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If you want to break into an emerging career field, explore a major in college that's aligned with leading trends in science and technology! It might seem risky, since these programs are often in their infancy stages and only available at a few select colleges, but learning a specific skill set from experts in a pioneering field can set you apart in the job market of tomorrow. And with distance education options, you may be able to earn a degree or complete a certificate program in some of these majors.
To give you an idea of some of the exciting new degree programs being developed in direct response to advancements in technology, science, and engineering, check out these seven next-generation majors:
Nanotechnology is science conducted at a nanoscale. In other words, this major is designed to teach students how to manipulate and restructure matter to create new technologies in medicine, alternative energy, engineering, and more. Most nanotech programs touch on all of the sciences in some way, but students come away with a very practical set of skills. Along with innovations such as treating diseases through the gene editing CRISPR technology and microscopic memory chips, nanotechnology can be utilized in environmental applications, electronics, biomedical and consumer applications..
Schools that offer this major: The University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, UCSD, Penn State, North Seattle
Research and Markets estimates that the global nanotechnology market should reach $90.5 billion by 2021 at a compound annual growthrate (CAGR) of 18.2 percent from 2016 to 2021. The National Nanotechnology Initiative, a U.S. government research and development initiative, states that nanotechnology has the potential to create many new jobs in a variety of different sectors. It is estimated that by 2020, 2 million jobs in this field will open up in the United States alone.
Drones (Unmanned Aircraft Systems)
Drone technology has advanced dramatically in recent years, and the need for those who can pilot and operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) continues to soar. Beyond military applications, drones are starting to be used for precision agriculture, household deliveries, public safety, aerial inspectionsand more.
Schools that offer this major: The University of North Dakota's School of Aerospace Science, Lewis University, Kansas State Polytechnic
Job outlook: For those majoring in drones, the sky's the limit when it comes to job potential. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects that the drone industry will create more than 100,000 new drone jobs through 2025. And those who graduate with drone piloting abilities have the potential to land jobs with government contractors that offer six-figure starting salaries.
What might have been a fun hobby in high school looks to be turning into a promising career track, hence the creation of robotics concentrations and majors at some big-name institutions. As for how to apply the skills learned through a robotics degree program, consider artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, computational game theory, and mechanism design, to name just a few applications.
Schools that offer this major: University of Michigan, Ivy Tech Community College, Washington University in St. Louis, California University of Pennsylvania
Job outlook: The future is bright in both the commercial and military worlds for graduates who have the educational training to work on robots and autonomous vehicles. According to a report by the Association for Advancing Automation, the robotics industry has grown substantially in the last decade. Intelligence through electronics is likely to be found in all future mechanical systems. In addition to commercial and military applications, widespread growth is anticipated in home, entertainment, and human assistance.
Big data has gotten a lot of attention over the last couple of years, which is why having the ability to extract insights from large data sets and use it to solve problems is a highly sought-after skill. Data scientists use data mining, statistics, predictive modeling, and other tools to analyze behavior and help companies and other organizations make informed decisions.
Schools that offer this major: University of Minnesota, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, North Carolina State University
Job outlook: According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for statisticians (one of the more popular jobs for which data science applies) was $88,980 as of 2017, and demand for these professionals is expected to grow 33 percent from 2016 to 2026. Those who learn data science skills can work in a wide variety of positions ranging from business and government to medicine and the environmental sciences.
More and more, we're seeing the convergence of technology and biology, which is where a degree in biotechnology comes into play. Schools offering this discipline aim to graduate students who can apply technical skills, research prowess, and theoretical knowledge to develop innovations in alternative energy, disease prevention, agriculture, regenerative medicine, and more.
Schools that offer this major: University of Maryland University College, Johns Hopkins University, University of Nevada, Reno, California State University San Marcos
Job outlook: From the pharmaceutical industry to research laboratories to agricultural organizations, the opportunities for those with a biotech education are vast. Some possible career paths include biochemical engineer, environmental scientist, laboratory technician, or bioinformatician.. In 2016, 30 percent of all U.S.-based biotech IPOs were in Massachusetts. According to the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, California's biotech industry attracts the most venture capitalists investment in the country.
Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation
Crime has gone digital, and in order to catch cyberthieves, we need a new breed of detectives. In this major, students can learn the technology behind data security, how to investigate and respond to cybercrimes, as well as aspects of business and law.
Schools that offer this major: The College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at theUniversity at Albany SUNY, University of Central Florida Online, St. Petersburg College, University of Maryland University College
Job outlook: It seems like almost everyday there is another huge data breach or hacking scandal in the headlines. Digital forensic scientists and cyber investigators are called in to help find the culprits and come up with solutions to prevent crimes like identity theft, cyberattacks, and more. According to Transparency Market Research, the global digital forensics market is estimated to be worth $6.65 billion by 2025. Employment opportunities may come from large corporations or even government agencies.
Assisted Reproductive Technology
Advances in reproductive medicine have created a growing need for grads with the specific health care and laboratory skills needed to perform delicate procedures such as artificial insemination and fertility medication. Those majoring or specializing in ART study topics like clinical embryology, get hands-on experience producing in vitro bovine embryos, and learn how to work in a reproduction laboratory and use specialized equipment.
Schools that offer this major: Eastern Virginia Medical School, Colorado State University, University of Kentucky
Job outlook: Just as most specialized health care professions can provide strong job security and salary potential, a career in assisted reproductive technology is no different. Whether you choose a clinical or research setting, a degree that specializes in this field could open a lot of doors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 percent of all infants born in the United States in 2015 were conceived using ART.
No matter what major you choose to pursue, it's important to do your research beforehand to learn what each program of study requires and the career paths it could lead to. Choosing a major in a pioneering field might limit your school options, but it may also position you to get in on the ground floor of exciting new career fields.