A mixed methods study of the challenges for geoscience majors in identifying potential careers and the benefits of a career awareness and planning course

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Journal of Geoscience Education


Taylor & Francis




Undergraduates majoring in geoscience are often unaware of their career options beyond traditional resource industries; they need explicit supports to consider their post-graduation options. This mixed methods study sought to fill gaps in the literature related to the overabundance of solely quantitative studies related to career awareness and the dearth of studies on career awareness courses that are guided by theory. The study investigates the challenges geoscience undergraduate students face when considering a career, what resources students use to find career information, and the benefits of a geoscience career awareness and planning course (career course) rooted in cognitive information processing (CIP) theory. Data were collected via our Career Resource Survey (from both career course participants and a comparison group), course assignments, and focus groups. Findings indicate that many students do not know what careers they can pursue in the geosciences, nor what the specific titles of careers mean (e.g., hydrology technician vs. hydrologist). Undergraduate students report using a variety of resources to learn more about careers and to find jobs, but no particular resource stands out as being primarily used. The career course supported students in terms of guidance, tools, and connecting with geoscience careers. Specifically, the course supported students in exploring myriad geoscience-related careers, identifying the specific steps needed to pursue these careers, meeting and connecting with a variety of people in geoscience careers, and seeing the value of their geoscience degrees. Other geoscience programs may consider creating a similar course, or implementing components of the course as connected to CIP theory. Professional geoscientists and organizations may consider being more proactive in connecting with undergraduate students to support their knowledge of, and transition into, geoscience careers. Being deliberate in exposing undergraduates to geoscience career opportunities may help to attract and keep students engaged in the field, and to graduate geoscientists who are more highly-qualified for the workforce.