Departments and Programs

Go back to the beginning of this presentation by Chris Keane of the American Geological Institute.

So, what is the value of the geoscience degree to new graduates?

The Geoscience Bachelor's Degree

Two important issues to keep in mind with the B.S. degree is that over 50% of Geoscience BS recipients go onto other fields of study and work. Though problematic if we are short of skilled professionals, this also means that many lawyers, doctors, and other professionals do have some solid exposure to the geosciences and can be natural advocates for it within their profession. The second important issue is that the salary level of BS recipients is far lower than other physical science BS holders. The current geoscience BS salary is about $13,000 per year compared to about $30,000 per year for physics and chemistry. This is largely driven by irregular work in the environmental technology industry, but is a potential discouraging issue of prospective students.

Geoscience Master's Degree

The geosciences are unique among the sciences with the MS degree being the preferred degree for professional employment. This is inherently a major strength of the discipline when both industry and academia are coordinated on this issue.

The current starting salary range for MS holders is $25K-$69K with a mean of $38K. Of particular note, in 2003, the employment rate of new MS recipients was 99.5%.

Of concern, however, is that 82% of MS-granting programs described themselves are primarily Ph.D. preparatory, yet, only 28% of MS degree recipients continue on to a Ph.D. program. This represents a clear disconnect that is reflected in the concentration of degree awards from fewer and fewer program.

Geoscience Ph.D. Degree

In 2004, Ph.D. recipients on average found excellent employment and job satisfaction with an employment rate of 97% for those that sought professional work.

However, 54% of recipients went on to PostDocs, which is up substantially from 38% in 2001. This may be an indicator of overfocus in producing new academic geoscientists where the jobs are not opening up as quickly.

As for starting salaries, they vary by sector:

  • $35K for PostDoc
  • $42K for Faculty position
  • $49K for Government
  • $69K for Industry

Future Directions

Several community initiatives have been proposed to address some of the current issues, including:

  • Defining B.S. Degree as "liberal" science degree
  • Better develop MS programs as professionally preparatory
  • Provide opportunities at Ph.D. level for non-traditional careers

What is the role of departments?

  • Train for careers in the geosciences
    • Core departments do this well
    • Professional opportunities are not unlimited
  • Educate the broad public
    • 4-year programs do this well
    • Is this sufficient value to administrators?
  • Provide support services for university community
    • Does existing in the shadows avoid targeting or make one expendable