Connect AP to Majors and Careers
Explore the relationships between AP courses, majors, and careers based on your choice.
AP Course: AP Music Theory
Skills You'll Learn
AP can get you on your path
Related Majors and Careers
American studies majors look closely at the United States and its people from a variety of angles.
As a young and incredibly diverse nation, the United States is considered by many to be a work in progress. American studies majors explore the colorful canvas of the United States, often asking what it means to be American.
If you choose this major, you’ll study everything from the novels, music, and film of the United States to its politics, economy, and history. You’ll even investigate primary sources such as the letters of a Civil War soldier or the oral histories of the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles.
Classics majors study the languages, literatures, and civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome and the places under their control.
Ancient Greek and Roman literature continues to be reinterpreted in every way possible, turning up in forms as different as James Joyce’s Ulysses and Wonder Woman comic books. Yet you may be surprised by how different from us the founders of Western civilization were after all. For instance, the Athenians regarded their women practically as slaves.
There is still a lot we don’t know about the way the ancients lived. Classics majors delight in finding out. Whether researching the ethnic diversity of ancient
Computer science majors learn about computer systems and the way humans and computers interact from a scientific perspective. Instruction includes programming and the theory and design of software.
In countless old Star Trek episodes, a baffled captain asked the computer for help, and the computer promptly replied with an answer. What was once science fiction is becoming reality, thanks to computer scientists working in voice recognition.
If you study computer science, you may learn how to design computer programs that allow humans and computers to speak to one another. Keep in mind, your work is more likely to help a vision-impaired person than a captain navigating the universe, but you never know.
Students of dance learn to express ideas and emotions through dance forms such as ballet, modern, jazz, ethnic, and folk dance. Classes cover such topics as dance technique, choreography, and the history of dance.
Is dance your favorite way to express yourself? As a dance major, prepare not only to develop your physical skills, but also to explore the history, theory, and science of your art. Get ready for a tough schedule of technique and choreography classes, long evenings in rehearsal, and academic classes. Dance majors challenge their bodies and their minds in this demanding art form.
Both the bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A.) and the bachelor of arts (B.A.) prepare students for careers as dancers and choreographers. The B.A. also prepares students for careers in dance education, administration, and therapy.
As an electrical engineering major, you’ll study electricity: how it works, how it’s generated, and how it’s used to power everything from lightbulbs and radios to cell phones and robots. You’ll also learn how to design your own electric-powered projects.
Imagine a blackout. You’re in the dark and without the gadgets you normally take for granted. There’s no better time to appreciate electricity.
As an electrical engineering major, you’ll go far beyond an appreciation of the awesome powers of the electron. You’ll learn how to harness that power and use it to perform a few miracles of your own invention.
English majors read, discuss, and write about the literature and culture of English-speaking people. They also learn about the history, structure, and use of the English language.
If you love to curl up with a good book, then majoring in English might be for you. But there's a lot more to studying English than just reading novels, short stories, plays, and poetry by English-speaking writers. You'll have to examine what you read and come up with opinions about it. For example, you might have to explain a book's main theme or show what it reveals about cultural stereotypes. You'll then have to share your views in class discussions and in papers.
One of the great things about majoring in English is that you can bring your personal interests into your studies. For instance, you can focus on the literature of a certain time period, location, or author.
As a film studies major, you’ll study film history, theory, and criticism, as well as the basics of film production. You’ll also examine related arts such as television and video.
Think of your favorite movie. Was it the story you liked? Or the characters? The action? How about the look of it? Digging deep into your gut feelings about movies is just the beginning of film studies.
If movies mean more to you than just an evening out with your friends, this could be the major for you. You’ll learn how to discuss and write about films critically. You’ll also learn about the connections movies have to history and national identities. You’ll even learn what all those people listed in the credits actually do. P.S. A gaffer is a lighting technician.
Math majors study quantities, forms, and symbolic logic in such subjects as algebra, geometry, calculus, logic, topology, and number theory.
Most of us are comfortable using everyday math -- when we go shopping, for example. But higher level math, such as calculus, may seem mysterious, a completely unfamiliar language. As a math major, you’ll study this language and learn how to use it to describe the world. You’ll explore calculus, modern algebra, and other high-level math in the purest light.
If you love to solve math problems just to know the answer and enjoy using abstract concepts to discover whether something is true or false, this could be the major for you.
Students of music learn about the history of music, music theory and composition, and the performance of one or more instruments. Classes cover such topics as musical styles, ear training, and performance.
The study of music is as varied as the kinds of music that exist throughout the world, from Renaissance to rap. Music majors study everything from producing pop albums to staging performances as they were staged in Mozart’s time.
The bachelor of arts (B.A.) in music is usually offered at liberal arts colleges. Generally, the B.A. requires a lot of course work outside the area of music. At a music conservatory, on the other hand, you can earn a bachelor of music (B.M.) degree, which will prepare you for a career as a professional musician.
Musical theater majors undergo intensive training in acting, singing, and dancing in preparation for professional theater careers.
Are you ready to set the world on fire with your big voice, awesome acting skills, and smooth dance moves? Then majoring in musical theater may be the ticket for you.
But just as Broadway isn’t for the faint of heart, neither is this demanding, performance-oriented program. You'll not only take a rigorous schedule of acting, singing, and dancing classes. You'll also spend countless nights and weekends rehearsing for, and performing in, student productions. This is a major for the brave and the committed only.
Physics is the scientific study of matter and energy. Topics covered include classical and modern theories, electricity and magnetism, and relativity.
How does the universe work? What are atoms made of? While the first question is about the biggest of things, the second asks about the unimaginably small. Yet both questions fall under the scope of physics.
Physics majors seek to understand the laws that govern the universe. From gigantic stars trillions of miles away to the subatomic particles within our own bodies, physics takes on matter and energy in all its forms.
Statistics students study probability theory and sampling theory. They also learn to use techniques based on these theories to study the relationships between groups of measurements.
Who will win the next presidential election? To find out, you might ask each and every registered voter how they plan to vote. But a more practical way to get your answer is to conduct an opinion poll, questioning only a small sample of registered voters. But how can you use the answers of a small group of people to make a prediction that involves many millions of people nationwide?
That’s where statistics comes into play. Statistics is a field of applied mathematics that relies heavily on computers. Using statistics, pollsters can decide who to interview and how to weigh the information they collect to make accurate predictions.
Students in studio arts learn the skills and techniques they need to express themselves as visual artists.
Why major in art? Why not just grab a paintbrush, pencil, or chisel and do your thing? The reasons to study art in college are many.
You’ll have the chance to try out new media -- you may enter school as a painter and fall in love with printmaking. You might start out sculpting in clay but discover that wood is your true love. From your teachers, you’ll learn skills and techniques that will help you work more efficiently and consistently. With your peers, you’ll practice the art of critique. And in art history classes, you’ll learn from great masters new and old.
Theater majors study plays and other dramatic works and their production. Classes cover such topics as theater history, playwriting, acting, and directing, as well as lighting, scenery, and costume design.
If you’ve ever acted in a play, you know how much work it takes to put a production together. A theater major is your ticket to every corner of the theater world.
Whether you specialize in acting or design, you’ll learn in class, backstage, and onstage. You’ll read, discuss, and write about all kinds of theatrical works. You’ll also get your hands dirty applying what you learn in class as you build sets, design costumes, direct, or act in department productions.
Voice and Opera
Students of voice and opera perfect their skills as singers. Lessons, classes, and recitals help students develop a personal style and prepare them for performing as soloists or ensemble players in choirs or opera companies.
Singers showcase one of the most expressive and beautiful musical instruments on earth -- the human voice. In preparation for professional careers, voice students learn, practice, and perform a variety of vocal pieces, from baroque arias to great nineteenth-century operatic roles.
If you are a singer at heart but also love acting, an opera program may be a great fit. But get ready to add some real drama to the typical music student’s fare of weekly private lessons, nightly rehearsals, and theory classes. Opera singers-in-training also take classes in acting, movement, stagecraft, and even make-up.
Actors play characters in theater, film, TV, radio, and other media. Actors interpret scripts and perform roles that entertain, inform, or teach an audience.
Pursuing an acting career takes passion, dedication, and the willingness to share the spotlight. You might live in New York City or Los Angeles and wait tables while you attend countless cattle calls (mass auditions) just to be considered for a small walk-on role.
While most big-name stars and aspiring actors alike do live and work in New York City or Los Angeles, many actors can find work outside these hubs. Opportunities exist with regional theater companies, TV studios, radio stations, nightclubs, and even theme parks.
Actuaries decide how likely it is that various events will happen. Using their knowledge of statistics, finance, and business, they help create insurance policies, pension plans, and other financial plans.
To be alive is to face risks. Some are avoidable. For example, if you want to avoid earthquakes, don't move to California. But some risks are harder to control. People can get sick without warning or wind up in an auto accident. And some hardships are inevitable. Much as we hate to think about it, we all die.
Do you find these facts fascinating, if gruesome? If so, consider a career as an actuary. Actuaries make a profession of studying risk.
Adult educators teach a variety of subjects to adults in places such as community colleges, adult high schools, university extension programs, and prisons.
Sometimes adults go to school because they have to. They may need to improve their English skills or computer skills or earn a high school diploma to get a better job. Other times, adults attend classes for fun. They might want to learn how to bake mouth-watering desserts or draw funny cartoons.
Whether they're in class out of necessity or for pleasure, adults are usually motivated to get the most out of class time. Their eagerness to learn makes teaching them a deeply rewarding experience.
Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations Managers
Advertising, marketing, and public relations managers use market research and employ various strategies to develop, promote, and sell their clients' products and services.
There’s a game plan behind every product that is sold -- even if that product is a person. Advertising, marketing, and public relations managers are the brains behind those strategies.
Marketing managers draw on market research to target the right audience; advertising managers are in charge of creating and placing ads; and public relations managers use subtler methods to get the word out. Of course, the roles of these professionals overlap, and their goal is the same: to earn bigger profits. With tools such as advertisements, brochures, and websites, they can make the difference between a success and a flop.
Aerospace engineers design all kinds of manned and unmanned aircraft and spacecraft, from small airplanes to satellites. They test and build new designs and work to improve existing machines.
In 1903, the Wright brothers’ first plane flew for twelve seconds and went only 120 feet. Today, aerospace engineers are working on supersonic ramjets. These scramjets, as they’re called, will take you from New York to Tokyo in only two hours. That’s a lot of progress for one century.
As an aerospace engineer, you could build satellites or defense systems. You could make airplanes faster and safer. You could design a spacecraft, a space station, or an explorer robot like the Mars-roving Spirit. If looking up at the sky starts you thinking about how to get there, you could be one of tomorrow’s aerospace engineers.
Aircraft pilots fly for commercial airlines, but they also deliver cargo, dust crops, spread seed for reforestation, give skydivers a lift, and pull advertising streamers. They might also test aircraft, direct fire-fighting efforts, monitor traffic, or even track criminals.
Imagine a job where, on any given day, you could find yourself in Paris, Tokyo, or New Delhi. Now imagine yourself in command of one top-notch, state-of-the-art piece of machinery -- a 747, for example, which can cruise through the clouds at 570 miles per hour.
Of course, sitting in the cockpit isn’t all fun and games. It’s serious stuff. Pilots are responsible for taking people from point A to point B -- safely. That’s why piloting is a profession requiring exceptional skill and lots of training.
Announcers talk on radio or TV programs that inform and entertain. Some announcers also provide information to the audience at sporting or performing arts events.
Think of your favorite radio station or local news program and you can probably name a DJ or news reporter. These announcers are the faces and voices of broadcasting. Announcers on radio and TV read the news and weather reports, open and close programs, announce song titles and artists, introduce or read commercials, and interview guests.
Anthropologists and Archaeologists
Anthropologists study people and primates (such as chimps), researching their cultural, physical, and social development over time. Archaeologists investigate history by finding and studying the remains and objects a society leaves behind.
Why did new English words start popping up among the British colonists in North America? How were class distinctions in the New World different from those in the Old World? What can we learn about our ancestors from ancient skeletons and pottery fragments?
If you’re fascinated by questions like these, consider a career as an anthropologist or archaeologist. While some of these professionals are involved in research for its own sake, others use their skills in the world of business or government.
Architects design buildings and oversee their construction.
Before any building is constructed, it exists in the mind’s eye of an architect. Architects design buildings in which people work, worship, play, and conduct the countless other activities of their lives.
Consider the building you’re in right now. Where are the windows placed? What materials were used to construct the building? How does the structure sit on the site it occupies? What style of architecture is used? And how do people use the building? The building’s architect once considered all these same questions.
Archivists care for permanent records and historically valuable documents. They may also participate in research activities based on archival materials.
Archivists may take care of papers, letters, diaries, clippings, legal documents, maps, films, videos, sound recordings, and other records. These professionals combine technical expertise in the preservation of documents with knowledge of information-management systems.
The tasks of archivists vary according to the type of collection they work with, be it historic manuscripts or living plants and animals. At a cultural-history museum, an archivist might research and document the return of artifacts to American Indian tribes. At a zoo, an archivist might keep records on the veterinary care of animals.
Art directors come up with the visual concepts for everything from billboard advertisements to magazine layouts to videos and websites. Not all work in advertising; some create the look of editorial publications, such as newspapers.
Have you ever wondered who came up with the look for those great jeans ads or that cool CD jacket? Behind every advertisement, magazine cover, video, or website is a big-picture person: the art director.
If you’d rather call the shots than carry them out, art directing just might be your thing -- as long as you’re ready to be a fountain of new ideas.
Arts administrators run arts programs that cover the gamut -- from finger-painting to photography; from ballet to belly dance; and from hip-hop to opera.
As an audience member at dance, music, or theater events, you've probably enjoyed watching others shine in the limelight. If you've ever performed onstage or seen your artistic efforts displayed in a newsletter or website (or even posted in the school hallway), you know the thrill of putting your best creative foot forward.
But for every artistic event, much of the work remains hidden. Arts administrators work behind the scenes to make sure artists keep creating and the public keeps appreciating art of every kind.
Athletic trainers work with athletes to prevent and treat injuries. They also play a key role in rehabilitation.
The year: 1996. The place: Atlanta. In her first vault, gymnast Kerri Strug falls and injures her ankle, badly. Should she go on to do her second vault? The team’s depending on her, but is it safe? As an athletic trainer, you’ll find yourself facing similar dilemmas, though you’ll more likely be at a high school basketball game than the Olympics.
Camera Operators and Film and Video Editors
Camera operators film TV programs and commercials, videos, and movies. Film and video editors choose images from those that camera operators capture to create a final product.
Whether capturing a political protest for the local news, putting together a weekly cable TV program, or creating a scene for a new action movie, the decisions you make as a camera operator or film and video editor will require a combination of creative and technical skills. You'll need a good eye and a steady hand to choose interesting material, decide how to present it, and pick the right equipment or software to use.
Chemists and Materials Scientists
Chemists research chemicals -- the building blocks of all materials. Materials scientists conduct research on the structures and compositions of materials.
You may not realize it, but the products of chemistry play a big role in our daily lives. Chemists and materials scientists create the building blocks for medicines like Prozac or products such as plastic bags. Even the chocolate, marshmallow, and banana flavors of the processed food you eat were created in a lab by food chemists.
Chemists and materials scientists working in applied research come up with new products for industrial, commercial, and medical use.
Choreographers create new dance routines and develop their own interpretations of existing dances for ballets, musicals, and other forms of entertainment. At rehearsals, choreographers instruct and lead dancers to achieve their vision.
Do you want to form your own modern dance company? Create the dance moves for music videos? Whatever your choreography aim, you’ll need to know a lot about people as well as dance. After all, choreographers work with all kinds of people, from dancers to directors.
Most choreographers get their start as dancers, but some come from related fields, such as performance art or theatrical directing. As a choreographer, you may work on a freelance basis or as an artist in residence for a dance or opera company. You could also work in film or TV or at a private dance school, college, or university.
Composers write music -- from classical to show tunes to rock. They create written compositions, called scores, to be performed by musicians and singers. The term "composer" includes singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan.
It's easy to think of composers as dead European guys who wore frock coats and knickerbockers and wrote music for royalty. Yet music composition is alive and well. From Stephen Sondheim to Quincy Jones to Yoko Ono, composers today represent every segment of society -- including teens. And the music written is just as varied, reflecting the bounty of musical styles our world has to offer.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Computer and information systems managers supervise computer professionals as well as technology projects big and small.
How are worms different from viruses, and how can we protect our computer networks against them? Is the latest technology worth paying top dollar for? What’s the best way to sell products online? The computer questions facing businesses are many -- that’s no surprise. But it may surprise you to know that it takes more than computer genius to answer them.
Computer and information systems managers coordinate the work of computer professionals and help top managers make crucial business decisions. And, in some cases, they are top managers.
Computer Hardware Engineers
Computer hardware engineers design and develop computer hardware, such as computer chips, circuit boards, modems, and printers. They also test hardware and supervise its installation.
In the 1940s, high tech meant the ENIAC computer. What did the room-sized machine do? It could do five thousand additions and subtractions per second. It solved equations. And that’s all it did. In other words, ENIAC was a gigantic calculator.
If you’re using a typical computer today, you could be doing research, writing a report, instant-messaging a friend, and listening to music -- all at the same time. Thanks to computer hardware engineers, computers can do a lot more than they used to. And they’ve gotten smaller and faster, too.
Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the instructions that computers must follow to land airplanes, sell products online, build machines, share information, and so much more.
If you picture yourself as a computer programmer, you may already know a computer language. Once you know multiple computer languages, you’ll be able to communicate throughout the world.
In addition to mastering programming languages like C++ and Java, you’ll also need to communicate easily with people. After all, you’ll often work with a team and sometimes with the users of the products you develop. At the end of the day, the key to programming is language.
Computer scientists come up with new ways of improving computers. They often work on a more abstract level than other computer professionals.
Imagine a time when computers didn’t impact our daily lives. Now imagine new ways that computers will influence our lives in the future. How can they make your life easier, safer, healthier, and richer? Computer scientists are searching for the answers.
Computer scientists are thinkers, designers, architects, and innovators. In a world where success is measured by speed, efficiency, and access, computer scientists are inventing new languages, tools, and methods so that computers will continue to enhance our lives in new ways.
Computer Systems Analysts
Computer systems analysts create new computer systems and improve existing technology and business processes.
A new website for learning foreign languages is about to start up. A team of experts is ready to get to work -- from the people who create the content to the people who write the computer programs that drive the site. But before the programmers can start, a systems analyst must design the best way for customers to interact with the site. She has to decide everything from how they’ll sign up and pay to how they’ll use the site to master new vocabulary throughout the online learning process.
Computer systems analysts create technology solutions for large and small businesses and other organizations. They start by deciding what hardware and software will be needed. They then develop or adapt software to meet those needs.
Copy editors review text to make sure that it is free of errors and is clearly written. They also ensure that writing follows the publisher's style and editorial policy.
"Twenty-five" or "25"? "PhD" or "Ph.D."? Being a copy editor means paying close attention to differences like these. Copy editors review text to ensure it is easy to understand and follows the publisher's style. And they make sure that the tone of the writing suits the publication’s audience, whether it's teens, scientists, or art lovers.
Copy editors also rewrite text or suggest changes, such as reordering paragraphs, to make the writing stronger. On top of all that, they correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
Copywriters use the written word to entice consumers to buy products.
Just do it. Think different. Got milk? If topping slogans like these is a challenge that gets your adrenaline going, you could be a copywriter in the making. Just as songwriters use catchy hooks to write hit songs, copywriters use clever wordplay to write ads that people don’t forget. Whether it’s a print ad, radio script, billboard, or promotional flyer, it’s the copywriter’s job to lure the consumer through the written word.
Craft artists create works of art that have a practical as well as an artistic purpose, including ceramics, jewelry, art glass, quilts, furniture, welding, and weavings.
If making useful art is not just a hobby but your passion, you might consider pursuing a career as a craft artist. Whether you’re into throwing pots, blowing glass, welding sculpture, carving wood, embroidering linen, or weaving rugs, the objects you create are becoming increasingly popular in the marketplace. They can be found in a huge number of private homes and public collections around the world. Maybe your creations will become the next hot collectible.
Curators run the educational, research, and public service activities of museums, zoos, and other institutions.
Curators do much more than handle artwork or artifacts and design museum and zoo exhibits. The job of managing a collection is broad-based. It involves working with people as much as, if not more than, the pieces in the collection.
Curators work with museum educators, zookeepers, publicists, and publishers to produce exhibits complete with special events and publications. And they work closely with other curators, museum directors, and board members to grow the museum, gallery, or zoo collection -- whether dealing with artwork, plants, or living animals.
Dancers express ideas and emotions through dance forms such as ballet, modern, jazz, ethnic, and folk dance. In this demanding and competitive field, dancers challenge their bodies and their minds.
While you may dream about becoming a principal with the American Ballet Theatre, there are many different options in the wide world of professional dance. You may dance with smaller classical companies, modern troupes, or folkloric and ethnic dance groups. You could dance in musicals, pop music videos, and commercial TV productions.
However, finding steady work in the fiercely competitive world of professional dance is never easy. It takes both passion and patience to pursue a career in this demanding field.
Directors work closely with actors, designers, choreographers, and playwrights to manage the planning and production of theatrical works, including plays, films, musicals, and TV programs.
Directors make many of the creative decisions that bring a dramatic production to life. They have a part in almost every aspect of producing a play, film, or TV program. They must be creative artists as well as knowledgeable technicians. Active onstage and behind the scenes, they interpret scripts, communicate their vision to set and costume designers, audition and select cast members, manage rehearsals, and coach actors.
Editors review writers' work and make suggestions or changes to make the text stronger.
Behind every great writer is a fabulous editor. Magazines, newspapers, and websites, just to name a few publications, all employ editors to guide and encourage writers. Editors work in all kinds of settings, from busy newsrooms to corporate offices, to ensure that organizations get their messages to the public.
The titles and duties of editors vary a great deal, depending on where they work and exactly what they do. For example, developmental editors work with authors on novels and other long pieces to make sure the text is clear and meets the publisher's expectations. At newspapers, assignment editors match reporters to stories while executive editors make decisions about what news to cover and how to approach it.
Electrical engineers develop and oversee electrical systems and equipment. They work with everything from power grids to computers and telephones to cars.
Turn on a light. Turn on a computer. Turn on a TV. Rev your engine, if you have one. Do you wonder why it works? Do you ever take apart a new gadget when you get it? Or look at something and think, “Hey, I can make that do more”?
If you’re intrigued by the machines around you and the power that makes them run, you have a lot in common with electrical engineers.
Electronics technicians install, care for, and repair electronic equipment.
As an electronics technician, you might service the industrial controls on a factory floor. Or you might repair missile control systems for the government. Or you could specialize in cars and trucks, installing and repairing sound and alarm systems.
Wherever your future takes you, you’ll be working with computer programs, automated systems, and, of course, electricity. Many industries today, from manufacturing to telecommunications, depend on electrical equipment -- as well as the people who keep that equipment running safely and efficiently.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Teachers
Elementary, middle, and high school teachers work in public or private schools, preparing children for the work world or college. They also try to inspire a lifelong love of learning in their students.
If you want to become a teacher, it's probably because of your experiences in the classroom. Maybe you find inspiration in great teachers or simply your own love of learning. With a career in school teaching, you'll be able to share that love and pass along the skills and knowledge kids need to get a start in life.
Engineering technicians use math, science, and engineering skills to work on a variety of projects in a wide range of fields. They have less responsibility than engineers and their work is more hands-on.
Engineering technicians help turn ideas into reality. Assisting engineers or scientists, or working on their own, they use their technical skills to come up with practical solutions to a variety of problems.
Depending on their specialty and work setting, their duties include everything from setting up and maintaining equipment in a research lab to drafting plans for new designs on a computer to inspecting an assembly line.
Fashion designers use flair and know-how to create everything from hospital uniforms to the eye-popping outfits worn by rock stars and models.
If you spend endless hours poring through fashion magazines or putting together your own new looks, you may want to consider a career in fashion design. Using their flair for color and style, designers create trendy new fashions as well as practical garments, such as sportswear. Fashion design is also a labor of love, requiring long hours and little chance of superstardom -- but for many, the work itself is the reward.
Financial analysts help businesses and other organizations come up with investment strategies to meet their financial goals.
Do you get psyched about stocks and bonds? Is the business section the first place you flip to in the Sunday paper? If so, then you should think about becoming a financial analyst.
If you do, your main responsibility will be spotting stock market trends and keeping tabs on up-and-coming companies. You’ll also make predictions about the economic health of various industries. Why? So you can help businesses make good investment decisions.
Fine artists create visual art, usually specializing in a specific type, such as painting or sculpture. Their goals may be many: to create something of beauty, to trigger emotion, and to make people think.
Imagine a world without art -- no paintings, no sketches, no statues in the parks. A world without art would be pretty empty, dull, and cold. So even though people may try to tell you otherwise, and even though you probably won’t make your living at it, art does matter.
But even if you do become one of the lucky few who can pay the bills with art, you’ll need to let go of any romantic visions you have of working day and night to create a masterpiece. Trade them for the more realistic picture of a small businessperson balancing creative work with bookkeeping and marketing efforts.
Historians collect and interpret material from the past.
Historians look for the clues that tell us about the past. More important, they help us make sense out of it all. They may start by telling us the facts of everything from the travels of Lewis and Clark to the first moon landing, but they don’t stop there.
Historians go on to answer questions about the importance of these events, their causes, and their effects. They make connections between the world as it was and the world as it is.
Illustrators create images for everything from books to greeting cards to advertisements. Many specialize, working mostly on children's books or medical illustrations, for example.
If drawing is your thing, take note: there are all kinds of avenues for illustrators. Whether used in medical textbooks, magazines, or children’s books, illustrations inform, educate, amuse, and, sometimes, just make the world a prettier place. Talent alone is not enough in this highly competitive field, but if you’re willing to work hard and apply your talents where they’re needed, you may not be a starving artist for long.
Industrial designers work with engineers to design everyday goods, most of them mass produced.
Calvin Klein may have designed your jeans, but who designed the chair you’re sitting on? Industrial designers work behind the scenes to shape everyday products, from food packaging and appliances to toys and cars.
While their work may not seem glamorous, they serve a very vital function -- and they make better money than most other types of designers, too.
Management consultants think about ways to increase a company's profits and productivity. Their goal is to make a business more successful and competitive.
Do you get a rush from solving a problem no one else can? Do people come to you for help and advice when they get into complicated situations? If so, you might be cut out for a career as a management consultant.
Companies and other organizations hire management consultants to help them solve some of their biggest problems. Whether they need to build a new website, design a new computer system, or launch a new product, they call on management consultants to save the day.
Market and Survey Researchers
Market and survey researchers both collect information about the public. Market researchers also analyze information, including business statistics.
How much do teens spend on video games? What kinds of movies are most popular with college students? How much is too much for a hot cup of coffee? Market researchers and survey researchers uncover the answers to questions like these. Their methods include everything from telephone and Internet surveys to focus groups to studies of past sales.
Once these answers are discovered, they're used to create better products, ad campaigns, promotions, and more. In short, it’s the mission of market and survey researchers to know everything there is to know about customer satisfaction.
Mathematicians use mathematical theory, algorithms, and computers to solve problems in economics, science, engineering, and other fields.
When you think of a mathematician, you may imagine a gray-haired man standing in front of a chalkboard covered end to end with formulas. In fact, mathematicians come in all shapes and sizes. And they work with the latest computer technologies in fields as varied as business and physics.
There are two main groups of mathematicians. Theoretical mathematicians come up with new ways of thinking about quantities -- you can thank them for adding to the formulas and principles you learn in math class. Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, use math to solve practical problems in fields like computer science. The line that divides these two groups, however, often blurs.
Mechanical engineers develop, build, care for, and improve tools, machines, and systems.
Every day you come in contact with many machines. There’s the clock radio that wakes you up, and the car, bus, or bike you take to school. You use calculators, computers, stereos, and phones throughout the day. Finally, you come home and use the microwave, stove, refrigerator, and electric can opener as you help with dinner.
Our lives are a lot easier today, thanks to the mechanical engineers who imagined and built these tools. In a world where we depend on machines more than ever before, mechanical engineers keep things running.
Medical scientists conduct research on diseases, and on the viruses and bacteria that cause them, to develop vaccines and medications.
The world’s population has grown exponentially -- from small scatterings of people to giant cities with millions of residents living side by side.
While living in large groups has its advantages, one disadvantage is that it allows diseases to spread more easily. And now, with the entire world connected by airplanes, contagious illnesses can spread across the ocean from one continent to another. Medical scientists do the research needed in the fight against disease.
Meteorologists are scientists who study the atmosphere. They examine its effects on the environment, predict the weather, or investigate climate trends.
We see them in action every evening as they forecast the future -- or at least tell us how likely it is to rain. They’re meteorologists.
But most people in this profession do not work in front of a camera. The biggest employer of meteorologists is, in fact, a government agency, the National Weather Service. And there are also plenty of businesses that hire meteorologists to help them make decisions based on the weather. Those who don’t forecast the weather conduct research, studying the atmosphere, climatic changes, or environmental problems.
Musicians and Singers
Musicians and singers play musical instruments or sing as part of a group or solo. Many musicians and singers perform for live audiences, though others play only for recording or production studios.
What's your dream? To become a hip-hop artist in Los Angeles? A bluegrass fiddle player in Nashville? Or a star soprano with the Metropolitan Opera in New York? Whatever your goal, you'll need top technical skills, talent, stage presence, and a thick skin to put up with the intense competition. While many musicians hope to win a big solo contract with a recording studio or one of the larger record labels, the majority spend most of their time working in ensembles, rehearsing, and performing live.
News Analysts, Reporters, and Correspondents
News analysts, reporters, and correspondents gather information and prepare stories for broadcast (TV and radio), print (newspapers and magazines), and online media.
If you’re a news junkie -- or just someone with insatiable curiosity -- a media job may be your calling. But be ready to fly by the seat of your pants, because some days you’ll feel like you’re part of a three-ring circus.
News analysts, also called newscasters, interpret news from outside sources and broadcast it on radio or TV. Reporters gather the facts themselves, writing stories for print or broadcast. Correspondents serve a similar function, but are stationed in specific cities. Whatever your role, you’ll sweat bullets to gather the facts and deliver on deadline. But if you love the thrill of the chase and have strong communication skills, you may be made for this line of work.
Operations Research Analysts
Operations research analysts use math and computers to develop software and other tools that managers use to make decisions.
Imagine it’s your job to put together this season’s schedule for your favorite Major League Baseball team. Before you decide that’s an easy job, consider these rules: Your team has to play 81 games at home and 81 games on the road. It has to play each of the teams in its division 19 times. And don’t forget travel -- you can’t have your team flying from the East Coast to the West Coast every other day.
Complex problems like this come up all the time. Operations research analysts find ways to solve them. Their work is used by managers in all sorts of industries, whether the goal is to schedule airline pilots to prevent dangerous fatigue or time traffic lights to prevent congestion.
PTs prevent and treat conditions that limit a person's ability to move and function.
Seniors recovering from hip-replacement surgery, newborns with birth defects, athletes with injuries, young adults with brain disorders: All of these people have trouble using their muscles. And they can all improve with the help of physical therapists (PTs).
These health professionals use exercises, heat, cold, and other techniques to get their patients moving again. They also teach them how to get around using crutches, wheelchairs, and other devices. As a PT, you’ll do more than devise a treatment plan -- you’ll serve as teacher, coach, and confidant, too.
Physicists and Astronomers
Physicists study the laws and structures of all that exists in the universe, including gravity and other natural forces. Astronomers use physics to study space and the bodies within it, like planets and stars.
The Milky Way galaxy is a collection of billions of stars, including our planet, our moon, and our sun at its outer edge. Physicists and astronomers use the theories of physics to study the galaxy and everything in it, from the mysterious black holes that may result when giant stars collapse to the movement of electrons.
Of course, no one physicist or astronomer studies everything in the galaxy. If you choose this field, you’ll specialize in an area such as nuclear physics or astrobiology. As an astronomer or physicist, you’ll come up with your own theories and create experiments to see if they’re correct.
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide range of academic and career-oriented subjects beyond the high school level. Such teachers include college and university professors, career and technical education instructors, and graduate teaching assistants.
A professor stands in a darkened auditorium before 150 scribbling students and projects images of paintings on a screen, commenting on each. In a small room on the other side of campus, a graduate student writes an equation on a chalkboard, asking for questions. Across town, a teacher surrounded by a gaggle of adults lifts the hood of a car to describe the engine. These scenes may differ, but the instructors share the same career: they're all postsecondary teachers.
Private-practice lawyers work in law firms or are self-employed. Transactional lawyers work to avoid legal problems, for example, by writing contracts. Litigators, or trial lawyers, deal with problems, such as broken contracts, once they've occurred.
"Lizzie Borden took an axe / And gave her mother forty whacks. / When she saw what she had done, / She gave her father forty-one." Although this ditty sounds certain, Borden’s defense attorney was good enough to prove reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors in the famous 1893 trial introduced evidence that included powerful details. For example, Borden burned the dress she wore the day of the deed, and prosecutors argued that she did so because it was stained with blood. But the defense team -- using for the most part the prosecution's own witnesses -- shot down every attempt to pin the dastardly deed on Borden. In the end, she walked free.
Public accountants provide a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting services to their clients, who may be corporations, governments, nonprofits, or individuals.
Every business is required by law to file paperwork with the government. That includes the tax statements they turn in to the Internal Revenue Service. As a public accountant, you may create and file such reports.
On the other hand, you can specialize in external audits. In that case, you’ll examine a company's financial statements and reporting procedures to ensure truth and accuracy.
Public Interest Lawyers
Public interest lawyers bring lawsuits that work to get positive results for a large class, or group, of people. They work for organizations such as Environmental Defense and the National Center for Youth Law.
American schools, like much of society, used to be segregated. Children of color couldn't attend schools for whites. And schools for kids of color usually had fewer resources than white schools.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized some legal cases to challenge this policy. These cases were eventually combined into one case, Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the NAACP won -- inspiring struggles for justice around the country and the world.
Public Relations Specialists
PR specialists promote people and organizations. They work in a variety of settings, from corporations to government agencies. Many serve private clients.
When celebrities go into drug rehab or when businesses are guilty of fraud, there’s only one thing to do: hire a public relations (PR) specialist. PR specialists do more than put a positive spin on their client’s less-than-admirable activities. They also spread the word when they’ve done something good, like winning an Academy Award or donating money to a charity.
And how do PR specialists get the word out? They spend much of their time writing press releases and pitching story ideas to reporters.
Recreational therapists provide treatment via recreation activities to people with disabilities or illnesses. Using activities that range from arts and crafts, movement, and games to interaction with animals, they help people improve their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
James, who has advanced cancer, lives in a hospice (a home for people with fatal illnesses). His hair has fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. James is always sullen when he shows up for art therapy sessions.
One day he paints an unusual picture of a featherless bird. When the therapist gently comments on the similarity with James's appearance, he breaks down in tears. From that moment, James begins to open up and face the terrifying prospect of death, inspiring those around him with his courage.
Research psychologists study how humans feel, think, learn, and act. They also study physical problems with the brain and work to develop treatments for problems such as memory loss.
In 1961-62, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted some disturbing experiments. He asked subjects (participants) to give electric shocks to their partners whenever the partners answered questions incorrectly. As the voltage increased, the partners begged to stop -- but experimenters told the subjects to continue. Sixty-five percent of subjects continued, even when their partners screamed in agony.
The partners were actors who only pretended to receive shocks; they faked their agonized screams -- but the subjects didn’t know that. The experiments were criticized as being unethical. Yet many subjects thanked Milgram for revealing the frailty of human kindness.
Set designers plan, design, and oversee the construction of sets for theatrical, motion picture, and TV productions.
Gritty city street or lush green countryside. Lively medieval marketplace or sleek suburban shopping mall. If you’ve ever been amazed at the look of a movie or play, you’ve been under the spell of a talented designer.
Set designers establish the physical worlds of plays, movies, and TV shows, setting the mood, time, and place of the story. They work with directors, other designers, and technicians to make a strong visual impact.
Software developers combine their expertise in computer science, engineering, and math to design, develop, and test software for home, school, and business use.
You’re on vacation with your family, and just as you lie down on the beach, it hits you -- you forgot to mail those bills your mom asked you to drop in the mailbox as you ran for the bus the other day. Not to worry, thanks to a software developer (and a nearby Internet cafe), your mom can pay those same bills online and avoid any late fees.
Software developers instruct computers how to perform functions like online bill paying through step-by-step processes of programming and problem solving.
Statisticians use math and computers to collect, study, and report on data.
Whether we know it or not, we rely on statisticians every day. A corporation that processes food, for example, might pay for a survey of families with two working parents to find out what new products they’d like to see in the frozen-food aisle. A drug company, on the other hand, must collect and study data when they test experimental drugs to make sure that they work and that they’re safe. And at a TV network, statisticians can use a technique called sampling to discover what the whole country is watching just by surveying a small group of viewers.
And that’s just in the business world. These masters of data can use their skills in fields as varied as medical research, public health, and economics.
Technical writers create material, such as instruction manuals, related to science and technology.
Computer software and hardware, cars, stereos, and many other products come with instructions. Technical writers create operating instructions and other informational material, such as maintenance manuals, catalogs, parts lists, and assembly instructions.
This information not only allows consumers to use and maintain products easily and safely, but also protects manufacturers from being sued. If you enjoy writing and are curious about developments in science and technology, this field might be for you.
Theater, Film, and TV Technicians
Theater, film, and TV technicians are craftspeople who work in stage, film, and TV productions building and decorating sets, setting up lighting and sound, and making costumes.
Maybe you got your first taste of the theater as a stagehand in a high school production of Oklahoma! Or maybe it’s the sparkle of Hollywood that’s grabbed your attention. If you love being part of a spirited, hardworking team and want to work on projects you can see and touch, this could be the career for you.
While technicians often specialize in particular areas, it takes a lot of flexibility to build a career. The more you can do, from wiring lights to building flats, the more work you’ll find -- especially early on in your career.
Translators read written materials, which can range from poetry to technical manuals, in one language and write them in another.
Translators often describe their work as a labor of love and it’s true that translating a great novel into another language can be almost as satisfying as though you had written it yourself. However, translators also do the necessary work of translating technical manuals, business memos, news stories, and government documents, without which the global economy would probably grind to a halt. Whether you translate poetry or scientific reports, translating requires creative thinking, research, and determination.
Web designers combine art skills with business savvy to create the look and feel, as well as structure, of websites that are both eye-pleasing and user-friendly.
Do you prefer Google or Yahoo? The websites in your “favorites” list are there for a reason -- probably a combination of visual appeal and usability. Creating that perfect combination is what Web designers do for a living. By using type (lettering), images, and other visual devices, Web designers create a digital playground where consumers can find the information they need while enjoying the ride.
Writers develop text for publications, such as books, magazines, websites, and newsletters. They also create material for radio and TV broadcasts, movies, and plays.
Writers work in many places, from magazines to corporations to home offices. They create articles and nonfiction books, newsletters for nonprofits, annual reports for big companies, and scripts for TV and radio shows, just to name a few possibilities.
If you dream of writing a story, poem, or play that will live on long after you do, you may have to do so just for the joy of it -- and find a day job to make ends meet. If you’re also interested in writing nonfiction and develop a specialty in, for example, business, fashion, or sports, you may find that getting paid to write is an easier goal to reach.