Employer Perceptions of Career Training and Disability in the Geosciences

Friday 11:15-11:45am PT / 12:15-12:45pm MT / 1:15-1:45pm CT / 2:15-2:45pm ET Online


Megan Brown, Northern Illinois University
Ashley Barry, Northern Illinois University
Parker Porter-Mareth, Northern Illinois University

Geoscience's field based culture can provide a barrier for students, especially students with disabilities. Field coursework is required in many geoscience programs and is met by completing a four to eight week field camp. Many students have little to no alternative option as accessible field trips and courses are very limited. Increasing inclusion of disability in the university is only one part of the solution. Recent science bachelor's degree recipients in the United States (without disabilities) have an unemployment rate of approximately 6% while the rate for graduates with disabilities is 15%.

In this study, we survey geoscience professionals who are associated with hiring at their place of employment. Survey participants were from a variety of employment sectors, but most participants work in consulting or industry. Our online survey first examined the skills and field experience that employers desire in new graduates. Then, participants answered questions related to their perceptions on disability.

Preliminary data indicate that jobs are more likely to be accessible to people with moderate physical disabilities and hearing impairment/deafness, while few employers felt that there were accessible positions for individuals with visual impairment/blindness and intellectual disabilities. Most employers were open to hiring geologists who had not taken a field course; however, most desired students to have at four to six credit hours of field coursework. In addition, only 5% of respondents did not require manual labor or field work of their geologists. Work is needed to increase accessibility in university geoscience departments; however, accessible employment is also essential in order to increase inclusion within our discipline.