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Careers in Math and Science

Math and science careers you should consider even if you don’t think you’re the next Einstein

Careers in Math and Science You’ve always been good at math and science, so why not put that talent to good use? Check out these careers.

Product marketing engineer
National average salary: $79,950

Wendy Logan always liked math and science. So she majored in computer science at Rice University in Houston and got a job at National Instruments in Austin.

During college: Even though Logan enjoyed—and was good at—programming, she was interested in other things, too, like presenting and writing. An engineering career has allowed her to develop those other talents.

“In engineering positions, you’re not locked in to just programming or doing math programs all day—you can still pursue your other passions,” she says
She suggests taking as many AP math and sciences classes as you can, but also to be involved in other activities so you learn how to solve everyday problems, not just math ones.

After college: Though they work with math and science daily, engineers aren’t destined for a work life of solitary number crunching.

As a product engineer for National Instruments, Logan gets to do technical writing, travel and talk to R&D and the departments actually developing the software product lines she manages to determine what customers need from the company.

“On a day-to-day basis, I check in with my R&D team to see what features they’ve added, and check in with my sales team to see what their customers are saying,” she says. “I create demos, do example programs and do demos for trade shows. I still get to code, which I like to do, and be technical and engineer products, but I also get to present them and write about them.”

National average salary: $50,770

Want to trace white-collar crime? Become a forensic accountant. Does working with several companies as a consultant on tax issues, audits and human resource issues sound like fun? You could be a budding CPA.

You don’t even have to be a math whiz to be an accountant. Learn to like numbers, sure, but “computers do all the work for us,” says Don Kiamie, a certified public accountant (CPA) and CEO of Windsor Management Corporation, a real estate investment and property management firm.

During college: Perfect your communication skills, plus your accounting expertise.

Get an internship to make sure accounting is for you, and consider if you want to enter the workforce with a bachelor’s degree, master’s or take a licensing exam to become a CPA. If a master’s is in your future, start looking for a grad school now—yes, grad school.

“This is one of the few professions where you can graduate with a five-year MBA/BBA degree and get a job,” says Kiamie.

After college: CPAs can find work in either public or private industry.

“Public accounting firms are engaged by businesses at all levels, from Fortune 100 types to small companies, and assist with government reporting, tax planning, financial analysis and so on,” says CPA Frank Fusaro, who worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and has been a recruiter for 31 years. “Public accounting offers you the chance to see different businesses every day in a consultative role.”

That could mean working with six to 15 different businesses in a year, Fusaro says. You might negotiate leases, observe inventory or read loan agreements from banks.

Chemical engineer
National average salary: $76,770

Chemical engineers apply principles of chemistry, math and physics to develop new chemicals, applications and products. They play a role in the production of everything from plastics to medicines and fuels.

“Virtually every product you can think of, a chemical engineer has thought about some aspect to produce it,” says Mitchell Anthamatten, assistant professor and scientist in the chemical engineering department at the University of Rochester. “Here’s a way to think about it: You have a chemist who works in a laboratory and tries to understand how nature works. It’s a chemical engineer who takes that knowledge and sees how to put it to work for all of mankind. They take chemists’ findings and applying them on a large scale.”

During college: Anthamatten suggests taking as many math classes in high school as possible. It helps to have background in the basics.

Chemical engineering majors take classes in heat and mass transfer, thermodynamics, process design and control and fluid dynamics.

After college: Chemical engineers can work for petroleum companies, medicine developers, go into environmental studies, biomedical engineering or even become doctors.

The cool part about chemical engineering, Anthamatten says, is that you’re working to benefit the world through improved products and new materials. But before you get to that point, you’ve got to get the basics of math and science down.

“If you don’t like math, it’s probably the wrong career,” he says.

Chemical ecologist
National average salary: $73,900

How do animals know where to find food or where the danger is—even if they can’t see anything?

It’s through chemocommunication—how animals use scent and taste to relay information to each other.

Dr. Shannon Olsson is a chemical ecologist in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA. She studies how marine animals use chemical communication in the ocean.

During college: Olsson has a bachelor’s in chemistry from Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., and a Ph.D. in chemical ecology from Cornell University.

She says most research positions require at least a master’s degree.

After college: “For many researchers, there is no such thing as a typical day,” Olsson says. “One day you might find me in the lab observing sea urchins. The next day I could be out in Malibu collecting kelp to feed abalone.”

Scientists can work as college professors, or in private and public labs that study animal behavior and physiology, ecology and environmental conservation. There are also careers available in government organizations, zoos and aquariums.

Researchers have to be self-motivated and manage their time well to complete projects and report discoveries.

“We live in such an amazing universe, and science can take you to the stars or inside a single cell,” Olsson says. “Don’t be afraid if you aren’t sure what type of scientist you want to be. The best scientists I know are interested in many things.”


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