SDI Field Studies: Giving SDI graduates an edge in today’s marketplace.

  • SDI Admin

“Getting an online education in gunsmithing does not make you a gunsmith.” This statement, as well as similar ones, can be seen across message boards for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) and other schools alike. It is impossible to ignore, and the answer is an easy, “Yes, this is true.” The fact remains, though, that getting a job as a gunsmith or starting a successful business as a gunsmith is what makes you a gunsmith.

The statement, “Getting a degree in (blank) does not make you a (blank),” can be substituted with any degree such as accounting/accountant, engineering/engineer, or marketing/marketer. Similarly, putting on a space helmet does not make you an astronaut. But, getting an education in aeronautics or engineering, working at NASA, and going to space does. Sonoran Desert Institute has recognized the competitiveness of today’s marketplace for graduates and has added the Field Study Program to their already comprehensive education in order to give their students an edge.

Let’s look at the big picture of today’s marketplace and the achievement of higher education to understand how SDI’s Field Study Program fits in.

Today’s Marketplace

Today’s job market is highly competitive for college graduates. Over the last decade, statistics have shown numbers as low as 27% for college graduates finding employment in the same field as their degrees. Research also shows a mixed review from graduates as to whether their education has helped their career or prepared them for the professional marketplace. No matter if they’re graduating from a university with a degree in engineering, accounting, or from a trade school for plumbing, all graduates struggle with the same market and are constantly trying to increase their odds of having a successful career. While opinion may vary, labor statistics show drastic differences in how education levels affect unemployment and wages. Some of this sounds dire, right? Not so much. Let’s look deeper.

More of America’s workforce has college degrees than at any other time in history. This has flooded the employment pool with qualified applicants. In past decades, having a college degree drastically increased your odds of a high salary and a great career because not as many potential employees had degrees. In today’s competitive environment, you must simply do more to separate yourself from the pack. This can be done through the building of essential skills outside of your education or by finding industry internships. The requirement of separating yourself from the pack spreads across every industry in America, and SDI’s students and past graduates are not exempt.


In the past, completing courses in higher education has been a quick fix for professionals in the job market. “Just get your degree and you will be set for life.” While an education does help you stand out from the pack, it is no longer a guarantee.

An education tells an employer that, in addition to understanding the foundational principles of their given field (accounting, engineering, gunsmithing, etc.), this person is someone who has likely accumulated critical thinking skills and can work independently or in a team. It says that through extensive reading and writing, this is an individual who has a stronger likelihood of being able to communicate effectively as well as to learn new information. And that by learning history, psychology, environmental science, and mathematics, this person has a greater chance of looking at separate pieces of information and tying them together. For example, understanding how economic conditions affect businesses, how this psychologically affects the general marketplace, and how this knowledge can be applied to create a business that better adapts to similar conditions in the future is something an educated candidate would be better prepared for.

While these generalities can be made regarding graduates, there are still no guarantees for finding work in the field of your education. This is because there are also no guarantees to the employer that the applicant is proficient in these skills or that they have the intangible skills necessary to be a successful employee.
These intangible skills relate to the individual’s personality. Can this person think on their feet? Is this person a team player? Is this a negative person or a positive person? Education shows up easily in a resume but it is the interview process that seeks to reveal if these skills exist and whether this person is a good fit. This also falls within the realm of starting your own business. If you have an education, your chance of success is increased; but if you have not worked on your intangible skill set, it can be a serious setback.

There is one last piece to ensure your success as a professional, and that piece is experience.


Nothing beats experience. This is a general truism that echoes across every industry. Would you like to hire an employee with 40 years of experience or would you like to hire a young employee with no real-world experience? This is a dilemma faced by every employer for every position they have ever hired. That is also why SDI has created the Field Study Program.

SDI’s Field Study Program is set up to give students the following benefits:

  • Established relevant industry contacts and networks
  • Application of coursework and labs to actual work situations
  • Increased relevant career-related experience
  • Enhanced background experience to strengthen resume
  • Potential permanent placement with a Field Study partner
  • A competitive advantage over other candidates seeking positions
  • Strengthened relevant verbal and written communication skills
  • A potential reference from a Field Study sponsor

The challenge of gaining experience is something that every student faces. Until actually working as a trauma surgeon, no med school student knows what it’s really like. Therefore, before becoming licensed to practice on real people, doctors must serve long internships after having gained a quality, foundational education. While SDI’s Field Study Program will not require 10 years of your life, it does give participants a higher level of hands-on experience that cannot be found in any educational program outside of an internship or entry level position.

By pairing hands-on experience with a foundational education, SDI’s students can give themselves an advantage that is rare in any industry. If those same students put continuous and conscious effort into their intangible skills, such as quick thinking under pressure, positivity, team mentality and conflict management, they will attain an undeniable advantage in the job market.

There is as much to learn about today’s job marketplace as there is about educational advantages. Large volumes of research and books have been written about these subjects—far beyond the scope of this article. But in the end, whether you’re a student, graduate, or potential student, it will be up to you to put in the effort to increase your chances of success.

To learn more about SDI’s Field Study Program and to apply, please visit:

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