Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

Careers of the Future

on October 13, 2008

"I want to be a teleport specialist when I grow up."

Doctor, lawyer, firefighter and pilot were hot picks of the past. Get ready for careers of the future. There will be people working in space, the virtual world and in spheres not yet imaginable.

Technology is expanding at a rapid rate, creating a demand for new professions. At the same time, occupations of the past are slowly -- disappearing. No need for a check out clerk at the grocery store if a robot can do the job. It won't be necessary to design a home on Earth when architecture is moving to space.

Careers of the future will change how people communicate, learn and live. Some of these jobs are light-years away from creation, but for others, the future is now. Learn where you could be working.

Alternative Vehicle Developers

This is the job that will make the vehicles from the cartoon show "The Jetsons" come to life. Cars will move at the speed of light and there will be highways in the sky.

Ford Motor Company is developing futuristic vehicles -- now. The Ford Reflex, released in early 2006, is a car for the future: delivers 65 miles per gallon; made of synthetic and regenerated materials; equipped with safety belts integrated with inflatable bags to deploy during a collision; and uses solar panels.

At the University of Northwestern Ohio, students can pursue a career as an alternative vehicle developer. They can study automotive technology, alternative fuels technology and motorsport education. These individuals will be the industry leaders responsible for inventing the latest and most efficient vehicles on the road ? or one day, in the sky.

Biometric Identification Specialist

Think about the film "Minority Report" -- Tom Cruise undergoes eye transplant surgery because he lives in a society that practices iris recognition. Since he's framed for murder, he's forced to find a new set of eyes because machines scan his iris, revealing his location to police.

Biometric identification specialists develop the technology to identify people based on an eye, palm or voice scan. This machinery is already used for Israeli border control to identify Palestinians who are issued ID cards that allow them to work in Israel. The ID card stores fingerprints, hand geometry and facial geometry.

West Virginia University offers a Bachelor of Science in Biometric Systems.

Data Miner

This career is the next step for the statistical analyst. Instead of only providing numbers, a data miner will examine numbers to forecast future events, explain business processes and create predictive models.

Data miners work on tasks such as multifactor dimensionality reduction (MDR) -- examining how independent variables interact to influence a dependent variable. Data miners will look at MDR to detect the correlation with attributes such as DNA-sequence, gender and smoking to the risk of developing certain diseases. Data miners also work for the government to map and target terrorist networks.

As data collection expands, companies and governments will need more people to interpret the statistics.

Experimental Petrologist

If humans should ever move to live on another planet, it will be thanks to the work of experimental petrologists. These individuals are studying rocks from other planets to learn about their formation and evolution.

Rocks, which come to Earth via meteorite, can show petrologists the age of the material and the type of atmospheric gas the stone was exposed to. Studies thus far have shown potential for future human life on Mars.

Starting points for a career in experimental petrology include Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Earth & Space Science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Robotics Engineer

These folks aren't in line to develop the next R2D2. Robotics engineers are creating robots -- in some cases more efficient than humans -- for medical, military, agricultural and mining purposes.

Careers are found in companies such as Boston Dynamics, specializing in robotic engineering and human simulation. Boston Dynamics has created BigDog, a quadruped robot capable of walking, running and climbing rough terrain. As part of a research project for the Department of Defense, BigDog can run 4mph, climb 35 degree slopes and carry 340 pounds.

A good starting point for a career in robotics engineering is Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, which researches and develops robot technology for industrial and government use.

Space Architect

Meet the team: 47 architects from 16 countries who design living environments -- for space. These individuals came together at the 2002 World Space Congress to develop The Millennium Charter, a space architect's manifesto.

Imagine creating a house with no walls or ceilings in an atmosphere that is free of gravity. Without gravity, there isn't an indication of upside down or right-side up, giving you six floors -- or ceilings.

A free-floating environment is just one of the factors that space architects at the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture consider. SICSA is part of the University of Houston's space architecture master's program.

Current projects at SICSA include a greenhouse on Mars, lunar outposts and space exploration vehicles. Students are given the opportunity to present such projects to NASA and some will end up working there after graduation.

Sustainability Coordinator

Research continues to reveal the effects of global warming, increasing the demand for sustainability coordinators. It's the jobs of these individuals to help meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. Tasks would mainly focuses on environmental care, but can include social and political needs as well.

Arizona State University offers graduate degrees, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in sustainability. Students graduate with an expertise in environmental economics, ethics, earth-systems management and sociological issues.

The demand for sustainability coordinators has increased in the last decade. Such experts will find work at universities, governmental agencies, utilities organizations and consultancy groups.

Teleport Specialist

Still a novel idea for some, careers in teleportation may soon be taking shape -- with field specialists required. A teleport specialist will need to know how to work a machine that can analyze billions of atoms in a person's body and recreate the individual in another location.

For students interested in future careers in teleportation, it'll be helpful to have a background in quantum atom optics, the study of nature's interaction with light. Cutting-edge programs are the University of Queensland's Australian Research Center for Quantum Atom Optics and the University of Rochester's Department of Physics.

Research at the universities show that the atoms of a substance called Bose-Einstein condensate can be manipulated to act as one big particle when brought to low temperatures. This is the first step in devising a way to teleport atoms, which brings day one of a teleport specialist's career that much closer.

Weather Modification Police

Arresting cloud bandits and controlling cloud theft will be the duties of weather modification police. The act of stealing clouds to create rain is already happening in some parts of the world, and it's altering weather patterns thousands of miles away.

Weather modification police will need to ensure that people who shoot rockets containing silver iodine into the air -- a way to provoke rainfall from passing clouds -- are licensed to do so. Villages in rural China have already taken to inducing pregnant rain clouds, resulting in more rain in certain areas than others.

Individuals in this career will measure the level of iodine in the air to ensure that areas with abnormal quantities are abiding by weather modification laws. This career will be necessary to make sure no one monopolizes rainfall.

Wind Farmer

These are the people who bring you energy. They measure land areas, air speeds, turbine sizes and the pitch of the blades.

The Horizon Wind Energy Center uses nature's wind and turbines that stand 300 feet tall to create electricity. These wind farmers are experts in math and physics, using algebra, trigonometry and geometry at work every day. One wind farm could have 120 turbines, each buried nine feet into the ground at 52 feet in diameter, which will bring electricity to thousands of homes.

Iowa Lakes Community College offers a Wind Energy and Turbine Technology program for students interested in an expanding career field, as alternative energies climb in popularity and affordability.

*This story is from Converge magazine's Summer 2008 issue.


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on Nov 1, 2009
I don't just know what to say. I'm mesmerized and i can't wait to see all these predictions come to pass. I really can't wait.
on Sep 6, 2011
this is pretty awesome sounding!


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