Transformative changes in graduate geoscience education are needed to
ensure the long-term health of geoscience graduate programs and
professions and to produce geoscientists with the skills and
competencies needed to address global societal challenges.
Geoscience employers and the academic community have achieved consensus
on the portfolio of critical skills and competencies needed by Master’s
and Doctoral graduates in Earth, Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences to lead
successful, fulfilling careers. These should be broadly disseminated and
used to guide graduate students, faculty, and departments.
Graduate education should encompass these skills and competencies
through research, courses and co-curricular activities, and students
should be encouraged to develop them, with the depth dependent on
their degree and career goals.
Graduate students need to take ownership of developing these skills
and competencies during their graduate education.
Graduate students should have increased practice in problem
identification and approaches to finding solutions, as well as
solving problems, in courses and their research.
Skills related to data analytics, coding, and computer programming
should be embedded in theses and dissertations and coursework.
Scientific communication skills — verbal and written — should be
honed for both scientific and more diverse audiences.
Graduate students should prepare “elevator speeches” — a brief
statement of what they have accomplished in their research and why
it is significant — that they practice and revise throughout their
Graduate students need to develop a leadership and innovation
mindset as they pursue their education.
Research is the central property of a graduate program and should be
treated as both an intellectual and pedagogical construct.
Graduate supervisors need to encourage their students to broaden
their skillsets through coursework and co-curricular activities.
Geoscience graduate programs should consider ensuring that all
doctoral students gain experience in teaching.
Students should be required to develop Individual Development Plans
(IDPs) early in their academic career, in conjunction with their advisor
and other mentors. These plans provide structure to advising, a roadmap
for achieving student goals, and help keep students on track towards
completion of their degree.
Departments should consider requiring that faculty to provide a
mentorship plan in order to admit students into the graduate
program, and for all graduate students to have a mentoring plan.
Discussion around mental health and work/life balance should be
Department heads/chairs, and graduate program directors must take
leadership roles in creating and incentivizing change. It requires
convincing faculty and upper administration that there is a need for
change and providing a proposed path to doing so.
Department heads, chairs and graduate program directors should
leverage external pressures to convince faculty of the need for
change, such as their student legacy, decreasing enrollments, lack
of diversity, rankings, financial support, expanding geoscience
careers, and changes in the nature of the geosciences.
Graduate program and departmental culture needs to become more
inclusive and supportive of diversity in demographics, thought, and
Departments should market geoscience graduate degrees as a means of
developing the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to solve
societal issues and to increase diversity and overall enrollment.
Departments need to develop program-wide student learning outcomes
for their master’s and doctoral students, and individual faculty
should establish learning outcomes for their graduate courses.
Graduate students should be made aware of these learning outcomes
and receive guidance on where they can be obtained both within and
external to the department.
Graduate education needs to be student focused, using the broad
spectrum of identified skills and competency opportunities available
through research, coursework, and co-curricular activities to meet
educational and career goals.
Departments should consider offering an onboarding course or
experience for all new graduate students to form a cohort, develop
Individual Development Plans, and be introduced to ethics in
science, leadership, time management, the importance of emotional
intelligence and of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
Departments should take advantage of the experience and advice of
colleagues who have begun to make efforts toward transformative
change their graduate programs.
Faculty should have the benefit of further training and support in
effective mentoring, teaching, and supervising their graduate
students to provide an education that results in successful
Heads/Chairs, faculty, employers, alumni and professional societies need
to communicate, collaborate and offer opportunities for graduate
students to successfully develop these skills and competencies.
Alumni and employers should consider and be encouraged to
participate in the graduate education effort through giving lectures
on careers, mentoring, providing help with professional development,
serving on master’s and doctoral committees, and offering
internships, externships, datasets and/or financial support.
Departments should consider establishing external advisory councils
or boards that meet annually or biannually to provide advice on
their graduate programs.
Professional geoscience societies should be proactive in disseminating
the results of this initiative, including a link to this document, and
post a list of resources the society offers to support preparation of
graduate students. They should consider offering inexpensive short
courses or workshops focused on these desired skills, setting up
certification programs, and increasing mentoring opportunities.
Funding agencies should establish explicit requirements for the
inclusion of graduate student support in awarded grants, such as
requiring plans for student mentorship and career development using
IDPs. As well, funding agencies should find ways to provide support for
departments seeking to implement changes to their graduate programs.