Most geoscience graduates finding
employment in North America are still finding positions
in the environmental sector, but the overall percentage
of students doing so continues to decline.
And in a finding that is perhaps related
to that trend, environmental geology dropped dramatically
as an academic "strength" for geoscience departments across
These were two findings of the latest "Report
on the Status of Academic Geoscience Departments," an annual
survey that tracks educational trends around the world.
The survey, started in 1992 by Barry Katz,
with Texaco in Houston, was originally a project sponsored
by AAPG's Research Committee. This latest survey, however,
was the first effort conducted jointly with the American
The survey's purpose is to determine trends
Research funding levels.
A trend that Katz' report called "most significant"
was the rise in the number of jobs being obtained outside
of the geosciences by international students -- about 30
percent of the graduating students outside of North America
found non--geoscience industry jobs.
Another significant trend was marked in the
number of students entering the petroleum industry in North
America. The percentage of graduates entering the petroleum
industry in North America was down slightly from last year,
Katz said, but that figure still represents about 24 percent
of the employment market.
"This represents a slight decrease when compared
with last year," Katz said, "but still is significantly
higher than reported between 1992 and 1997."
Katz, the technical program co-chair for
the recent AAPG international conference in Bali, noted
that in this survey -- for the first time -- reported departmental
strengths outside of North America were similar to those
of North America.
In the latest survey, the top three departmental
academic strengths for North America were:
The previous survey's "strength" list was
led by environmental geology, which fell to seventh place
in the latest ranking, inorganic geochemistry and stratigraphy.
Other noted changes in the current strength
list include what Katz called "the increase in the relative
rank of paleontology (from tenth place to sixth) and a decrease
in the rank of non--seismic geophysics (from sixth to fourteenth
"Only six departments in North America reported
petroleum geology as an academic strength," he added. "Five
departments outside of North America reported (it) as an
Other findings in the survey include:
Mining accounted for about 6 percent
of post--graduate placement.
The percentage of graduates finding jobs
in the environmental sector continues to decrease.
The average number of faculty positions
in North America has remained nearly constant for the
past six years; outside of North America, the number is
There are more Ph.D. geoscience students
in North America than from the rest of the world.
The average research funding in North
America is $610,000; outside of North America, the average
is about $310,500.
The report also describes three major cycles
in geoscience enrollments that occurred during the past
50 years, according to AGI.
The first cycle, in the 1950s, reflected
a robust extraction industry in oil, gas and minerals. Statistics
from that first cycle and the two later cycles "dramatically
illustrate how enrollment trends mirror real--world economic
factors such as global commodity prices, national awareness
of environmental hazards or resource shortages, and population
What also emerges is a statistical picture
of a phenomenon that others have expressed in the past:
Geoscience enrollment and employment trends are out of phase.
"Increased numbers of students choose geoscience
curriculums when they see employment trends rising," AGI
observed. "By the time these students graduate, employment
opportunities have often dropped back, dissuading incoming
students from pursuing the same course of study.
"Yet by the time they graduate, employment
opportunities are likely to be on the upsurge.
"Greater communication is needed between the
departments and the employers to reduce the imbalance and
amplitude between supply and demand," the report concludes.