The American Geological Institute’s latest Geoscience Workforce Currents says that undergrad enrollments are up 8% this year:
Eight per cent actually isn’t that much – one or two students, in most of the geology departments that I know. We’ve got nearly twice as many students registered for my sophomore mapping class this year as we did two years ago (29 vs 15). And that makes me wonder – are there big differences between different types of schools (public versus private; undergrad vs research university) or between different areas of the country?
And is this a blip, resulting from last year’s rumors of $100,000/year salaries – especially at the time when the nature of the recession was just becoming clear? Will those students switch to another major when they realize what a rollercoaster the price of copper (or uranium) is? If they stick around, will they change the character of geology departments (which have become more and more environmentally oriented in the past 25 years, enough so that the Geological Society of America has received complaints about their association with resource industries).
These students won’t be geologists for three more years. (Four or five, if industry wants M.S. degrees, or if the students don’t have a strong math background already.) That’s important for everyone to keep in mind. When industry is on an employment rollercoaster, we academics need to remember that the jobs that are around when students are freshmen won’t necessarily be available exactly when they graduate. And industry needs to be willing to hire people who came into geology with other interests – even, dare I say it, to hire people with degrees in Environmental Geology.