By Gillian Burdett
Technology has been changing the world of work since the 19th Century Industrial Revolution. Rapid advances in computer technology over the past several decades have made many jobs obsolete, yet have created hundreds of new ones. Technology touches every career in some way, as information once collected, organized, analyzed, shared and stored on paper is now digitized and held in databases.
The basic work of scientists—collecting and analyzing data to support or disprove a hypothesis—remains the same. However, the tools of scientific inquiry have changed, and the scientist must understand these tools to take advantage of their powerful analytic capabilities and the sophisticated equipment available for observing phenomena. A zoologist may need to write her own computer programs to meet the needs of her inquiry into animal behavior; a hydrologist, one who applies science to solving problems with water quality and availability, must be skilled in the use of intricate measuring instruments.
These careers in science, in addition to education in specific scientific disciplines, require a working knowledge of computer and information technology.
Environmental Protection Technician
Environmental scientists study the impact of human activity and natural changes in the environment. As an environmental protection technician, you may spend much of your workday collecting soil samples at a hazardous waste site or investigating wastewater treatment plants to track down the source of harmful bacteria that has entered a public drinking supply. You will need to use pollution modeling and tracking software along with mapping software to put your findings in context and develop solutions to environmental problems.
The ancient Chinese method of treating pain with needles has evolved over the centuries, and a modern practitioner must have knowledge and training in biology, physiology, psychology and technology. A 21st Century acupuncture practice relies on state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, treatment tools and clinic management software to best meet the needs of patients and run an efficient practice.
The work of protecting the food supply and optimizing production falls to agriculture technicians. Much of this work brings technicians out to the farm to investigate crop and livestock diseases, insect damage and soil nutrition. Back in the office, the technician must be skilled in using precision agriculture software for planning crop cycles, and data analysis and mapping software to analyze climate and other variables that affect crops and livestock.
Solar Energy Systems Engineer
Harnessing the sun’s energy requires precise placement of photovoltaic solar panels. A solar system engineer must collect data from a potential site to determine the design and specifications, costs and benefits of a solar array. This work involves the use of GPS software, resource assessment software and computer-aided design.
The design and building of ships require a combination of knowledge in physics, chemistry, trigonometry, biology and technology. The naval architect must analyze ship specifications to determine buoyancy, stability and other characteristics of a vessel and evaluate a ship’s performance once it is launched. This career requires skills in the use of computer-aided design and simulation software.
An education centered on the study of science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM subjects—will provide a solid foundation for entry into any of these careers. Addition of the arts (STEAM) adds the human elements of creativity, social considerations and ethics, which will strengthen a job candidate’s resume and an employee’s ability to function more effectively in the workplace.