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Fastest Growing Science Careers

Take science classes and search for high school engineering internships to nab one of the jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago but is now pretty lucrative.

Sandra Guy

June 02, 2009

Fastest Growing Science Careers
Students interested in science and engineering careers have a healthy variety of options for a bright future. Science and engineering fields are among the best and fastest-growing in America, according to career-oriented surveys. cites among the fastest-growing fields: software engineer, technical writer, medical scientist, physical scientist, engineer, physician/surgeon, landscape architect, biotechnology research scientist, biological scientist, environmental scientist, lab technologist, and sales engineer.

The list comprises jobs that have the highest salaries and the most favorable growth-rate forecast for the next decade. Tops on the list is “software engineer,” with a 46.07 percent growth rate in the next 10 years, and an average salary and bonus totaling $80,427. Medical scientist ranked close behind, with a 34.06 percent growth rate and average pay of $70,053. Others with top growth rates were biotechnology research scientist with a 17.05 percent growth rate and $66,393 average pay; biological scientist, with a 17.03 percent growth rate and pay averaging $61,317, and “engineer,” with a 13.38 percent growth rate and pay of $76,100.

Experts and government data also point to careers dealing with energy, such as petroleum engineering, and health care, including biomedical engineering, as surefire career growth fields. The U.S. Department of Labor’s list of fastest-growing fields include computer engineering, medical and physician assistants, and employees at science and technology museums. Each field opens nearly limitless possibilities. Biomedical engineering comprises such sub-specialties as bioinstrumentation, biomechanics, orthopedic surgery, systems physiology and cellular, tissue and genetic engineering. “The most common thing students may not know is that people who get PhDs in science do not necessarily go into academic careers. They go to private industry, government and non-governmental organizations,” said Deborah Stine, associate director of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy at the National Academies in Washington, D.C.

The National Academies are comprised of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academies were chartered by Congress to advise the government on matters of science and technology.

Science careers are receiving heightened attention and support from the federal government due to an Oct. 12, 2005 National Academies report, titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which warned that the United States’ historical advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology had started to erode. The report, requested by two U.S. senators, recommended that grades K-12 receive improved mathematics and science education, and that the United States develop, recruit and retain top students, scientists and engineers both in this country and abroad. Ironically, the report comes at a time when technology companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Apple Computer, Google and Skype are soaring in popularity and equity value.

A study by Universum Communications, a research firm based in Stockholm, Sweden, showed that Millennials — people born in or after the year 1982 — ranked Apple, Boeing, Microsoft and Intel among their ideal choices of potential employers. Science majors chose Mayo Clinic, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, GSK and Merck in their top five, according to the survey of 37,000 students.

Connie Hall, an assistant professor in biomedical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, said high-school and early-college students interested in science and engineering should take as many classes in math, physics, chemistry, biology and, if possible, physiology, as possible. Also, students should attempt to find high school engineering internships. “It’s tough because students don’t usually get into engineering until their sophomore year in college,” Hall said.

Hall suggested that students seek laboratory experience and search for classes in which they must solve open-ended questions. “Classes involving more problem-solving and less memorization give students a better shot at doing engineering,” Hall said. “In any engineering discipline, you must visualize and translate in three dimensions.”

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