Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2011

Heather Houlton

But there are challenges that come with assembling a report that requires data from so many sectors, including acquiring the data from major players in industry - industries that may not even collect relevant data on their workforce. Also challenging is identifying the nuanced metrics that demonstrate a student graduating with one of the many geoscience degrees available geology, geophysics, geography, paleontology, mining geology and meteorology to name a few is competent and skilled for the U.

The greatest challenge, Wilson noted, is trying to interpret the many different definitions placed on different federal data sources.

The Workforce for a Sustainable Future

Combined with continued unevenness is the workforce readiness of many geoscience graduates and a regionally hot job markets, the geosciences are a dynamic component of the U. Two graphs from the latest Status of the Geoscience Workforce Report showing federal geologists have a higher median age versus federal meteorologists. Employers do have appreciably skilled geoscientists to choose from too.

The numbers of graduating geoscience majors who started their degrees at a two-year colleges have increased. I have met many fine scientists who found that enrolling at a two-year college was an economic way to get a degree. Also exciting, is that numbers of students participating in a field camp experiences have increased.

Employment Statistics from 2010 to 2020

In geology, field camp is one of the most important aspects of a student's learning experience. As a result of the ongoing and strong demand for fossil fuels, Bezdek explains that management of carbon dioxide will at some point become imperative and carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration on massive scale will become critical. For more information about jobs in this industry, see the Outlook for Emerging Energy and Sustainability Jobs. Terri Bowers, president of Gradient, a Cambridge, MA consulting firm, also points to climate, environment and energy as she describes the current and future drivers of geoscience hiring.

Bowers believes that climate change will drive the need for geoscientists to work on problems related to costal erosion and water resources and agrees that interest in carbon sequestration will produce employment for geoscientists who will be needed on teams that determine not only where and how sequestration will proceed but also to understand sequestration impacts on water resources and the potential for induced seismicity. She sees an ongoing need for geoscientists to contribute to investigations of contamination to understand what contamination is occurring where as well as to bring their understanding of fluid and chemical transport to an expanding array of environmental challenges.

Geoscientists will continue to play critical roles in earthquake and volcanic hazard prediction as these services become more critical in population centers and to mitigate impacts on travel.


Lastly, there is no reason to expect that the need for geoscience expertise in litigation will not continue to grow. As the global demand for energy continues to increase, there will be a corresponding need to mitigate the environmental and societal hazards associated with energy extraction and use. These arenas require geoscience and environmental expertise of many forms, with demand stretching decades into the future. Today's graduates are not only moving into an active and growing job market, they can also anticipate working on important societal challenges.

From Emerging Workforce Trends in the U. According to the American Geosciences Institute AGI , "the majority of geoscientists in the workforce are within 15 years of retirement age," and the number of younger employees is only half of the number of those approaching retirement. Estimates for the petroleum industry indicate an expected shortfall of 13, unfilled jobs by Moreover, the aging of the workforce represents a potential for a critical loss of technical knowledge, skill and experience.

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The geosciences attract students with a wide range of skills and interests and geoscience programs support pathways to a variety of professions in the geoscience workforce. Not all students who pursue geoscience degrees end up geoscience careers. Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce presents data showing the overall need for STEM skills for the well-being of the global economy. In a report on the energy and mining industries, the National Academies of Sciences reports that the current pipeline of students and workers with strong STEM skills will not be adequate to fill the needs of the workforce in these fields.

The report cites that poor preparation of high school students in STEM disciplines, high dropout rates, and lack of alternative pathways to high school graduation are reinforcing the problem.

A potential shortage of faculty underscores the risk of losing the capacity to train new students for careers in energy and mining NAS, Roger Bezdek, President of Management Information Services, concurs that workforce data points to an impending shortage of qualified geoscience workers. A combination of increasing job growth in the geosciences, an upcoming "retirement tsunami," and a graduation rate that is not increasing all contribute to a deficit of workers.

Bezdek estimates a shortfall of over , geoscientists in the US over the next decade Bezdek, International growth is also expected to add to the need for qualified geoscientists. Highly skilled geoscientists will be needed to help identify and develop oil, gas and mineral resources, as well as to help recognize and ameliorate natural and manmade environmental hazards in these developing markets" Perkins, One important difference is the definition for what constitutes employment in a STEM field. Karin Kirk, self employed Reuse: Roger Bezdek adds that STEM wages are not flat, and in particular, salaries for geoscientists are increasing at rates well above similar fields see figure at right.

Workforce Reports

Higher wages are an indication of increased demand. Bezdek goes on to point out that the forecast for strong geoscience job growth and large retirement rates add to the expected shortage of qualified geoscientists Bezdek, How Accurate Were We?

Website Content Contributions

The American Geological Institute (AGI) has just released the Status of the Geoscience Workforce " report for digital, print and ebook. Status of Recent Geoscience Graduates Purchase and download the PDF now ($); PDF icon Overview, Status of the Geoscience Workforce .

Glut and Shortage at the Same Time. Published online April 27, Environmental puzzle solvers , Nature , Published online February 27, Earth works , Nature , Published online May 11, An analysis of supply, employment, and wage trends. Economic Policy Institute, published April 24, Generation, Transmission and Distribution pdf. Emerging Workforce Trends in the U.

Where do college graduates work? Presentation file PowerPoint Presentation file PowerPoint 68kB Jun26 Wind career tool http: We encourage the reuse and dissemination of the material on this site for noncommercial purposes as long as attribution to the original material on the InTeGrate site is retained. Material is offered under a Creative Commons license unless otherwise noted below. Other pages in this section: Hide Caption Geoscience Employment Sectors, Hide Caption The largest growth in geoscience jobs is expected to be in management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

Hide Caption Geoscientist Employment, by type of Occupation.