June 18, 2014

Career resources for incoming freshmen

Posted by Laura Guertin

It is amazing how fast the time flies between the end of the semester and beginning of summer orientation – in fact, just two days after graduation, we had faculty orientation for our summer new student orientation sessions.  Across campuses, summer orientation has common program features – students hear about what it means to be a student at that institution, learn about academic integrity and general education requirements, receive their student ID, register for courses, etc.  On my campus, I will have individual meetings with multiple students on each orientation day to talk more specifically about requirements for their major (I advise for all of the majors in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences).

This year, I am going to make sure I have a focused discussion on career opportunities, pathways and projections in the Earth sciences.  I want to introduce students on “Day 1” to the incredible number of options available.  Perhaps, most importantly, I want to break down any alternative conceptions about who and what are Earth scientists (for example, it never fails that my incoming meteorology majors all think “meteorology” is reporting the weather on the evening news – and that’s the only opportunity in that major – and that it doesn’t involve math).



The two best videos I have found that provide an overview of the Earth sciences with stunning imagery (and a diversity of people) are AGI’s Why Earth Science? and UT-Austin Jackson School of Geoscience’s Earth is Calling (embedded below).  I have these videos on my advising website, and I will be showing these to students during our group advising meetings to serve as a starting point for discussion.



There are plenty of websites with career information for students to explore.  The most comprehensive site I have come across is the career information posted at AGI’s Center for Geoscience Education & Public Understanding, with information on geoscience careers, salary information, suggested pathways for attaining those careers, internships, job postings and career profiles.  AGI also has an online version of their Geoscience Careers Brochure, if you don’t have any paper copies lying around your department (I actually give my students each a paper copy at orientation, along with a copy of the one-page flyer Geoscience Today and in the Next Decade – the employment numbers and expected number of unfilled positions make students and their parents happy to know that jobs will be available after graduation).  Another useful website I share is the Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook, specifically the listings of careers under the Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations (such as atmospheric scientists, geoscientists, hydrologists, etc.) and Architecture and Engineering Occupations (such as cartographers and photogrammetrists, environmental engineers, petroleum engineers, etc.).  Each of these listings includes a summary, a description of “what they do,” the work environment, how to become one, pay, job outlook, and similar occupations.

One new online series that has popped up is by Sandie Will (@RockHeadScience) called “A Day in the Life.” Check out the introductory post and see how you can contribute your own professional geoscience experiences and advice for students.  Another interesting site I recently came across is TrowelBlazers, a collection of online articles celebrating women in archaeology, palaeontology & geology — past & present.  I also want students to explore This is What a Scientist Looks Like and MySciCareer to see that it is OK to have other interests and an identity outside of Earth science (such as the biker chick and roller derby girl), as well as pursue alternative career pathways that are founded in STEM.  (Note that all of these sites are also a fascinating and fun read for those already established in their careers!)


AGI Workforce handouts and “wheel”

AGI workforce Infographic (posted with permission from AGI)

AGI workforce Infographic (posted with permission from AGI)

To the left is one of the most exciting geoscience career resources I have seen in some time – what I like to refer to as the geoscience career wheel!  Heather Houlton, Workforce Development, Education, and Outreach Specialist at AGI, kindly provided the following text to accompany the image in this post:

“The American Geosciences Institute developed this image to help students and faculty gain a different perspective about what it means to pursue and have a career in the geosciences.  This image is AGI’s representation of the geoscience workforce, as a whole, and emphasizes the importance of integrating one’s outside interests, skills and training together with geoscience technical knowledge to build a professional portfolio that will bolster one’s geoscience career.  Recognizing how to market oneself by demonstrating the transferability of skills across different fields is imperative to students’ employability as geoscientists.  This image is NOT meant to be definitive and all-encompassing, but rather it was developed to be used as a tool to help students, recent graduates and faculty think “outside the box” when exploring geoscience careers within and outside of academia.   Looking at this image, the 5 colored rings signify the different sectors in which geoscientists are employed.  The wedges radiating out from these central circles are the “fields of interest” or “complimentary disciplines” that intersect geosciences, which is denoted by the points in which the wedges and circles overlap in the image.  Listed within the gray wedges are example occupation titles, NOT disciplinary titles.  Thus, these are examples of what one might see listed for job postings while conducting the job search.  The big take away message from this image is that ALL of the occupations listed within the various disciplinary wedges are held by geoscientists.” You can also view this infographic on the AGI website.


To help my incoming freshmen remember these resources (as they will be overwhelmed with information on their orientation day), I’m handing each of them my business card with the URL to a website I created with these resources.  And then, I will remind these students when they come back to campus in the fall semester via social media, email, and in person… and in the following spring semester… and the fall semester after that…  Hopefully, with these constant reminders, I can do my small part as an academic adviser and mentor in ensuring that students are aware of the vast disciplinary and interdisciplinary career opportunities available.

And note that Heather Houlton (AGI) is an excellent resource to help disseminate practical career advice for students, recent grads and early-career geoscientists.  Feel free to contact Heather (hrh “at” agiweb “dot” org), and you won’t be disappointed with the wealth of information and resources she has to share!