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If you're seeking a stimulating and long-lasting career, look no further than the latest social and technological trends for a little inspiration. In just the past decade (or in some cases, less), major innovations have taken place in various fields from computers to medicine, all of which have forged an exciting landscape for emerging careers to take hold. Creative types might gravitate to the developing fields of 3D printing or social media, while tech-minded dreamers may lean toward groundbreaking developments in artificial intelligence or genetic engineering. Whatever your interest, this list of new, rapidly developing careers — and the majors to get you there — can help you identify a brand new career path that can take you into the future.
1. 3D Printing
Since 3D printing technology has emerged, its wide and varied use has grown rapidly across the fields of biomedical science, computer science, manufacturing and just about any other industry that can benefit from faster, more efficient and cheaper production of its goods. From airplane parts and cars to artificial organs and prosthetics, 3D printing (or, more broadly, "additive manufacturing") is an exciting field with seemingly endless applications and opportunities. According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2018, nearly 41 percent of organizations are now on the hunt for workers who understand how this emerging technology works and, more importantly, how it can give their business a competitive advantage.
Where to find this degree program: Online degrees in the 3D Printing field include the master of engineering in additive manufacturing and design at Penn State World Campus, and the online additive manufacturing certifications at both MIT and Purdue University.
Related degree programs include engineering for those interested in the manufacturing industry, animation and design for those with a creative eye, and biomedical technology for those who seek to revolutionize the medical field.
2. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
The technology of "the future" is already here and shaping the way we live our day-to-day lives, but it's becoming more apparent to all levels of society. Many companies are harnessing the analytical powers of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning to increase efficiency and cut their business costs. These innovative technologies have been developed to think, learn and even make predictions about certain data in a way that is similar to how the human brain works. Though this may take away certain jobs, it is expected that far more will be created in the long run, particularly for data scientists, machine learning engineers and business intelligence developers. More than two million jobs in the AI sector alone are expected to be generated within the next few years.
Where to find this degree program: Stanford University offers an online course in machine learning, though the AI track of its bachelor in computer science degree is not offered completely online. Harvard University offers an online machine learning course as well. On the other hand, graduate programs appear to be more prevalent, such as Georgia Tech's online Master of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in machine learning.
Because online bachelor's degree programs in this field are relatively rare at this time, it may be best to first pursue an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as information technology, computer science or mathematics.
3. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (the IoT)
The technology behind virtual and augmented reality makes video games and other digital entertainment exponentially more fun and unlike what we've seen before in the gaming and design world. However, this innovative technology can also lend itself to practical uses in the real world. It's being used for safe, on-the-job training in fields like air and sea navigation, medicine and the military, and it's helping coworkers facilitate collaborative projects despite living on opposite ends of the globe. Statista.com predicted that there were 170 million virtual reality users worldwide in 2018 alone, so this is a job market that is expected to provide massive opportunity now and in the future.
Where to find this degree program: Both the University of London and the University of Advancing Technology offer an online virtual reality degree. Drexel University offers a Virtual Reality & Immersive Media Program as well, and though it is not offered online, it does provide an in-depth exploration of theories, techniques and skills necessary to produce captivating virtual content.
Students may also choose to pursue a degree in new media, computer science or art and design - three aspects that go hand-in-hand to develop virtual and augmented reality that looks great and functions even better.
One of the most in-demand skills of the moment, blockchain engineering is actually a set of technologies including distributed computing and cryptography. It's the technology that serves as the foundation of bitcoin cryptocurrency, a revolutionary form of currency that is certainly driving the demand for developers even higher. However, blockchain can also be applied in a wide variety of other realms from healthcare and digital identity to advertising and data storage. It's no wonder, then, that the demand for well-versed developers has increased more than 500 percent in recent years according to a report by Hired.com.
Where to find this degree program: Elite schools like Princeton and MIT offer online courses in blockchain technologies, but do not have degree programs in the field at this time. The University of Nicosia, on the other hand, offers an online master's in digital currency, claiming to be the world's first graduate degree in blockchain.
Related degree programs include computer science, distributed computing and cryptography.
The legalization of cannabis in many areas of the United States has opened up a plethora of job opportunities in cultivation, extraction, dispensary management and even cannabis law. Increased accessibility to the plant offers more and more patients an alternative to pharmaceutical medicine, and recreational users may be finding it more socially acceptable to utilize the plant's psychoactive effects as a means to handle stress and other emotions, among other uses. As the government continues to approve legislation allowing the medicinal or recreational use of the plant, the demand for jobs in this sector are expected to grow — literally and figuratively. In fact, the cannabis industry added nearly 65,000 jobs in 2018, which is an increase of 44 percent, according to industry experts Leafly and Whitney Economics.
Where to find this degree program: Northern Michigan University offers a degree program in medicinal plant chemistry that covers all aspects of the industry from growth to distribution, though it is currently only available on campus. Specialized schools like Cannabis Training University and Oaksterdam University, for example, offer online horticulture courses in addition to full on-campus degree programs that focus specifically on the cannabis industry.
For students interested in different aspects of the cannabis industry, related degree programs that tend to be more easily accessible online include chemistry, botany and healthcare.
6. Genetic Engineering
The first thing that comes to mind when many people think of gene editing is the controversial topics of "designer babies" and rogue human experimentation. However, the groundbreaking medical technology is more often and increasingly used for other medical purposes. For example, it can be used to detect and prevent diseases before they can affect one's quality of life, and it can help to grow new organs for life-saving transplants. Thanks to the increasing possibilities to apply biotechnology to medical equipment and devices, job opportunities for biomedical engineers have been on the rise in the past few years and are expected to continue to grow as much as 7% into the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Where to find this degree program: The Stanford School of Medicine offers an online course in genetic engineering and biotechnology, while the University of Maryland University College offers a fully online biotechnology bachelor's degree. For those seeking higher degrees, the University of Southern California offers a master of science in biomedical engineering completely online.
Common online degrees and concentrations related to genetic engineering include biology, human genetics and viral diseases.
When we think of robots, we often conjure images of a futuristic society, but the truth is that robots are already all around us and already impacting the ways we do business. Most industrial equipment incorporates robotics technology, as does the emerging market for autonomous vehicles and all of the various uses for artificial intelligence. With the increased need for advanced robots to take over dangerous (or sometimes just boring) tasks, the need for robotics engineers is expected to grow as well. According to BIS Research, the "cobot" market (or collaborative robots that work alongside humans) is expected to grow to approximately $2 billion in the next few years.
Where to find this degree program: Southern New Hampshire University offers an online BS in information technologies with a concentration in robotics and artificial intelligence, while the University of Advancing Technology offers an online bachelor's degree in robotics and embedded systems. For those seeking an advanced degree, an MS in robotics engineering is available online through Worcester Polytechnic University.
Degree programs related to robotics include mechanical engineering and computing and programming.
8. Social Media
Social media usage is ubiquitous in today's society. Not only do we use it to keep up with friends and family, but these platforms are becoming an essential component in business strategies spanning nearly every industry. Social media has shaken up the way that we communicate and the way we receive information about the world around us. That's why it is more important than ever for businesses to have an online presence for promotional and brand-building purposes. Due to its popularity, you may face competition in this field, though its universal appeal is likely to always be in demand.
Where to find this degree program: Southern New Hampshire University offers an online BS in social media marketing, Johnson & Wales University Online offers a BS in digital marketing & social media, and Strayer University has an online bachelor of science in business administration: social media marketing. At the graduate level, Quinnipiac University offers an online MS in interactive media and communications, while Loyola University Maryland has their own online master's in emerging media.
Social Media degree programs are relatively easy to find these days, but similar programs of interest include marketing, public relations and journalism.
9. Renewable Energy
With continued scientific research into the threat of global warming, renewable energy sources — including solar energy and wind energy — are quickly gaining worldwide interest. Their once high costs are now rapidly declining, allowing these alternative power sources to become more accessible to the public. Wind turbine technicians and solar photovoltaic (PV) installers are two of the fastest-growing "green" jobs on the market today, and there's no sign that these eco-conscious alternatives will be slowing down. In fact, according to the 2019 Clean Jobs America analysis, the amount of clean energy jobs increased in every state in 2018 and they now significantly outnumber fossil fuel jobs.
Where to find this degree program: Penn State World Campus offers an online bachelor's degree in energy and sustainability policy, an online master's degree in renewable energy and sustainability systems and graduate certificates in solar energy and sustainability management and policy. DeVry University also offers an online bachelor's degree specialization in renewable energy, while Everglades University's online bachelor of science degree features a major in alternative and renewable energy management.
More easily accessible degree programs related to renewable energy include environmental science and engineering.