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 career.

  • 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 normalized.

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 career paths.

  • 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 students.

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.