Faster software, tastier food, cooler robots, greener businesses-science and technology make the world better every day.
And if you're interested in going after a science or tech career, contributing to a brighter tomorrow is not the only perk: you seriously raise your chances of finding an in-demand, high-paying job.The other good news is that you've got so many career options to choose from. To prove it, here are seven uncommon science and tech careers.
Which one would you choose?
1. Ethical Hacker
Tear apart computer codes for a good cause: by proactively detecting flaws, you help protect your company from hackers bent on stealing information or hijacking your systems. You're one of the front-line fighters in the battle for cyber security.
Average Salary: $41,000 – $114,00
2. Chief Sustainability Officer
This cross-disciplinary C-suite career requires knowledge of business, leadership, science and the greenest environmental practices. You're the brains behind every strategy your company uses to become more eco-friendly.
Average Salary: $165,000
3. Food Chemist
Ever dreamed of creating a perfect piece of sugar-free candy? Or the most scrumptious microwave dinner? In this job, you experiment with the chemical makeup of foods to make them tastier, longer lasting or easier to ship.
Average Salary: $34,000 – $106,000
5 Jobs That Let You Escape The Cubicle Farm
7 Unusual (And High Paying) Jobs in Science and Technology
You know those apps that help you find parking in San Francisco? Or the ones that tell you which bus to catch in New York City to get you where you're going? Those are often developed by civic hackers.
Cities don't necessarily want to hire these app developers or share resources, but they do want city hall connected with this generation of hackers, according to an article in The Atlantic.
The chief innovation officer gets to manage this little army of developers, encouraging citizen engagement and attacking problems that are actually kind of fun to solve. Adel Ebeid, Philadelphia's Chief Innovation Officer, one of two in the country, told The Atlantic he's part of a new wave of guinea pigs – one that's expected to become mainstream by 2015.
Government jobs offer lots of perks. You can usually bet on a superb health insurance and retirement package, and for highly skilled professions, great pay.
And pretty much every federal program needs information technology, from Homeland Security to Medicare. By this fall, the largest federal agencies project they'll hire about 273,000 new workers for "mission-critical jobs," makingthedifference.org reports. We're talking about jobs like biological technicians at the Department of Agriculture and positions at the Department of Defense.
Wondering whether The Department of Defense actually has any openings? Sure does: more than 74,400 of them. It's highly likely they'll station you in the middle Atlantic region, as almost half of these positions are based there. The rest are scattered around the country.
Don't have the right skills yet to qualify? Scholarship for Service, funded through the National Science Foundation, will pay for your books, tuition, room and board at an institution where you can prepare for a federal tech career.
You know how you hear all the time that journalism is dead? Yeah... It's not. It's just changing – both the way it's produced and how it's delivered. And nowhere is that more apparent than on the digital front.
Media companies from small-town weekly newspapers to national outlets like CNN are hiring digital content producers. Depending on the outlet, this can mean editing video, writing, editing photos, creating audio slideshows, or in a lot of cases, all of the above.
Digital producers can be webmasters, graphic designers or multimedia gurus all rolled into one. It's a spectacular combination of both creative and technical work. Here's a nice summary of what digital producers do.
Where you'd work really runs the gamut here; your choices aren't limited to media companies. A recent search on Monster.com showed, for example, openings at Sony and World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
The housing market crash drove thousands of realtors out of the industry. Only the hardiest (or maybe the ones with the biggest trust funds) stuck with it. But as the market recovers, there's room for more folks to move what's known in the real estate world as "inventory" – new houses, foreclosures and rentals.
But selling houses isn't what it used to be. The ones who do best in this new digital world can incorporate great photos and videos into their online listings, make the most of SEO so folks can find their properties faster and network online to find clients.
Companies like Real Geeks are helping agents do just that. And sites like Tech for Agents tell real estate pros how to use technology for everything from listing properties to prospecting big potential clients through social media and mobile apps. That site also contains a primer for real estate social networking.
And if you like being your own boss, more than half of real estate brokers and sales agents in 2010 were self-employed, so you're winning there, too.
UX stands for "user experience," and it's something companies are focusing on more and more. How a person reacts to a website, how the content flows, how easy it is to browse and buy stuff online, how often a mobile app crashes – these are all examples of where user experience comes in. Case in point: The Washington Post this month moved researcher Laura Evans to a brand new position, Chief Experience Officer, where she'll focus on how customers interact with and use the Post.
User experience consultants work everywhere from schools to startups. Here's how Whitney Hess, an independent consultant specializing in user experience, sums it up: "Remember that website where you got totally lost and frustrated and gave up before you got anything done? That was a bad user experience that was poorly considered by the company who made it, and it's my mission in life to erase those from the planet." If you're still unsure what they do, Mashable lays out 10 common misconceptions about user experience design.
4. UX Designer
Trying to navigate a clunky website can be insanely frustrating. That's where a user experience (UX) designer can come to the rescue. In your capable hands, websites become more useful, usable and intuitive for every user.
Average Salary: $54,000 – $133,000
5. Science and Technology Policy Analyst
If you've got a strong science or tech background-plus an interest in politics-this career could be the right fit. You put your expertise to good use helping shape science and technology-related public policies.
Average Salary: $48,000 – $155,000
6. Storm Tracker
As an atmospheric scientist, you investigate the science of storms. You specialize in gathering data on severe weather occurrences, including hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms and flash floods.
Average Salary: $45,000 – $132,000
7. Robotics Engineer
Imagine getting to design a robot to explore the depths of the ocean, creating a faster mechanical arm to manufacture cars or engineering a tiny part of animatronic dinosaur for an amusement park. As a robotics engineer, you get to work with some of the world's coolest technology.
Average Salary: $50,000 – $139,000
All salary data is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What unusual science or tech career gets your vote?
Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps people discover careers they'll love and find the education to make it happen. Join the conversation on Twitter at @InsideJobs!