Occupations of Terminal Geoscience Degree Recipients in 2017

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Geoscience degree recipients work in many occupations beyond their core field. Data from AGI’s National Geoscience Exit Survey provides some insight into the reasons graduates chose to pursue a degree in the geosciences, including the intellectual engagement and interdisciplinary nature of the discipline, and interest in conducting research outdoors. In 2017, geoscience degree recipients also cited motivations including solving societal issues that intersect the geosci­ences, career opportunities, support from peers and faculty, and for doctorates, the desire to continue research and field work in the discipline.

According to data from the National Science Foundation’s National Survey of College Graduates, 9 percent of geosci­ence degree recipients worked in their core field in 2017, and this percentage varied by degree level (8% of Bachelor’s degree recipients, 17% of Master’s degree recipients, and 14% of doctorates).

In 2017, 41 percent of geoscience Bachelor’s degree recipi­ents were employed in science and engineering related fields, primarily in health-related occupations (32%) and pre-college teaching occupations (7%). Geoscience Master’s degree recipients were primarily employed in science and engineering related fields as engineers (35%) or science and engineering managers (23%). Geoscience doctorates were employed in non-science and engineering fields as non-science and engi­neering managers (46%), within their core occupation (14%), or as post-secondary physical science teachers (16%). The percentage of degree recipients with unknown occupational status represents those either not employed or not seeking employment.

Data Brief 2019-013 chart01: Occupations of Geoscience Degree Recipients, 2017 (credit: AGI; data derived from NSF NSCG)

The percentage of geoscience degree recipients finding jobs in the same field as their degree is generally on par with trends in other physical science disciplines, especially at the Master’s degree level. In the National Survey of College Graduates dataset, post-secondary teaching is classified as its own occupation, and this explains the increase in the percentage of doctorates working within "other physical sciences" as compared to working within the same field as the degree.

Of note are the differences between the physical sciences in the percentage of degree recipients working within other science and engineering and non-science and engineering occupations. In the geosciences, a much higher percentage of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree recipients were employed in other science and engineering occupations than chemis­try or physics degree recipients. However, this was not the case for geoscience doctorates as only 19% were employed in other science and engineering occupations compared to 45% of chemistry doctorates and 52% of physics doctorates. In 2017, 46% of geoscience doctorates were employed in non-science and engineering occupations compared to 10% of chemistry doctorates and 18% of physics doctorates.

Data Brief 2019-013 chart02: Occupations of Chemistry Degree Recipients, 2017 (credit: AGI; data derived from NSF NSCG)

Data Brief 2019-013 chart03: Occupations of Physics Degree Recipients, 2017 (credit: AGI; data derived from NSF NSCG)

Date updated: 2019-11-08
Data Brief 2019-013
Written and compiled by Leila Gonzales, AGI, November 2019

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