GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 329-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


SUITER, Marilyn J., National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22230 and PATINO, Lina C., Earth Sciences Research, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Room 785S, Arlington, VA 22230,

Federal agencies make a substantial investment in STEM graduate education. The President’s 2015 budget request was $2.9 billion for STEM education programs across Federal government, with focus on five investment areas including “Design Graduate Education for Tomorrow’s STEM Workforce.” Several agencies note the importance of this investment. Some state that the “long-term key to continued U.S. competitiveness in an increasingly global economic environment is the adequacy of supply and the quality of the workforce in the STEM fields” (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2007). At NSF, there is some support of graduate STEM preparation through research funding (assistantships). There are other programs that provide graduate students with diverse experiences including and beyond research (GK-12, NRT, I-Corps, CyberCorp® Scholarship for Service).

A report from NRC identifies useful issues in “Preparing the Next Generation of Earth Scientists…,” including an access design for those exploring geoscience careers. What is the preparation that graduate students (masters and doctoral degree recipients) need for success in employment areas in STEM? How is such preparation aligned with workforce needs? Examples of metrics for programs at multiple stages are given in the report (NRC, 2013). One set of workshop reports reflects feedback from geoscience academics and employers on the skills, competencies, and conceptual understandings needed in geoscience undergraduate programs, and how to best broaden, recruit and retain undergraduate geoscience students, especially of underrepresented groups. What are the characteristics of STEM graduate programs that might affect the diversity of the graduate population produced?

A recent study (Science, v. 350, pp. 1367-71) suggests that about fifty-seven percent of Ph.D. graduates remain in academic settings for employment, while about forty percent go to private industry. So are graduate students (in geosciences) being prepared for diverse career paths?