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Your Career Opportunities
This book is not designed to list every single career opportunity you can consider as a result of your STEM education. Its mission is to demonstrate the power that networking has to elucidate career paths and opportunities that you may not have known existed and identify clear channels to access and pursue them. But I wanted to give you a taste of what is in store for you as you start your own career explorations via networking. Many of the following career paths I was unaware of until I networked myself. In fact, I have one of my current freelance jobs, as a columnist for APS News, the international publication of the American Physical Society (APS), as a direct result of networking. It was a hidden opportunity that I essentially fashioned myself over the course of a single phone call. This gig serves as a terrific example of accessing the Hidden Platter of Opportunities, but more to the point at hand, it afforded me the opportunity to learn about many other career opportunities for scientists and engineers. Allow me to explain.
In 2007, I was working for the UA as Director of Special Projects for the College of Science when a physicist became the university’s president. I was excited about this, because having worked in physics and with physicists whom I had observed to have great leadership ability I expected that this professor would have similar leadership strengths. As I pondered his new position, I began to realize that a profile of him would make a great article. I had dabbled in freelance writing for years while I worked full-time for the UA, and I saw the physicist’s presidency as an opportunity for me to pen a potentially fascinating piece (or so I thought).
But before I pitched it to any editor, I wanted to learn some more about this gentleman as well as related issues of hiring presidents in higher education. After doing a little research, I discovered that there were several physics professors across the United States who had gone on to become university presidents. Now I had a solid story pitch. I called my mentor, Alan Chodos, who at the time was the editor of APS News, with the intention of suggesting this one article. But as our conversation unfolded, another idea spontaneously popped into my head which rapidly tumbled out of my mouth: How about a column profiling physicists in non-traditional careers across the universe of industries and organizations? Alan liked it immediately and by the time I hung up from that call, I was a columnist. He named the feature “Profiles in Versatility” and published anywhere from 4–6 columns each year, with each one focusing on a different physics-educated professional who had gone on to a unique career outside of academia.
TIP: If you see an opportunity, seize it. Seize it now, because it might not last!
I have learned a lot and gained so much from writing this column for the last eight years. I have enhanced my network, improved my interviewing and writing skills, and solidified
my niche brand in the field of STEM career consulting, all of which have opened more doors to hidden opportunities and networks that I did not know existed. But if I had to encapsulate the greatest benefit that I personally received from pursuing this opportunity and writing this column, it is to make me aware of the almost dizzying array of careers that one could pursue with specifically a bachelor’s degree in physics and, more generally, any degree in a STEM field. The following list gives a glimpse into the mind-blowing diversity of careers, sectors, and employment environments that potentially await you as you begin to expand your networking. And keep in mind this is only a list of careers that I have so far discovered and interviewed people in who have physics degrees. When you expand your search parameters (or decrease them to make your search much more specific) you’ll be surprised by what amazing, creative opportunities lie ahead.
- Politics (elected offices), policy, and political speechwriting.
- Patent law (as a lawyer, patent agent or technology transfer professional for a university or research laboratory).
- Forensic science.
- Consumer goods: For example, a physicist who works for Proctor and Gamble as a shaving scientist and helps design blades and razors.
- Entertainment: For example, a physicist works for Pixar (which constantly hires professionals with physical science and engineering backgrounds), the creator of Futurama and co-creator of The Simpsons, and several physicists who serve as science consultants for programming such as Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory.
- Video game design.
- Global consulting, for firms like McKinsey, Booz Allen Hamilton and Boston Consulting Group.
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