Science and Math Professions
It takes all types Biologists study the world around us—how living things work, change and affect each other and their environment. It seems that there are almost as many types of biologist as there are fauna and flora. Biologists are classified by the type of organism or by the life processes they study. For example, biochemists unravel the relationships between physiology and chemistry and the way living organisms metabolize, grow and reproduce. Microbiologists, on the other hand, study bacteria, algae and fungi; medical microbiologists study the cause of diseases and develop antibiotics. Other types of biologists include marine biologists, botanists, physiologists, zoologists, agricultural scientists and biomedical scientists. Research, research The essence of biology is research—both in the laboratory and out in the field. Some of the research is pursued simply to expand the knowledge of living organisms. Other researchers work on immediately applicable research, geared toward different goals such as developing new medicines, improving farming techniques or cleaning up the environment. Not only do biologists often work toward different ends, but they also have a variety of work environments to choose from. Some work at colleges and universities or for the federal government. Still others work for private companies, where the pay is high, but research opportunities relatively restricted (controlled by the employer). Often, private sector biologists work as consultants to businesses or in testing development for biomedical companies. Working for the Man One out of every three biological scientists is employed by federal, state or local government. Federal biologists work mainly for the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Departments of the Interior and even for the Department of Defense. Increasing interest in genetic mapping and biological terrorism, and the resulting flood of books and movies dealing with biological subjects has shone a spotlight on the work of biologists. With this focus on their area of expertise, biologists are sometimes viewed as the crusaders, tackling the blights of the last century: global warming, depletion of the rainforests and AIDS. The majority of PhD-holding biologists work in colleges and universities, sharing their research with their colleagues and students. In general, career biologists work long hours, particularly those working in the public sector or doing independent research, because they are driven by a love for their subject. CAREER PATHWith a bachelor of science degree, aspiring biologists can start out in testing and inspection work or find positions as technical sales or service representatives for biomedical and pharmaceutical companies. However, those without advanced degrees have difficulty finding work in a lab or doing original research; most career biologists have a master's or PhD degree. Master's holders work as research assistants for post-doctorate biologists or as managers and inspectors. Doctoral candidates engage in classroom and fieldwork, and lab research and must also write their thesis or dissertation. After earning their PhDs, new biologists often take temporary post-doctoral research positions, which provide specialized research experience. A PhD is a prerequisite for college teaching, independent research and advancement to administrative positions. For those interested in applied research, secondary school teaching, working for the government as inspectors, or in the business side of biology, a master's degree is sufficient. Medical scientists who administer drug or gene therapy to humans, or who have any medical contact with patients, must have a medical degree in addition to the PhD.
We make it, you use it Chemicals are all around us—they make up everything we see and use. Nowadays, if you eat it, clean with it, put it in your car or feed it to your plants, it probably came from a chemist's lab. Chemists are in the business of researching the properties, composition and principles of elements and compounds—and they apply basic chemical principles (like polymerization) to developing new products and processes. Chemists work in every sector, including academia, the private sector and the government. Most chemists work in research and development—they learn about different chemicals and develop ways to use them, and there are many new products are made every day. In the private sector, for example, it is the chemist who instructs plant workers on manufacturing techniques, monitors automated processes to ensure proper product yield and tests samples for quality. Chemists with business savvy and a taste for schmoozing apply their expertise to sales and information distribution at manufacturing companies. Specialization Since chemistry is a broad discipline, most chemists specialize in a subfield. For example, analytical chemists are theorists who identify the structure and composition of substances and can break down the concentration of certain compounds in air, water and soil. Organic chemists focus on carbon-based compounds used in prescription drugs and fertilizers. Physical chemists work on what one might call "big reactions," studying atomic and molecular reactions. More than half of all chemists spend their time analyzing data and constructing models; the remainder are in the field, collecting samples of pollutants or working in chemical plants. Regardless of a chemist's chosen specialization, it is desirable to have skills in other areas, including economics and marketing, as chemists are increasingly more involved in the full development of a new product. CAREER PATHPeople with bachelor of science degrees in chemistry are particularly marketable if they have a strong liberal arts background. Most undergraduates do not focus on a specific field of chemistry to avoid limiting their job prospects. In government and industry positions, entry-level chemists with bachelor's degrees assist senior chemists in research and development laboratories. Sometimes they undertake product testing and analysis in research positions, but these are technical niches with limited advancement possibilities. Research chemists, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, require a PhD and several years of post-doctoral experience. A PhD is preferred not only for research positions but for administrative ones, as well. Chemists who work in sales, marketing or professional research positions often move into management after a few years. And for academic teaching positions, that PhD is a must.
Not just nature lovers Ecologists have acquired an image as tree-hugging crusaders who chain themselves to redwoods, lest they be felled by money-grubbing capitalists to be made into picnic tables. In fact, ecologists are serious scientists who spend most of their time collecting and interpreting data to assess the effects of environmental change. Most ecologists approach their work with an ardent interest in their specific environments, but this love for nature is tempered by keen analytical thinking. An ecologist studies the way organisms are affected by their environment and vice versa, which includes looking at everything from population size to pollution and how they impact a biological system. In order to study these systems, ecologists conduct extensive lab work and can spend months doing field research. Public or private Ecologists can work for a variety of employers. Some research for federal, state and local government agencies. For example, one of the most compelling current ecology issues is the conservation of wetlands, which are valued for their filtration capabilities in treating all sorts of water pollutants. Wetland plant species are being studied for the various ways in which they purify commercial runoff, from heavy metal uptake to neutralizing acidity. Ecologists can also work in the private sector as eco-consultants with major corporations, such as refineries and pharmaceutical companies. In this (more lucrative) capacity, ecologists advise companies on their waste and disposal policies to ensure accordance with EPA regulations. Employment in a university teaching or corporate position is an attractive option as competition for research grant money is intense. Many ecologists (and other scientists) must spend inordinate amounts of time completing grant applications. The federal government has slowed its grant programs for scientific research, so competition is expected to increase in the coming years. CAREER PATHA bachelor's degree in a scientific discipline is adequate for some non-research jobs and laboratory positions in ecology. A master's degree is sufficient for some jobs in applied research and for jobs in management and consulting. A PhD in chemistry, environmental science, geology or biology is generally required for college teaching, independent research, and for advancement to many managerial positions. In academia, ecologists are usually expected to spend several years in a post-graduate position before they are offered permanent jobs. Post-doctoral work provides valuable laboratory experience, including experience in specific processes and techniques that are transferable to other research projects.
Global office The study of the Earth, its history and evolution, is called geology. Geoscientists (geological scientists) study the Earth and its terrain for many purposes. Some use their research to locate water, mineral and energy resources; protect the environment; predict geological hazards; and offer advice for construction and land use. Geologists, specifically, examine the composition, processes and history of the Earth to learn how rocks were formed and what has happened since formation. Using animal and plant fossils, geologists also study evolution. Much of their time is spent in the field collecting samples and analyzing satellite data to take back to the lab where they can look at the chemical and physical properties of specimens. The rocky road to specialization In the oil or gas industry, geologists incorporate cleaning and preserving the environment with searching for resources. Geologists design waste disposal sites, monitor water supplies, and locate safe areas for hazardous waste and landfills. The federal government employs geologists through the Department of the Interior, mostly within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Geologists also apply their studies to solving structural engineering problems and work for consulting and engineering firms in this capacity. Still other geologists are professors of geology, oceanography and geophysics and supplement their teaching with research excursions and consulting. During their education and in their career, geologists can specialize in areas such as seismology, the detection of earthquakes; hydrology, the study of underground and surface waters; and volcanology, the study of volcanoes and volcanic phenomenon. CAREER PATHMost employers require a master's degree in geology or geophysics. Advancement will also require a strong academic and practical background in physics, chemistry, mathematics or computer science. Research positions at colleges and universities, as well as jobs with Federal Government agencies, require PhDs. When working in the public sector (e.g., for the government), most states also require a license. Many employers require field experience from their applicants in the form of internships or summer employment in an environmental field. Geologists and geophysicists often begin their careers in field exploration or as research assistants in labs. They may be eventually promoted to project leader, program manager or another management and research position.
Laboratory technicians perform most of the tests that help diagnose and treat diseases. Technicians prepare specimens and analyze data from detailed tests. Most laboratory technicians report to laboratory technologists or managers. There are different specialities these technicians may have like phlebotomists who collect blood samples. Technicians work irregular hours and sometimes weekends.
Microbiologists are scientists that study microbes that may be bacteria, fungi or viruses. Depending on what a microbiologist studies, they may be either a bacteriologist or virologist. Other types of microbiologists are immunologists who study how microbes affectthe body, or epidemiologists who study outbreaks.Many microbiologists work in the food and drink manufacturing industry to ensure that products are safe.
Physicists are scientists that deal with matter and energy. Because physics is such a broad term, most graduate schools offer physics specialties such as astrophysics or plasma physics. This career demands good math and science skills as well as a curious mind.
Quantitative analysts, also known as quants, are experts in numbers and create risk-management models through extensive analysis. Salaries for this career are pretty high, sometimes starting at $100,000, but breaking into the field requires a deep knowledge of mathematics or physics and sometimes both. Interviews for quantitative analysts are tough and some are quizzed on concepts from algebra, statistics and calculus.
Tell me what these numbers mean Statisticians break down mounds of mathematical data into digestible percentages and the "big picture." In other words, they look at numbers and draw conclusions about those numbers—find out what those numbers mean. For example, it is the work of statisticians that tallies up Nielsen television ratings to determine whether Grey's Anatomy should call it quits. They do so by surveying TV-watchers to see how many of them are watching the show and then deciding whether enough of them are watching to keep the show on the air. Statisticians work in such diverse fields as biology, finance, psychology, medicine and insurance. While sometimes statisticians’ work is urgent—for instance, statisticians might assesses the likelihood that at outbreak of the Ebola virus might strike the United States—statisticians spend a great deal of time crunching numbers for manufacturers and other private companies to evaluate their products and to propose improvements based on experiments using statistical models. Statisticians can gather data for many different departments, and for different purposes; their conclusions influence many levels of the company, from product development and quality control to pricing and marketing. Working with others Statisticians do not have the luxury of working in a vacuum; they must constantly decode their statistical findings for their managers and other non-statisticians, many of whom are only concerned with the bottom line. Because of this, statisticians must recognize that numbers on a page mean little to many people. They have to be good writers and strong communicators to translate their data into concrete, simple ideas. The training involved in becoming a statistician should consist of at least 15 undergraduate hours of statistics, along with liberal arts and science courses. About 30 percent of the almost 20,000 statisticians in the country work for the federal government. Among the largest employers are the Bureau of the Census, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. For its statisticians, the U.S. government requires 24 semester hours of mathematics and statistics with a minimum of six semester hours in statistics and 12 more in advanced mathematics. Career PathAlthough a bachelor's degree in statistics is sufficient for some entry-level jobs, more and more employers are expecting statisticians to have master's degrees. Moreover, research positions in institutions of higher education and many positions in private industry require a doctorate—in statistics. A bachelor's degree in stats is not required for acceptance into a graduate statistics program, but a strong mathematics background is a prerequisite. Many statistician positions do not have "statistician" in the titles, such as epidemiologist or biometrician. Usually these are just names for specialized statisticians; their work uses statistical methods on certain kind of data. Entry-level statisticians spend their time crunching numbers and assisting senior statisticians. After a few years, they may advance to positions that require more technical skills and management responsibility. However, opportunities for promotion are best for those with advanced degrees, and statisticians who hold Master's degrees or PhDs enjoy more autonomy in their field and have the credentials to do research, develop new statistical methods or strike out as consultants, especially once they have earned a strong reputation in a specialized area.