The Importance of Being a Scientist

What are you going to do for a living when you grow up? Most people don’t know. They either have a list of about fifteen things they want to do or don’t have even one idea. I certainly don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, but I do know this: getting a college degree is becoming more and more important. It is necessary for any career mobility, as well as being a prerequisite for many entry-level jobs. As young people today are pushed more and more into the workforce to seek high-paying jobs and acclaim in their companies, we need to enter STEM fields. STEM refers to programs and careers relating to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM fields are some of the fastest-growing and most lucrative careers available. They provide personal career advancement, as well as societal advancement and discovery. Economically, they help provide a good retirement and a future for our children, individually and as a whole. STEM careers keep our economy going and our society improving.

With the super-aging of the world’s population, whereby the number of retirees is greatly increasing compared to the working population, governmental retirement benefits are going to be significantly cut. Because of this reduction in retirement benefits, our generation are going to have to work longer and retire later, if at all (Hicken) (Harvey). In order to retire you need to have fairly significant savings. Having a high-paying STEM career that provides career advancement and many benefits will greatly assist in being able to retire comfortably.

The importance of STEM degrees can be numerically identified. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, sixteen of the twenty occupations with the highest projected growth through 2022 are STEM related: thirteen relating to health and the other three to engineering and computing (“Fastest Growing Occupations”).Of the top twenty highest paying jobs, eighteen are STEM careers (“Highest Paying Occupation”). The College Board says that seven of the top ten fastest growing industries, projected through 2018, are STEM-related (“Industries with the Fastest…”). STEM covers an incredibly diverse range of occupations. Anything from biology to physics, applied mathematics to healthcare, engineering to IT (information technology).

One of these fields that is in great need of more people is neurology. It is the study of the brain, its processes, and ways to improve and heal the mind. There are nearly infinite subsets of neurology. Neurotechnology is one of the most fascinating. It involves developing new methods of treatment for various diseases and disorders, researching the structures of the brain with various imaging technologies, and working on ways to enhance brain function. You can study Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect memory; you can study ways to improve concentration and memory; you can study split-brain patients; you can study emotional disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression; you can study artificial intelligence and the recording of thoughts and memories; you can study nearly anything (Kaku).

The need for workers in the computer programming and IT (information technologies) fields is decreasing. At the beginning of the computer age, these were two of the fastest-growing and highest-paying careers available. Now, as technology has advanced so rapidly and so well, the need for people expert only in computers is diminishing. At this point, it is a much better career choice to get a degree in some engineering discipline that gives you the skills required for engineering and IT, as well as a wide range of other jobs. Having this wide range of skills and flexibility makes it much easier to find, and keep, a good job, as well as allowing you to have options if you want to move cities or even switch careers completely. Engineering is one of the best degrees to get. A degree in almost any engineering discipline can be applied to any of a massive number of fields. Even if you don’t choose a career in engineering, an engineering degree has great weight in the business world. An engineering degree signifies a certain way of thinking and problem-solving: it signifies a clear, logical, organized, and creative thought process.

You can also enter research science. Research scientists work on the developments and discoveries that engineers implement. Research scientists are responsible for discovering new particles and elements, finding new species, and showing what planets might be home to intelligent life. A research scientist’s job, first and foremost, is to learn and discover new things. They typically work in academia or for large companies or organizations that require discoveries, such as pharmaceutical and agricultural businesses or governments. They are responsible for the basis of space programs, environmental protection initiatives, archaeological findings, the development of important theories such as relativity, and discoveries like the God Particle. Many research scientists work as professors at colleges and universities, or at organizations like CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), which are dedicated to discoveries and learning.

Other fields that are always open are aeronautical and aerospace careers. These fields involve the development, testing, improvement, and use of vehicles that move through the air: both in the atmosphere and out of it. Aerospace careers don’t just involve engineering. You can work as a technician, flight simulator, computer programmer, manager, flight control, or any number of other things. There are even some aerospace careers that are art and design based (Dunbar). With the continued push for exploration and discovery elsewhere in the universe, governments and organizations such as Space-X are always looking for people to design, test, operate, and organize new craft.

Fields in the arts and humanities are in significantly less demand. While many people would like to enter these fields and be successful, very few manage to do so. It is incredibly difficult to make a good living in the arts. Unless you are going to become an educator, job options are usually very limited. In order to be successful, you rely on opinion and advertising, two very fickle allies. You have to be incredibly talented, have good publicity, and possess a lot of luck in order to be successful. Most people in the arts have to spend years working other jobs, particularly in the service industry, before they can make a living in the arts. Many never are able to do so. While artistic ventures may let you be self-employed and/or work your own hours, they are rarely lucrative.The creative freedom and self-expression are definitely pros of working in the arts, as well as fame if you do particularly well, but are terribly difficult to achieve. You can be hugely talented and not be able to make a living. You almost always have to know someone, be lucky enough to get a great internship or get discovered by a well-known, rich, or powerful person.

The importance of STEM degrees and careers is greater than just personal advancement. These jobs provide vital discoveries, knowledge, and products for society. All advances in technology, health, consumer products, and practically everything else we need or want come from people with a STEM-focused education. Unless you know precisely what you want to do with your life, and it’s likely you don’t, it’s a good idea to get a degree that can be used across multiple careers so you have options down the road. There’s nothing wrong with having a degree in mechanical engineering and working as a commission sculptor in SoHo, or having a degree in fine arts and working as a mechanical engineer. However, one is significantly more challenging than the other. One guess as to which is which. It’s always better to overshoot your career with your degree than it is to fall short.

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