Attitudes, Jobs, and the Future: Parallels for Geography and Geology

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The geosciences and geographic disciplines are seeing a convergence in talents and skills in many parts of the respective disciplines.  The geosciences, like most technical professions, are facing a critical talent gap into the future, with too few new students entering the profession and too many opportunities for that supply.   This situation has evolved as a result of multiple forces, including increased commodity prices, greater strain on water resources, development encroachment on hazardous terrain, and the attrition of Baby Boomers from the workforce.  Demand is not the only issue, a lagging supply of new students has enhanced the problem.   The supply issue is a result of the fallout from the 1986 oil bust and unrealized environmental boom in the 1990’s.

Several factors complicate the future of the geosciences which should parallel with the geography community.  Student attitudes relative to the nature of career opportunities and the increased demand for students with spatial analysis and reasoning skills have turned the traditional career pathways upside-down in the geosciences.  Geosciences majors disfavor the primary pool of careers because of their attitudes towards the private sector.  Likewise, the resource industries of petroleum and mining are now competing with strong demand in groundwater careers, and by non-traditional industries seeking the analytic skill sets central to both a geologic and geographic education – spatial conceptualization and analysis.  This paper looks at the geosciences trends and looks towards parallels within the geographic community and how they impact the long-term health of the professions.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • P. Patrick Leahy*
  • American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting 2008