I've got a question from a reader, and I'm probably not the best person to answer it. She's a sophomore geology/environmental science major, and she's looking for advice about how to prepare for a career in hydrology/environmental geology.
What will exist in three years? Where are we going? How do I ensure I will be marketable as a woman in the geology field? What things should I be involved in now that will help me then?
I don't have a crystal ball (and my Gore Mountain garnet, although big enough, is blurry and hopelessly stuck in the Precambrian). And worse, I've never worked outside academia. I get some ideas about what it takes to get a job by talking to recent alums, and to people who might hire my students, and to people on the internet, and by reading the American Geological Institute's workforce data snapshots. But that's not the same as having been there myself.
So, with those caveats, let me gaze into the Magic Garnet Crystal and see what it says.
What will exist in three years?
I get the sense that hydrology jobs have remained fairly steady, compared to
Also, hydrology/environmental geology has hired geologists in the last twenty years. Petroleum and mining companies are currently trying to hire young geologists to replace the ones who are about to retire. My generation (who got work as hydrologists) isn't retiring yet, so hydro probably won't experience the same squeeze.
So my guess is that there will be jobs, but it will take some work and searching to find them. (I don't have a good idea of exactly what those jobs are likely to involve. Anyone reading want to answer?)
What things should I be involved in now that will help me then?
Employers often contact people that they know (college professors, students who have worked for them in the past) when they've got a job opening. My department gets a lot of e-mails asking whether we've got any good students who could work during a summer, or who are ready to take a full-time job. We've started forwarding the messages to all of our students, but if a professor can think of someone immediately, that person has an advantage in applying for the job. So you want your professors to know what you're interested in, and to think of you when those questions come up. (That's potentially a women-in-science problem, if the professor remembers the male students first.) Doing a good undergraduate research project on something related to hydrology might help you stand out.
Internships can be good opportunities to explore career options. Working for a government agency (like the USGS) during college can make it easier to move into a permanent position after graduation. And internships in the private sector can help you build a resume and might lead to a full-time job, as well. (Finding interships can be difficult. Talk to your professors, and check out your college's career center. They might have good leads.)
Networking in general helps, too. The Association for Women Geoscientists can be a good group for networking - the chapters have activities in various parts of the country, and the newsletter discusses career issues a lot. (Also, environmental geologists seem to be very well-represented in AWG.) There are mentoring sessions for students at regional and national Geological Society of America meetings. Some regions of the country have regional hydrology societies, which could also be good resources.
It may also be good to prepare to become a certified professional geologist. You can also become a student member of AIPG (the American Institute of Professional Geologists). (And even if you don't, there is career information on the student section of their website.)
How do I ensure I will be marketable as a women in the geology field?
You know, I don't think women have a lot of individual control over the sexism we experience. So... be good at what you do, be assertive, network, write and revise your resume, etc., etc., etc. It's not very different from advice I give to male students. But beyond that, if you don't succeed right away, if you get asked annoying questions about your personal life, if you get harassed... don't blame yourself. And keep trying. The biggest piece of advice I could give to a woman in science is: cultivate resilience in yourself.
The second biggest piece of advice would be to find friends (or family, or a partner) who will support you in what you want to do.
That's the advice of the Magic Garnet Crystal. It's full of inclusions, though, so it's not the most trustworthy oracle around. Hopefully some other readers will comment.
* See the comment by BrianR below. Brian works in the petroleum industry, and has seen hiring slow down this year.