May 2, 2018

“Soooo…What are doing after you get your degree?”

Posted by AGU Career Center

If you are a student, chances are that you’ve heard that question at least a few dozen times throughout your studies, if not from professors (or family members), then from your fellow peers making small-talk, which usually end in sighs of relief after discovering they’re not the only ones with uncertain futures.  

Navigating the path from student to happy, early-career professional seems difficult and paved with uncertainty and risk. Thankfully, AGI and AGU have resources that can equip recent graduates with the information they need to take on the obstacles that come from leaving the safety of university and surviving out in “the real world.”  

Knowing where geoscience graduates are going, how many are getting jobs right out of university, and who is employing recent graduates is key to creating a more resilient job-scouting plan. A tool that AGI provides to fill in these blanks is a yearly report detailing the status of recent geosciences graduates. This information is gathered by AGI through their Geoscience Student Exit Survey, and further analyzed in a recent AGI Currents. In 2017, 531 student graduates from all degree levels participated in this survey.  

One of the important conclusions that can be made from this exit survey is that hiring of recent geoscience graduates was at its lowest in 2017 at 32%, down from 70% in 2014. Most graduates had no job offers at the time of graduation. So, if you are worrying that you don’t have that dream job lined up, don’t fret too much: others are in the same boat. However, it’s important to start making informed career decisions that will put your best foot forward. If you are graduating from your bachelor’s or master’s degree, you will have to figure out whether you want to enter the workforce or continue further in education, and as a doctoral graduate the decision to take your chance with academia or enter the private sector can loom heavily.

(Editor’s note: Talent Pool’s 2017 Summer Intern, Cecilia Hurtado, wrote an On the Job article last year that might help you figure out your next steps if you’re thinking about pursing that next degree: “Thinking of going back to Grad School? Here’s how to start.”)

Evaluating the financial benefits of undertaking another degree versus the cost of pursuing it should be critical in your decision-making. In the report mentioned, it was found that most new graduates with only a bachelor’s degree were earning less than 50-60k annual salaries, while the 50-60k salary range was the most frequently reported bracket for master’s graduates. For doctoral graduates, a salary in the 40-50k bracket salaries was instead the minimum starting salary. While it’s evident that a graduate degree can bring monetary gains, they may provide additional financial burden through student loan debt. For instance, 38% of master’s graduates and 14% of Ph.D. graduates had to rely on loans to finish their degrees. It is also critical to know that attaining a higher degree may not be necessary for certain career paths you might be pursuing, so the added cost may not justify the means.  

So how do we know who’s hiring recent graduates and what degrees are necessary then? Well, it seems that graduates with only bachelor’s degrees were predominantly offered federal government jobs or private sector jobs in environmental services, similar to those with master’s degrees. Those master’s graduates, however, were offered jobs with oil and gas at higher rates and were overall better paid. Most Ph.D. students, on the other hand, end up either in academia or at a research institute. It is possible to infer from this survey and other op-eds out there that unless you want to go into academia, a Ph.D. might not be the end-all-be-all for the career you want.  

How does one decide where you would best thrive? AGU Webinars Professional Development Series has spent the past three months presenting “introduction” webinars to each of these three sectors: industry (the private sector)government, and academia. The upcoming webinar this Thursday, 3 May, at 2PM ET, is called “Finding Your Fit.” This webinar will focus specifically on the question “Which path is right for me?” It will be led by David Harwell, Director of Talent Pool at AGU, and will you give you an in-depth look at the different available opportunities out there, and how to be best suited for them. I would encourage those reading this to register and attend 

Even if you are not able to attend, you can still register to receive a link to the recordingAttending live, however, will give you the opportunity to participate in the live Q&A that follows the presentation. I would also encourage you to explore other resources, either at AGU Pathfinder’s pages or the articles here in On the Job. The AGU Pathfinder team at AGU is here to help you answer my titular question: “What’s next?” Let’s figure out the answer together. 

Steven Carrion is the Spring Talent Pool Intern.