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Science and technology and your career.

Science and Technology and Your Career

We are all scientists and engineers in our way. Our homes have electric lights, telephones, and TV's--all scientific inventions using discoveries we put to use every day. We operate electronic calculators, home computers, and video games-- products of our electronic age. Some of our hobbies--photography and sailing, for instance--also make use of scientific and engineering principles.

Our lives are easier and richer because of the answers scientists have found when they ask why something happens and how something works. But every answer leads to further questions. A researcher finds a chemical to control high blood pressure, for example, but then must ask why the same chemical also causes hair to thicken. For every scientific discipline, a constantly growing string of unanswered questions and unsolved problems remains to be studied. Tens of thousands of scientists and hundreds of thousands of engineers and technicians are employed to unravel these mysteries.

Even if you do not want to become a scientist, some understanding of science can be useful. A scientific background helps develop logical thinking, and scientific investigation can be intriguing. Learning, for example, why days are shorter in winter than summer can be interesting and fun. A knowledge of science also helps us understand choices we face. Voters, for instance, must make informed decisions about the worth of proposed scientific and technical projects that their tax dollars will support. In addition, most colleges require a least 2 years of high school science courses for entry even into nonscience curriculums; scientific and technical curriculums require 3 or 4 years. Employers and college admissions officials look favorably upon students who have taken difficult courses, such as science.

Careers for Scientists

Scientists study nature. They seek explanations for natural phenomena and ways to use their discoveries. Workplaces that serve as scientists' laboratories range from the wheat fields of Kansas to capsules under the sea and in outer space. Branches of science both overlap each other have many subdivisions. Major branches include the life sciences--the study of living organisms--and the physical sciences-- the study of inorganic matter.

Life sciences. Knowledge of biology-- the study of life--is central to understanding much of the world and life about us. Biological sciences include microbiology, the study of organisms visible only in a microscope; botany, the study of plants; and zoology, the study of animals. Each branch is subdivided even further. Specialists in zoology, for example, include ornithologists, who study birds; herpetologists, who study reptiles and amphibians; and entomologists, who study insects.

Physical sciences. Scientists who work in the physical sciences work principally in the many branches of chemistry and physics. Chemists, who make up one of the largest science occupations, study and work with the 10 known elements and look for new ones. Biochemists study and work with chemical reactions and processes of living organisms. Pharmacists prepare and dispense drugs by mixing precise formulas. In England, pharmacists are generally called chemists, an indication of the importance of chemistry to their work.

Physicists investigate the relationship between matter and energy and study such phenomena as light, heat, electricity, magnetism, and gravity. Nuclear physicists specialize in delving into the forces, reactions, composition, and structure of the positively charged center of the atom. Geophysicists concentrate on learning about the interior of the earth, the movement of continents, and the earth's magnetic and gravitational fields. Geologists study the history and composition of our planet, including earthquakes and volcanoes. Oceanographers focus on the oceans and their movements as well as on the land beneath them.

Other physical scientists keep track of the atmosphere and beyond. Meteorologists study the atmosphere, and some make predictions about the weather. Astronomers study the universe beyond the earth and other planets and solar systems. Astrophgsicists study specific stars or galaxies and the origin of the universe.

Although scientists specialize, most need a knowledge of more than one branch of science. For example, agronomists frequently combine their knowledge of several sciences, such as themistry, biology, geology, and mathematics, in solving a problem. In addition, they may work closely with scientists in other disciplines, including microbiology, biochemistry, meteorology, entomology, genetics, and agricultural engineering.

Careers for Engineers

The engineers put science to use. Engineers use chemistry, mathematics, and physics to solve practical problems, develop new products, and improve systems and processes. Like science, engineering is a very broad field with many branches; over 25 engineering specialties are recognized by professional societies, and there are over 85 subdivisions within the major branches. The most common degrees in engineering are electrical or electronics engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering. The largest categories by employment are electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and industrial engineer.

Major fields in engineering. Electrical engineers design, develop, and supervise the production of everything electrical. Many electrical engineers specialize in electronics engineering. Mechanical engineers harness power to machinery. Some mechanical engineers develop and design machines that produce power; other work on machines that use power. Civil engineers design and build roads, buildings, harbors, airfields, tunnels, bridges, and water-supply and flood-control systems. Industrial engineers improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process.

Other engineering specialties. Other specialists in engineering include biomedical, chemical, geological, mining, nuclear, and petroleum engineers.

Biomedical engineers use engineering skills to improve health care; they may, for example, design artificial organs or adapt computers for use in diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Chemical engineers develop new products and adapt laboratory processes to mass-production methods for making medicines, plastics, and many other chemical products.

Mining engineers locate and extract minerals from the earth and prepare them for use by manufacturing industries.

Nuclear engineers design nuclear reactors and help install and maintain them.

Petroleum engineers work on the development, recovery, and field processing of petroleum.

Careers for Technicians and Technologists

Technicians and technologists also need a background in science. Technicians and technologists often use the ideas or carry out the technical plans of the engineers or scientists. They are the "doers' rather than the innovators or designers, although they may do some design or similar work. Nearly every industry employs some type of technologist or technician.

Scientific and engineering technicians have a sound understanding of testing and measuring devices and of other practical techniques. Workers in technician occupations include electrical and electronics technicians, drafters, industrial engineering technicians, broadcast technicians, mechanical engineering technicians, meteorological technicians, geological technicians, biological technicians, and air-conditioning, refrigeration, and heating technicians.

Other Workers Who Use Science on the Job

Many workers besides scientists, engineers, and technicians use science-- especially biology or chemistry--every day in their occupation.

More than 200 occupations in the medical sciences require knowledge of biology. For example, physicians, dentists, and veterinarians rely on their knowledge of biology, as do physical therapists and emergency medical technicians.

A background in biology is also important for many jobs in agriculture. Agronomists develop practical applications for discoveries in plant and soil science to produce high quality food. Crop scientists study the genetics, breeding, and management of field crops, as well as ensure quality production of seed. Soil scientists use soil physics, soil chemistry, and soil microbiology to enhance soil fertility and the growth of plants.

Many people use applied chemistry in their careers. The preparation of food by chefs and cooks, for example, often involves chemical reactions, because cooking ingredients are chemicals, Dietitians, nutritionists, and medical writers may also have an interest in the chemical content of foods. Both farmers and horticulturists make use of the products of chemistry, such as fertilizers.

Preparing for Careers in Science, Engineering, and Technology

What does it take to work in a science-related field? Most jobs require an aptitude for science and a solid education.

Scientists, engineers, and technicians must be attentive to minute details and be willing to suspend judgment until the final results are in. Science-oriented careers also require orderly thinking, systematic work habits, and perseverance. Above all, the field requires an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Naturally, different amounts and kinds of science are needed for different occupations. For some jobs, high school science may be adequate. To be a photographic assistant or a nurse's aide, for example, may only require rudimentary science courses. For many other jobs, such as mortician or dental hygienist, however, additional training at a technical institute or junior college may be needed. A bachelor's degree from a 4-year college is usually the minimum qualification for scientific and engineering jobs, and many jobs in science require a doctorate.

Students interested in scientific and technical careers should take as much science in high school as possible. Basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, or earh science form a good background. Scientific and engineering careers, as well as science-related careers, usually also require a good background in mathematics.

Science and engineering are growing fields. But occupations related to them are so numberous that no simple statement about employment opportunities applies to all areas of science. In general, employment in these fields will grow as fast as or faster than the average for all occuptions through the mid-1990's; growth will be slower for scientists than for engineers. For detailed information on training required, earnings, and employment outlook in many careers, see the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
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Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1987
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