Measuring the match of graduating skills portfolio to the demand by geoscience employers

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With the economic malaise in the United States, colleges and universities are assessing the impact of academic programs related to their overall mission and constituency. Geoscience departments are facing pressure to demonstrate the return on investment of their educational program provides. The metrics of these inquiries are variable, but usually center on the employment of graduates; often from partial data gathered by alumni offices. Many departments do not have structured longitudinal tracking of their graduates, thus limiting the extent of their supporting information.

Current data on student-to-worker transition is at best uneven and limited in scope. AGI is leading a collaborative effort with a number of geoscience departments and several societies to establish a National Geoscience Exit Survey to build on prior AGI/AGU Master’s and Doctorate Recipients surveys. The National Geoscience Exit Survey is being piloted across 32 colleges and universities with the intent to engage all 2- and 4- year geoscience programs in the US by the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. A long-term goal of the exit survey is to establish a longitudinal survey to follow graduates’ career trajectories. The longitudinal survey will enable bulk analysis as well as department-level intelligence pertaining to geosciences graduate career trajectories that should be more complete than from the alumni office.

Further complicating the picture is that though the United States faces a severe shortage of geoscientists over the next 10 years, like most STEM disciplines, the skill portfolio and interests of new graduates is misaligned with the broader economy’s needs. We will examine four dierent components: demand for new graduates, the employers’ desired skill portfolio, the content background of new graduates, and the vectors of students at each degree level. With the current rate of new geoscience graduate production, the United States will be short nearly 150,000 geoscientists by 2021. However, most new geosciences degree recipients pursue careers other than in the geosciences, thus further exacerbating this gap.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Leila Gonzales*
  • Heather Houlton*
  • Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2011