2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM

The Future GeoEnvironmental Workforce - Will There Be Enough Talent?

POWERS, Richard M., BCI Engineers & Scientists, Inc, PO Box 5467, Lakeland, FL 33807-5467, rpowers@bcieng.com

Career opportunities in the environmental field have been expanding for 30 years and continue to increase. The demand for all levels of graduates is greater than ever and the competition for these individuals is high. Currently for those graduates desiring to enter the profession there is 100% employment.

Current data indicates that approximately 2700 BS, 1100 MS and 500 PhD degrees are granted each year in the United States, totaling 4300 geoscience degrees. Of the 4300 graduates, approximately 1200 to 1500 will seek work in the geoscience profession. Thus the talent problem: Assuming there are 120,000 geoscientists working in the US and considering a minimum annual retirement rate of 3%, the profession will need at least 3600 new geoscientists each year.

Further complicating the situation for the environmental field is that the petroleum and mining industries pay higher salaries and employ more that 50% of the US geoscience workforce based on recent NSF/AGI data. As these two industries will compete intensely for MS and PhD graduates and could potentially attract the majority of available graduate level geologists, the environmental field may be resolved to compete mostly for bachelors level talent. This could create a severe problem for the environmental field by limiting the ability to attract the “best and brightest” to address the challenges facing the industry in this century.

The solutions to the workforce challenges are not easy. Currently, each year there are approximately 6000 new geology majors of which less that 1000 will ever work professionally as geologists. It appears there is a tremendous opportunity with new majors, but we must promote our profession much better and focus on keeping students energized about their potential career opportunities.