Texas
Penn State Beaver
Agnes Scott College
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Dr. Nathan Tenhundfeld Ph.D.: Strong analytical skills are a must. This includes both logic and reasoning skills, but also data analysis skills. For many jobs, the ability to collect and scientifically evaluate data will be vital, if not an absolute necessity. Similarly, a strong understanding of experimental methods can put a candidate in a great position to be able to help a company evaluate existing programs and chart a path forward for new ones. Finally, I would say that a strong ability to write is critical. Those graduates who are able to effectively and persuasively communicate in writing are setting themselves up for success at any company and allowing the company to leverage them for increasingly important tasks.
Dr. Nathan Tenhundfeld Ph.D.: Students need to be able to read individual and group dynamics in order to act appropriately in any given situation. This includes not only the interactions with one's bosses but also peers and subordinates. Similarly, being comfortable with networking can help any company, but networking skills shine through in interviews.
Dr. Nathan Tenhundfeld Ph.D.: Technical skills like the ability to perform statistical analyses are critically important for most Psychology-related jobs. This allows a candidate to collect and analyze data but also to interpret and understand other existing data. A strong statistical background can also help set a candidate apart from their peers in the application process. This includes understanding when and how to use various parametric and nonparametric statistics to be able to answer questions regardless of the data one is working with.
Elizabeth Morgan Ph.D.: There seems to be the potential for a number of cross-cutting impacts on graduates from a variety of disciplines related to the coronavirus pandemic, including interruptions in their academic pursuits (e.g., taking more time to finish due to lack of internships, ability to complete coursework due to family obligations or health issues, or a lack of finances to pay for their education).
Once graduated, it is likely that they are encountering a shrinking marketplace for hiring, with companies enacting freezes due to economic uncertainty. Furthermore, more young adults are turning to live with parents, which might make it harder to find a job since they are tied to a residence (or because they may not need to work if parents are subsidizing them).
Related to Psychology in particular, graduates may find an increased need for mental health workers due to lasting effects from workplace instability, social isolation, and health fears. There will likely be enduring changes in the way human services are provided, including increased telehealth practices or services provided via webinars versus in-person programming that might require additional training or acquiring a new skill set on the job.
Elizabeth Morgan Ph.D.: One potential outcome of the pandemic is that place may matter less as jobs are created and sustained with remote work environments. For example, it might be possible to participate in education endeavors, community mental health, human services in general, or consulting remotely, which render geography less important.
In addition, there will likely be changes in the types of jobs available to graduates in Psychology as employers are rethinking employee productivity in the wake of the coronavirus and need human resources specialists or industrial/organizational psychologists to consult on organizational change. Individuals with training and experience in delivering services remotely may find themselves able to secure some of these new positions; recent graduates will have a leg up in that regard, since they experienced training in a remote environment.
Elizabeth Morgan Ph.D.: The forced use of technology to connect with others during the pandemic will likely encourage lasting change in education, counseling and human services, business and marketing endeavors, research, and other areas where graduates in psychology end up. This will create shifts in what the jobs look like, what training is needed, and even perhaps, the mental health and well-being of workers in general. As these technological changes are introduced, new graduates will need to learn and embrace them to keep up with the trends, as well as evaluate their effectiveness.
Camille Skubik-Peplaski Ph.D.: I teach my students that the experience that stands out most on a resume is the experience that best matches the job posting. A summary is only a selected snapshot of your experiences. Choose to display the experiences you have had with what the job posting is looking for.
Camille Skubik-Peplaski Ph.D.: It depends on what they want to do. Look at the job postings or graduate school applications you wish to apply for. Of course, there are universal skills that are used across jobs/graduate programs. For example, communication skills (e.g., writing, oral), collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, etc... However, it is also essential to find opportunities to develop or observe skills in people that have the job you want. If you're going to apply to a physical therapy program and have a gap year, reconsider taking a year off to travel and look for a job that puts you in a setting that will help you observe the ins and outs of being a physical therapist. Be a sponge and soak up everything you can about the business.
Camille Skubik-Peplaski Ph.D.: I think wearable technology used by fitness and health care professionals to observe, monitor, and encourage behavior change among clients will become a more everyday practice. Learn how to use the data provided by wearable technology to teach about personal behavioral patterns and opportunities to improve health and quality of life.
Fairview Homecare and Hospice
Janelle Bussert: The knowledge that counts for Hospice Music Therapy, honestly, is having worked with older people. It is a unique skill! I would say that any volunteer or professional experience caring for aging adults will help someone be a good Hospice Music Therapist.
Janelle Bussert: The impact of technology on musical instruments is enormous -- from keyboards to rhythm instruments to making music accessible to people with disabilities. The sky is the limit on helping people participate in making their sounds. And, of course, how we chart and how we keep track of people's health records.
Janelle Bussert: I think Music Therapy graduates will be more aware of death and the fragility of life. If they have experienced the virus in their family, they will know the seriousness of taking safety precautions, etc. I think this awareness will be beneficial in all types of Music Therapy jobs.
Carlos Wilson Ph.D.: Typically, our students come in with a wealth of experience. Some have been in their careers for years and are looking to advance to a management level position. Their work experience shows them being well qualified. I think what does stand out on the resume is their earning of a degree. Being that the degree is in interdisciplinary studies, making sure to choose a concentration or emphasis in the career discipline students are seeking, and sharing their coursework on their resume is a great way to highlight students' preparation.
Carlos Wilson Ph.D.: One way technology may impact this field is the demand that has been created by the pandemic. There are industries that have been forced to work partially or fully remotely over the last eight months. I think that there will be a need for professionals that can operate in these alternative environments. Technology has been a primary means of conducting business for many of us. We may see students focusing on technology-based disciplines, as they choose their interdisciplinary coursework, over the next few years and possibly beyond.
Carlos Wilson Ph.D.: Continuing my previous answer, graduates will need to be better prepared to work in various mediums. The expectation that we will all wake up and go to the office to conduct business may be an expectation that will be molded by this pandemic. Graduates will still need to be highly productive, whether working from the office or home.
Sonia Manuel-Dupont Ph.D.: When I review resumes, I look for life skills and transferable skills. These include skills that emerge from leadership positions, interdisciplinary teamwork, work with individuals and communities who are ethnically and linguistically different from the applicant, and extended practice with technical and professional communication.
Sonia Manuel-Dupont Ph.D.: If a student takes a gap year, I advise them to look for opportunities to build the skills listed above. Often this comes from community engagement and volunteer work. If the work situation does not align with the intended graduate work, the student should look for volunteer work to practice these skills.
Sonia Manuel-Dupont Ph.D.: Telehealth and teletherapy. Building meaningful relationships and providing top quality intervention through telehealth and teletherapy is already becoming an essential skill for new graduates.
Ron Precht: Generally, metropolitan areas have had more openings for massage therapists. This is a report from the end of 2019 that has the most recent data we have available. Report
Lyndal Khaw Ph.D.: Most of our graduates in the field of Family Science and Human Development are in this field because they want to help professions that work with children, individuals, and families. Thus, there are several skills they should have when they graduate and enter the workforce. First, they need to have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. If you want to work with people, that is an absolute given.
Second, students should demonstrate their ability to adapt to new challenges and changes, including technology skills. When working with children and families, the natural ebbs and flows of family life, across the life course, necessitate flexible professionals and who can still be useful under changing circumstances. Third, skills make you stand out in working with people, like conflict management and leadership skills. Employers want to see that graduates are not only "book smart" but have the experience to use these skills when needed on the job.
Lyndal Khaw Ph.D.: Families and children are ubiquitous and exist in every social space across the country. They are in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. That being said, many issues impact children and families and services to support them best. With areas where populations are more extensive, there are typically more services and job opportunities for graduates in this field. Note, too, that with COVID-19 there is the capacity to work in the field remotely, so you may very well live in New Jersey and telecommute and be employed in New York state.
Lyndal Khaw Ph.D.: Quite a bit. COVID-19 notwithstanding, technology has changed how families interact with each other and effectively how others work with kids and families. Graduates should consider how services can be delivered virtually, but still in impactful ways. Because of COVID-19, many students in our program are completing internships or student teaching, almost, so they are already getting exposure to this type of experience. Students should also think about translational work in family science and human development. Consider a new parent who wants information on their child's first year of life. Chances are, they will seek this information online, use apps on smartphones to track their child's development, and attend online parenting classes. There has always been a market for this type of knowledge and service delivery in this field, and I envision this growing, even more so, under our current circumstances.
Dr. Brenda Cross: Volunteering and job shadowing are often seen as a positive on a resume. We are also always looking for students who have experience working with children or adults, as they tend to have developed skills that are useful in the clinic.
Dr. Brenda Cross: Telepractice/teletherapy is a recent addition to our area but, with COVID, it has developed very quickly. We are a field that relies heavily on technology but now we are learning to embrace the internet.
Dr. Brenda Cross: I would say, yes! But not in a negative way. The ability to provide our therapies in telepractice has changed the face of education, health insurance, and the ability to deliver quality services.
Debra Persinger Ph.D.: -More people were looking for careers (self-employed) that are not reliant on hiring/firing decisions or at the mercy of others' business understanding. I know we see that it's often a second or third career for others in the massage therapy profession.
-More remote working and working from home arrangements; less in-person business travel.
-I think organizations will restructure and flatten - to accommodate leadership responsibilities being assigned to more employees, including junior colleagues. Perhaps more part-time or contracted talent instead of full-time dedicated positions.
-Those with high emotional intelligence will be in demand - the ability to read a room has shifted to the ability to read a Zoom - those able to lead and inspire team members will be crucial. I found that the typically quieter team members had an opportunity to shine as each person brought forth their vulnerabilities and strengths with the pandemic situation and supporting each other.
-Companies will play a more integral role in employee well-being to ensure the social connections that people want and need that is not met via remote connections. That will be among employees as well as the employee-customer interface. I found myself playing a much more significant role in the employee mental health/well-being arena than previously. We are offering resilience workshops and compassion fatigue workshops to counter external demands on employees.
Debra Persinger Ph.D.: -Simplified technology for the not-so-tech-savvy employees will be necessary to accommodate the span of generational employee demographics engaging in remote work.
-Employees will need to be adaptable - to learn and accommodate the rapid introduction of new and better technological efficiency tools.
-Controls will increase. Much like parental controls to monitor online activity, company restrictions will be implemented to prevent inappropriate online behaviors, accidental sharing, and training on basic etiquette and interpersonal communications.
-Technology that supports work and life activities - order groceries online, stress reduction apps - will demand.
-Time away from the screen will be necessary. Seems counterintuitive for a technology question. For example, I'm predicting that paper books will make a comeback - nobody wants to look at another screen for pleasure reading after working online all day.
Charles Westerberg Ph.D.: I don't think it is particular experiences that make the most significant difference. Instead, I believe that telling a story about interests and skills across time makes resumes and cover letters stand out. The ability to show connections across different experiences demonstrates the sort of perspicacity that employers are searching for. If you insisted on one skill, I would highlight the statistical analysis. Being familiar with statistical software packages, coupled with the ability to do fundamental data analysis, opens up a wide range of career options. Data is everywhere, and more and more organizations are using it to advance their reach.
Charles Westerberg Ph.D.: For students taking a gap year, I think they should focus on building up their social capital networks. They should get as much exposure and face time as possible in fields that will give them access to people who can vouch for them. This might not be precisely the sort of position they are looking for, but it should provide them with access to relatable skills and contacts. To do this, students should call and email relentlessly. You never know when you will get a break. Passivity is not an excellent way to create gaps for yourself.
Charles Westerberg Ph.D.: Given that technology changes so fast, I'd think less about what specific technology will be most useful instead of new applications for the technology. How can you use the web, social media, and other applications to address questions and solve problems? If you practice this, you will adapt your findings to all sorts of new technologies.
Dr. Cheryl Stenmark Ph.D.: While the epidemic certainly had an initial negative effect on organizations and jobs, the good news is that the job market seems to be trending back up. Many organizations took a financial hit, which resulted in hiring freezes, downsizing, and many organizations had to close their doors entirely, but things do seem to be getting better.
Additionally, I believe the pandemic has resulted in a rise in the acceptance of and demand for remote work. Being able to apply for small working positions opens job seekers' options considerably. Job seekers applying for remote work positions do not have to limit their job search to a particular geographic area, so there are many more possibilities. This also means that organizations may have many more options when hiring individuals for remote positions, so they are likely to be more selective in hiring for remote positions. This means that job applicants may want to cast a wide net when applying for jobs and use it for more places than they would have before the pandemic.
Dr. Cheryl Stenmark Ph.D.: First, I think technology, in general, is going to become increasingly important across all jobs in the next few years. I believe organizations will continue to conduct business remotely and electronically in the future, so it will be essential for job seekers to be comfortable with the technology (software and hardware) necessary for these small work tasks. Additionally, job seekers will want to be satisfied with multiple small task platforms, rather than choosing a favorite and only using that one. There are so many options right now for videoconferencing and other web meeting/streaming activities, and the number of options available will likely only increase in the future. So it will be essential to be flexible in one's comfort with/use of such platforms.
Dr. Cheryl Stenmark Ph.D.: I believe that there will be an increase in demand for graduates in the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology in the next five years. The pandemic has highlighted so many essential work areas that I/O Psychologists can help organizations optimize. For example, I/O psychologists can help remote employees determine what type of work setup works best to stay happy and productive in work and life.
This could include how to structure their physical work environment at home, structure their work time vs. home time, and stay emotionally connected with their organization and colleagues, despite not being physically at work. I/O Psychologists can also help organizations who are considering moving to a more remote workforce to design the work in such a way as to keep their employees motivated, productive, and happy. With all of the changes in the world of work that have happened this year, which are sure to continue in the future, I/O Psychologists will be invaluable resources for organizations to navigate these uncertain times and adapt to stay productive.
The University of Texas
Department of Social Work
Dr. Eva Moya Ph.D.: Graduates of the social work profession need to be able to work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and mobilize communities to bring about social, economic, political, or environmental change, in addition to being involved in social policy development.
Skills in research, to study social issues, with the intention of developing social policy or micro-level approaches to practice to improve people's lives, and training in relation to multiculturalism, cultural competence, cultural humility practice is vital.
Key skills include:
Dr. Eva Moya Ph.D.: Absolutely. Social Workers are well-positioned to work in multiple sectors at the local, state, national, and international levels. From health care, gerontology, safety net, mental health and substance abuse, child and family, education, immigration, and criminal justice sectors.
Employment is usually based on the market, economics, needs, and value of social work. The place does matter.
Social workers are in schools, courts, hospitals, community-based organizations, federally qualified health centers, mental health clinics, shelters, transitional living facilities, detention facilities, academic settings, prisons, industry, political arena, palliative care, hospice, research, international organizations, immigrant and migrant centers, elderly care facilities, protective services, the child welfare system, counseling centers, health and human service organizations, environmental and public health venues.
Dr. Eva Moya Ph.D.: Technology is, and will continue to be, a meaningful source of connection, networking, online education, and service delivery. Technology will continue to facilitate individual, group, and organizational capacities to mine data. Geographic information systems will continue to be used to track issues, inequalities, special needs, and assets.
The risks of technology are that it may be a substitute for on-the-ground assessment of real people. Social media and technology will continue to enrich social work practice and challenge the profession as never before. We have seen this with the COVID-19 pandemic. GIS, maps, petition ages, mutual support, webpages, chat rooms, tee social work, and Skype/Zoom to help practitioners conduct transcontinental therapy, will most likely continue to be prevalent. The agency, practitioner, social work professional that does not take advantage of these changes may find themselves at their professional perils.
Psychological Trauma Studies Specialization
Dr. Erica Holmes: It is difficult to guess what the future holds and what the long-term impact of a global pandemic might be for psychology graduates. We have certainly experienced many academic and training challenges that arise during this time. For example, many summer graduate students had to complete their remaining courses, graduate thesis, defend their dissertations, analyze research results, etc. using video conference technology, and adapt in-person therapy skills to continue seeing clients using teletherapy platforms.
I am sure that there will be an enduring impact of transitioning into the world of therapy during a global pandemic, and I'd like to think that the impact will include both positive and negative elements. Some positive elements may be increased resilience and flexibility, broader thinking about career paths and professional roles, along with the development of new skills and techniques to use with their clients, and increased access to mental health services.
Dr. Erica Holmes: The psychological impact of the pandemic has been widely acknowledged across the country, illuminating the shortage of culturally-aware, licensed therapists prepared to address the diverse landscape of the U.S. As such, jobs for mental health practitioners are on the rise, all across the country. There has historically been a dire need for Mental Health practitioners in "shortage areas" such as the rural counties in the southern states. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration predicts that by the year 2025, there will be a shortage of both Masters and Doctoral level therapists, across the country. I suggest that therapists think about beginning practice in shortage areas, not only because it might be easier to find a job, but there are also student loan repayment incentives for working in these areas.
Dr. Erica Holmes: The COVID19 crisis thrust many therapists into the world of telehealth. Many of whom, never imagined working with mental health clients over video-conferencing, and a large number were vehemently opposed to the idea. However, as the old saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention." With no other option, mental health practitioners and their governing licensing boards have been forced to move from the standard face-to-face delivery model to technology-based platforms, to continue providing much-needed services to their clients.
This has necessitated the development of HIPPA compliant software, adoption of new ethics and legal codes to protect client welfare, and a myriad of new protocols. I doubt that our field will ever completely return to operating the way we were trained, prior to the pandemic. I believe that our field will continue to have increased integration of technology in our standard operations to a much greater degree than any of us could have imagined at the beginning of this year. I foresee the use of teletherapy; electronic session note keeping, automated scheduling, using text messaging to communicate with clients, etc. will become standard practice over the next five years.
Kevin Bennett Ph.D.: I think Covid-19 will have a long-lasting impact on the current class of college students. Graduates coming out of college right now are entering into an unrecognizable world. Normally, the time following graduation includes an adjustment period as students exit the comfort and routine of campus life and make their way into the uncharted territory of the job market. This year, it is especially hard for new graduates. Going through such a pivotal moment while living in a pandemic will significantly impact their memories, future salaries and earning power, and their opinion on what it means to live in a normal society.
Kevin Bennett Ph.D.: While the current job market for entry-level positions is competitive across all majors, I think the news looks good for psychology majors. Right now, there is a growing demand for psychologists across several categories. According to the American Psychology Association (APA), the most common employment areas of psychology graduates include health care and social service, education, management and business, and government. In addition, psychology graduates often possess skill sets that make them ideal candidates for many untraditional positions.
Although psychology jobs are growing at a healthy pace, that growth is not distributed evenly across all geographic regions. It is not surprising that the cities with the highest number of job ads were large metropolitan areas, including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. However, once the population is included as a factor in the data, the highest number of job ads are found in less populated areas, many located in the central states in the U.S. So there may actually be greater opportunities in small communities.
Another metric used to understand economic conditions is the location quotient, or LQ, score. This metric can tell us the concentration of job ads relative to the employed population of an area. A high LQ score means better job prospects. The states with the highest LQ values, according to a recent study, are Alaska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington, and Colorado.
Kevin Bennett Ph.D.: The world is changing fast. Very fast. The field of psychology is certainly going to be impacted by changes in technology, just like everyone else. Technology-for example, increasingly powerful and smaller mobile devices, social media platforms, and frequent zooming-is fundamentally altering the way we interact with the world. Therapists, counselors, and clinicians are increasingly using these technologies to treat clients. There is no reason to think this practice will not continue to grow in the next decade.
Technology is also opening new pathways for researchers to study human behavior and the brain. Innovative technologies are giving psychologists the freedom to take their studies out of the lab and into more natural environments.
I am cautiously optimistic about the intersection of psychological science and technology. On the one hand, it is exciting to think about how easy it is for psychologists to access digital research resources quickly and conduct research using real participants. Also, it is amazing how quickly augmented and virtual reality is being incorporated into education at all levels.
On the other hand, the proliferation of websites, apps, teletherapy, and artificial intelligence (AI) means that we need to think very carefully about best practices. Several studies have found that teletherapy is just as effective as traditional therapy. However, more research is needed.
I have no doubt that AI, as many have suggested, is the next frontier of therapy. I, too, share this enthusiasm, but I am still skeptical about finding true empathy and compassion from a computer's algorithm.
Jennifer Hughes Ph.D.: I think many will be impacted because of the economic recession. They will end up taking jobs with lower salaries, if they cannot get jobs that pay more, and that will mean that they will be paid less throughout their careers.
Jennifer Hughes Ph.D.: Many of our psychology graduates go to graduate school, but those that do not, work for mental health facilities, not-for-profits, education, business consulting, etc. The pandemic is producing a mental health crisis in the United States, and those with psychology backgrounds will be needed more than ever.
Jennifer Hughes Ph.D.: Technology is going to make many offices obsolete. I suspect many people will be working from home in the future.