If you love gazing at the stars at night, can't wait to dissect that frog in Biology class, or have been building LEGO structures since before you could walk, a job in the sciences maybe waiting for you. There are so many different ways to study science - biology, chemistry, physics - and even more possible careers. Check out a few of the possibilities below.
- Exercise Scientist
- Civil/Structural Engineer
- Cosmetic Chemist
- Forensic Scientist
Exercise science is not one job - it's a broad field that includes many different careers. Exercise scientists can be found anywhere people are trying to stay healthy through exercise - fitness clubs, hospitals, professional sports teams, even Olympic training centers. Some exercise scientists set up and run major exercise programs, others are working with people one-on-one. Then there are research jobs which look for new ways of doing things. Some of the possible jobs include athletic trainer, fitness instructor, sport nutritionist, sports medicine technician, equipment tester, weight loss counselor, and physical therapist.
Exercise scientists usually have a degree in a related field. Some of the things you study are exercise physiology (what happens to the body when someone exercises), biomechanics (how muscles and joints are used), nutrition, physical therapy (healing people who have injuries or diseases of the bones, muscles, joints, or nerves), and sports medicine. After college, some people get more training and may even become a sports medicine doctor.
If you might be interested in this field you can start learning about it now. Play sports and try different kinds of exercise. You can volunteer in a fitness facility or senior center, on a school athletic team, in a hospital, or in a doctor's office. In high school, you'll want to take courses like anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, trigonometry, and calculus. These activities will give you ideas about possible careers in the field of exercise science.
How can that bridge reach so far across the water and carry all those cars without falling down? How come that skyscraper doesn't blow over in a storm? How does the power plant make the electricity that comes to your house when you turn something on? How can the roller coaster put you through so many wild loops, turns, and drops and still be safe? Somebody had to design them to be strong enough, to move in the wind (but not too much!), and to make lots and lots of parts work together, so that everything turns out like it should. The people who do that are structural or civil engineers.
They start with drawings, called "specs," that show the shape and size of the structure and the parts that go into it, along with detailed plans that show how each part has to be built for the whole thing to work. Because a lot of math goes into the specs, an engineer does a lot of her work with a computer and a scientific calculator.
The engineer also spends a lot of time meeting and working with other people. Really large projects need a lot of engineers to get all the design work done. They work as a team to make sure that all of the specs are correct and that they go together.
Structural engineers also spend a lot of time outside to see the whole thing come together. For older structures, they often go inspect them to see what repairs they need, even climbing to the top of a bridge to check for rust, cracks, and weak spots. Many engineers enjoy the chance to get outside to see "their structure" and to get their hands on the real thing.
How can you find out if you would like a career in civil or structural engineering? If you enjoy solving problems, are good in math, and comfortable using computers, this may be a good career choice.
You can start on your career as a civil or structural engineer now. When you go places, look at how structures are made and take pictures if you can. Try designing your own structures with drawings and list all the parts and materials you would need. Find some books about famous buildings, bridges, and structures. Join a science club at school or find out about starting one. Design and build something in a science project for school, scouts, or a girls club. Work on your computer skills, especially graphics, spreadsheets, and math programs. Organize a book fair, a volunteer clean-up day, a school event, or any activity-it will help develop your ability to think logically and work in a team.
Oceanographers make maps of the ocean floor, study the life and death of coral reefs, and keep track of ocean currents. They can work at sea in floating laboratories, on land and along the coast to collect information about the temperature and chemistry of the water, undersea land formations, and what it all means for weather, wildlife, and the environment. Oceanographers also sometimes go underwater. They use a submarine to look for deep sea vents and chimneys one and a half miles below the ocean's surface.
Then, an oceanographer spends a lot of time studying the information she collects and coming up with new ideas. This means using math and computers to understand how the oceans work. Many oceanographers like the idea of going back and forth between the ocean and the laboratory. They're like detectives -- going to the scene to find out what happened, collecting evidence, and then solving the case.
To become an oceanographer, you usually need to get a college degree in biology, chemistry, geology, or physics and then go for a higher degree in oceanography.
If you think you might be interested in being an oceanographer, you should take science classes like biology and chemistry in school. And you could do a science project through school or a club. Find out more about the ocean by reading some books or magazines or look at some websites that tell you about the ocean, volcanoes, global warming, and the environment.
At large zoos, zoologists keep track of animal behavior. They keep records of the animals' habits and health. She might set up experiments and use cameras and sound recorders to get information. The information goes into a computer, where the zoologist uses math to figure out what's going on. One of the most important decisions she makes is how to help the animals have strong, healthy babies.
Most zoologists care a lot about animals and like working with them up close. She also spends time working with other animal scientists, like biologists, psychologists, and veterinarians, to share ideas. All of this helps the zoologist do what she likes the most -- discover things that can make a difference to the animals.
Besides liking animals and wanting to help them, you should like solving mysteries and be a careful thinker. In school, work hard at math and science. After that, you need a college degree in a science like biology, psychology, anthropology, or zoology. Most zoologists then get more education and an advanced degree like a master's or a Ph.D.
Besides zoos, zoologists can work for state park and wildlife departments, universities, and organizations that work to protect wildlife and the environment. A lot of their work is to help animals survive against losing their living space when people move in, or being hurt by chemicals that spoil their environment.
To stir up your curiosity, go to a zoo and watch closely. Some zoos have special activities for young people. Pick out some animals to study. Read a book or go to a website to find out about these animals. If you have pets, watch them and see what you can find out about their personalities, moods, and habits. Do a science project for your school, scout group or a club.
Where do cosmetics -- or makeup -- come from? What's in them? Where did they come up with that shade or that scent? How did things like brazil nut oil and jojoba end up in your shampoo and conditioner? What is body butter, anyway?
The answers to these questions and a hundred more come from cosmetic chemists. Many work for companies that make famous brands, but some are in smaller companies that are trying to make a big splash with something new or better. Others work on their own as inventors. Wherever she works, though, the cosmetic chemist spends a lot of her time in the lab, mixing, testing, and working up the exact formulas to make the products we find at the store.
It takes a lot of work to make products that are useful, safe, and appealing. So, a cosmetic chemist is usually part of a team. She often works with "idea" people who might be asking the chemist some tough questions. Can it be packed in a can? How long it will last? Can't you make it cost less? Sometimes the chemist is the "idea" person and has to push hard to show why her idea is worth the effort.
There are certificate programs in cosmetic science that take a year or two to complete, however, most cosmetic chemists have a college degree in chemistry. Many of them even have advanced degrees. Basic chemistry, microbiology, statistics, product development, and specialties like aroma and flavor chemistry, aerosols, and cosmetic formulations are examples of the courses you would take.
Cosmetic chemists are naturally curious. They like taking an idea and seeing if they can make it work. Tests and experiments take planning and time, though -- so chemists have to be patient and careful. To see if developing cosmetics is for you, take chemistry and other science courses along with math. Watch a few programs about science. Read about famous chemists, especially women. And, use your imagination. Think up a new or improved cosmetic. "Wouldn't it be good if they made ... ?" If you've got ideas and you're comfortable with measuring and comparing things to see how they work, you might be ready to make your mark in the industry where fashion and health come together.
Hair, fibers, insects, fingerprints, handwriting, and teeth! Gunpowder, bite marks, bullets, and blood! What's the connection between all of these things? They are all pieces of evidence, and when they come together they can help solve a mystery.
Finding the evidence and figuring out what it means is the work of a forensic scientist. Many forensic experts work with police departments and lawyers to solve cases, some work with victims, while others with the government agencies that deal with health and safety. Sometimes, forensic experts testify in court about what they found or how something works.
There are many kinds of forensic science jobs. Crime scene investigators spend a lot of their time going out to find evidence on the spot. Others, like toxicologists (experts in harmful substances), concentrate on lab work. A ballistics expert deals with firearms and bullets, an entomologist knows all about insects and how to use them in solving mysteries, such as finding out when somebody died. Other new areas include forensic accounting, nursing, and photography.
To get into a forensic science career, you need at least a college degree. An advanced degree gives you a better chance to move up. Forensic science is a general term that covers a lot of jobs, so you have choices about what to study. Some colleges offer degrees in forensic science, forensic technology, or criminalistics. Others have a forensic specialty as part of health, science, chemistry, or criminal justice.
Would forensic science be right for you? It might, if you're curious and determined. A forensic expert doesn't just want to find an answer -- she wants to prove it. As a forensic scientist you'll never be bored. Each case is different, so there's always a new challenge. To test your interest, read a few mysteries and play some crime-solving computer games. Think about everyday situations in which evidence could tell you something. Forensic science can be fascinating, but it also involves careful thinking and precise testing. You need to be willing to take the time to get it right. The skills you need come from math, chemistry, biology, and physics.