AAG and AGI to Conduct Collaborative Study of Geoscience Master’s Programs

The Association of American Geographers (AAG) and the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) will be conducting surveys of Geography and Geology Master’s degree programs in an effort to determine the types of competencies taught and developed in graduate curricula (including internships and related professional training experiences). The results of the surveys, which will be administered in October and November 2013, will be compared to the outcomes of recent workforce studies conducted by AGI, AAG, and other organizations that indicate the skills qualifications that geoscience employers seek for entry-level positions across public and private sectors. Funding for the research is being provided by a $109,842 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Geoscience Education program (Award GEO- 1202707). Heather Houlton (AGI, Project Director), Michael Solem (AAG, Co-PI), and Joy Adams (AAG, Senior Researcher) are leading the research.

Through this research project, named Geo Career MaPS (Geoscience Career Master’s Preparation Survey), AGI and AAG will develop resources and toolkits that can help academic programs better align curricula and advising practices with workforce demands. The surveys developed for this project build directly on prior work by AGI and AAG to create conceptually valid measures of professional competencies and studies of industry trends in the geosciences. In practical terms, the results can be used to assist Geography and Geology Master’s programs by providing them with additional approaches to assess learning outcomes in relation to workforce demands. This is an important issue for all graduate programs, but especially for Master’s programs for which little is known empirically about curricula, students’ career paths, and advising and mentoring practices by faculty.

As the graduate degree for most entry-level professional careers in geology and geography, a focus on Master’s education is needed as part of a broader engagement by AGI, AAG and their sister organizations to address future workforce needs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) geoscience careers. This project is expected to improve the preparation of the STEM workforce in broad geoscience fields by providing information that can be used to guide students in their selection of academic courses and other educational experiences that will equip them with the competencies they need for entry-level positions. By establishing and enhancing dialogues and relationships between academic programs and employer organizations, the project may also communicate the value of academic and professional training in the geosciences for work in various public and private sector careers. Although this is conceived as a pilot project focusing on geography and geology programs, there is potential for future expansion to other sub-fields through partnerships with other professional societies and academic programs in the geosciences.

For additional information about the Geo Career MaPS project, please contact Heather Houlton.