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Is the Geosciences Pipeline Drying Up?: K-12 and Undergraduate Education

Edward C. Roy
Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

The next several decades may be times when jobs in the petroleum and related industries will be plentiful. The challenge will be to find enough American educated geoscientists to fill the projected needs. Following the precipitous decline in the number of undergraduate students majoring in the geosciences in the mid-1980's, the number of geosciences majors has continued to decline and in 2003 was at its lowest level in 25 years. For example, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in 2000 in the traditional geosciences was only 31% of the number awarded in 1980. Master's degrees awarded in 2000 were 39% of the number awarded in 1980. Few students who enter college have had much exposure to earth science. Most of the earth science education that students in the K-12 grades receive is in elementary and middle school; however, that is variable depending on the state standards. In high schools nationally, only 7% of students graduate with a course in earth science and, in Texas, it is even worse with only 2% of graduates having had an earth science course. These low numbers may ultimately affect the number of geoscientists who will be available to meet the future needs in the petroleum industry. Part of the problem in the past was the result of the boom and bust history of employment. In order to prevent a future shortage of geoscientists, companies must work with academic departments to develop mutual support that will result in more students interested in the careers in the petroleum industry.