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A Career in Technology (STEM)


Natural disasters.  Global warming.  Cancer.  World hunger.   Homeland security.  Chances are, if a teacher asked you to list some of the biggest problems facing the world today, one or more of these issues would quickly come to mind.  Finding solutions isn't easy, but it can be rewarding.   Around the world, innovators are constantly chipping away at all of these problems and making great strides.

Ocean sensors and global positioning systems can help people escape killer tsunamis.   New fuel formulas can make cars cheaper to operate while providing us with cleaner air.  Gene therapy may someday terminate cancer.  New hybrid grains will feed more people.  Better personal identification devices can make American borders more secure.

The world is filled with problems -- and opportunities.  There's plenty of work to be done for well-trained entrepreneurs.  And that same spirit of innovation can also help create better tasting pizza and smaller cell phones, new ways to shop for the latest fashions and more realistic video games.

What sparks innovation

That's a four-part answer: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).   Most new developments that make the world a better place in which to live involve one or more of these fields.  Sometimes they involve all four!  When you listen to a portable music player, consider the expertise that went into the device.   Electronic engineers devised inner workings that are small enough to comfortably carry.  Employees with high-tech skills and tools tested the products to make sure they are safe and reliable.  Materials engineers formulated cases that are tough and picked color pigments that are appealing to the consumer.  Mathematicians created financial projections that told the company what young people want in a music player and how much they would be willing to pay for it.

Innovation benefits America

Some of the fastest-growing jobs in America, such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, need workers who know a lot about science, technology, engineering and math.   New products not only make our country a technology front-runner but also ensure that it's a top contender in a tough, competitive global economy.  Creating new and better products and solving some of today's most perplexing problems have a healthy ripple effect that you can feel on a personal level.  Innovation creates good-paying jobs that are in high demand.  Not only that, all of these fields have a built-in feature that makes them fascinating and rewarding:  Science and technology are constantly changing, so the work is never dull.  Let's take a closer look at STEM.

Science promotes understanding

Science helps us understand and make use of phenomena that happen in the physical world, from astronomy to zoology.  In the study of cancer, for example, cell biologists map out how good cells go bad.  Some of the best new developments occur when experts in different specialties team up.  You've got entomologists who know everything about mosquitoes working with chemists to develop more effective bug repellents.  Or you have astronomers working with geophysicists to map the surface of Mars.  Botanists can tell you why a rose smells so good, and a meteorologist can tell you if it's going to rain on Tuesday.  Some scientists say they were drawn to their particular field through interests or hobbies they had when they were younger.  What are some of the things about the natural world that fascinate you? Can you see yourself becoming an expert in any of them?  Have you taken a variety of science courses in high school?

Technology's useful tools

Technology harnesses physical and mental capabilities to achieve a particular end.   It can be as simple as making a hammer or as complex as developing artificial intelligence.  In business, computer programmers have devised secure ways for customers to make online purchases.  You have people who are savvy with sound effects teaming up with those who have mastered visual effects to make movies like King Kong.  A computer forensics expert can track down who hacked into a sensitive database, and a graphic artist can design an eye-popping Web page that can help launch a new business.  Sometimes people who enjoy using a certain technology decide to make it their career.  What are some of your favorite gadgets?  Can you picture yourself inventing something new and better?  Have you taken any technology education classes in high school?

Engineering advances

In a nutshell, engineering is using the knowledge of science, technology and math to develop a useful new object or process.  Chemical engineers can devise ways to decrease some of the adverse side effects of heart medication.  Civil engineers are working with environmental engineers to protect the city of New Orleans from the next major hurricane.  Automotive engineers are working with safety engineers to design cars that reduce the injuries people sustain in accidents.   A traffic engineer can plan how to prevent traffic jams, and a mechanical engineer can design a robot.  People who are good at figuring things out and fixing things tend to make good engineers.  Can you think of something that you fixed that you're proud of?  Can you picture yourself getting paid to make them work?   Have you participated in any pre-engineering programs while in high school?

Math makes sense

Math is all about calculating, using logic and measuring.  It also involves the study of shapes and the motions of physical objects.  A mathematician can determine the trajectory of a long-range missile.  A statistician can predict how severely a drought will affect the local economy.  Some math majors work in the textile industry creating equations for mixing coloring dyes.  Actuaries help businesses calculate the risks and benefits of decisions such as introducing new products or acquiring new divisions.  By their very nature, mathematicians are excellent problem-solvers, and their services are needed.   Did you consider all your math options in high school?

Putting it all together

Whenever you use something that makes your life easier or more fun, think of all the scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians that made it happen.   And if you feel a strong connection to a hobby, an interest or a gadget, why not climb into the driver's seat and make it even better?   America needs you to be an innovator!  Seek your career options in STEM today.

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