Help Wanted: Logical Thinkers, Creative Problem Solvers and Good Communicators
Technical jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will play an instrumental role in the expansion of information technology, high-tech manufacturing, and the research and development industries. These types of occupations offer consistently high-paying careers with potential for strong growth over the next ten years according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. All STEM occupations require the ability to think logically, troubleshoot, and communicate. Opportunities range from certificate training to the Ph.D. level, with most programs falling at the bachelor’s degree level.
Occupations in the sciences often bring up a picture of someone working in a white lab coat running experiments. While this is correct in many instances, scientific job opportunities go far beyond the laboratory. Scientists also work in offices and outdoors. For example: Life scientists study living systems, including organisms and ecosystems; agriculture and food scientists are interested in the production and distribution of food as they work towards improvements in food quality, quantity and safety. Biological scientists study animals, plants, and bacteria, and conservation scientists manage natural resources for economic and recreational value for everyone. Physical scientists may study and monitor weather systems, study how particles bond, create new chemicals for use in products, and monitor pollutants and ground water circulation systems. Scientists need data gathering skills as well as written and oral communication skills to communicate issues so they can be improved on and solved. Occupational openings in all areas of science are expected to grow over the next 10 years, with average earnings well above the national average of all occupations.
Technology related careers include any category that requires technical skill, including information technology and computer-related occupations. Some technology workers create and design new software; others develop databases, which are important to nearly every type of business. A computer systems analyst helps organizations make use of technology more efficiently. This area of expertise also requires good communication skills along with the ability to problem solve and think logically.
The results of engineering can be seen in items we purchase each day; from tomatoes to televisions. Engineers use science to design, develop, and test new products. Maintaining and improving goods is also a large part of what engineers do. Engineers often specialize in areas such as agriculture to creatively design new equipment, plan irrigation or food processing systems. Civil engineers design bridges and dams, and often plan traffic routes and solve problems within each of these areas. Drafters use computers to plan and design new products or landscapes, and technicians often map, survey, and make use of GPS technology to design new projects. Engineers need to think out and resolve issues at all stages of design, planning, and implementation.
This area of the STEM occupations may seem to be the most intimidating, but many occupations that use math skills are not necessarily technically based, but do require attention to details. For example, actuaries analyze statistical data in order to predict risk for the future. Events like hurricane damage and auto collisions are areas of interest for insurance companies, who employ a large number of actuaries. Mathematicians may decipher and devise encryption methods in order to protect confidential information, an important area we all can relate to. Statisticians enjoy collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data. Again, logical problem solving and communication skills are valued and put to use on a daily basis.
According to one federal estimate, STEM occupations make up about 8 percent of U.S. employment, or around 8 million jobs. Included in this figure are managerial and teaching occupations, which are not always viewed as STEM-related. Other related jobs, such as sales representatives for manufacturing and sales of technical and scientific products are important, yet often overlooked when planning for a STEM career. If you are a logical thinker, can creatively problem solve, and you are able to communicate orally and through written skills, take a deeper look at the STEM careers. In addition to preparation for technical occupations, a STEM-related degree provides a valuable credential and knowledge-base for those interested in managerial advancement in a variety of industries.