Mention of STEM jobs often conjures up images of traditional careers in medicine and engineering, which can then lead to students considering a career in STEM as uninteresting. Part of the problem is that students simply aren’t aware of many of the other opportunities out there. Contrary to popular belief, a STEM career is often a way down a less-travelled path. Here’s a list of unusual STEM careers to start you off. The rest are still waiting to be discovered.
Gene therapy is an experimental technique in which a defective mutant allele is replaced with a functional one. With further development and research, gene therapy might hold the key to treating a wide range of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and AIDS. The technique is currently still in its early stages, but is already proving effective. In a case just over two years ago, a French teen was given gene therapy for sickle cell disease, and now has enough functioning red blood cells to dodge the effects of the disorder.
Robots have fired our imagination since times immemorial, from the Greek giant Talos to CP3O and Robocop. Robots come in various sizes and forms, and are used in a number of industries such as medicine, agriculture, the military and manufacturing. A career in robotics offers several options. Robotics engineers design, build and test robots; software developers design the operating systems that are built into robots; robotic technicians build, maintain, test and repair robots. You can also get robot operators whose job it is to remotely control vehicles or robot submarines, used for undersea repairs and exploration. You can’t ask for a cooler job than that.
Ecologists often have to apply for individual special licenses in order to study, survey or conserve special species, such as bats. They perform important tasks that are crucial to our understanding of our planet and its ecosystem. We all know that science is intrinsic to understanding our world, and that our actions can have big impacts. Ecologists help us to understand that chain of action and reaction. They study the delicate relationships between animals, plants and the environment. They investigate urban, suburban, rural, forest, freshwater, estuarine and marine environments, helping us understand the connections between organisms and their environment.
4. Medical illustration
If you think STEM is all about numbers and calculations, then let us introduce you to the world of medical illustration. Medical illustrators use the best of both science and art to produce photographs, videos and graphical images for use in health care, helping to promote scientific knowledge to patients and the greater public. Being a medical illustrator isn’t easy, though – it involves grasping and distilling down complex information in order to represent it within a clear visual narrative that is accurate, educational and engaging. Medical illustrators are strongly in demand – they’re needed in a variety of medical fields, from genetics to robotic surgery.
We did promise you unusual STEM careers! Photogrammetrists are essentially mapmakers – but if the term “mapmaking” conjures up images of sundials, compasses and old parchments, then you might be a little off-path. Mapmaking today uses aerial imagery and digital databases – photogrammetrists utilise satellite images, aerial photographs, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology to craft models of the Earth’s features and surface to create topographic maps.
6. Pyrotechnic engineer
Pyrotechnic engineers make sparks fly – but more specifically, they make fireworks fly, designing displays for use in sports arenas and concert venues, and for special effects in movies and television. A lot goes into designing fireworks, as it is a difficult and dangerous job. Pyrotechnic engineers must have a working knowledge of chemistry, physics and mathematics in order to design precisely timed explosions.
7. Forensic scientist
Forensic scientists are the superheroes behind the scenes, analysing everything from blood samples to tyre tracks in order to provide impartial scientific evidence for use in courts of law to support the prosecution or defence in criminal and civil investigations.
8. Sound engineer/technician
You don’t need acting skills to consider a career in the film/music industry – all that’s necessary is a good ear and a STEM qualification. Sound technicians work in a range of industries including film, broadcasting (radio or television), live performance (theatre, music, dance), advertising and audio recordings. Sound technicians are required to assemble, operate and maintain the technical equipment used to record, amplify, enhance, mix and reproduce sound. They identify the sound requirements for a given situation and use their specialised knowledge to produce this sound.
Cryptanalysts design, implement, and analyse algorithms for solving problems. This career requires a high level of expertise in mathematics, because the codes used are based on numerical theories and cutting edge mathematical algorithms. Cryptoanalysts decipher secret coding systems and decode messages for military, political, or law enforcement agencies or organisations, helping to provide privacy for people and corporations, and keep hackers out of important data systems. Now, repeat after us: maths is cool.
10: Food chemist
Having a STEM education has some unusual perks, especially if you are a foodie. Food chemists experiment with the chemical makeup of foods to make them safer, tastier, longer lasting or easier to ship. This requires food chemists to be highly trained in chemistry, food sciences and organic chemistry. They are actively involved with raw and packaged food, trying to work out longer shelf lives, heat processing methods, packaging problems and how to enhance nutritional content. Job perks can even involve sampling food!
We hope this has helped to inspire the budding scientists in your classroom. For more resources to help engage your students, sign up for a free-30 day trial. Available for Twig (ages 11-16), Tigtag (7-11), and Tigtag Junior (4-7).