How Jobs and Attitudes about them Influence the Success of Geoscience Departments

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The geosciences have endured a long history of booms and busts in employment and enrollment.  Before 2005, nearly twenty years had past since the end of the last real boom for the geosciences.  However, with the sharp rise in energy and mineral prices, as well as a fundamental shift in the nature of the environmental industry, geoscience hiring has increased substantially, driven by both growth and increasing retirements of older professionals.  As seen in the past, enrollments of geoscience majors have tended to lag employment prospects by a couple years.  Yet even during downturns, some programs have flourished, and with improving employment opportunities, additional programs should be growing as well.  Several successful end-member departments – representing distinct traits of geoscience programs – will be detailed for insight into their response in the current environment.  Yet the biggest challenge facing all departments within the geosciences is attrition from first student contact until the student graduates to the professional workforce.  The relationship between overall programmatic growth, pipeline attrition rates, and the attitude of students and faculty towards professional opportunities in the geosciences will be examined.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Margaret Baker*
  • Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2006