Connect AP to Majors and Careers
Explore the relationships between AP courses, majors, and careers based on your choice.
AP Course: AP Physics C: Mechanics
Skills You'll Learn
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Related Majors and Careers
Aerospace engineering majors learn how to use math and science to design and develop aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. They also study such topics as aerodynamics, orbits, launch, flight controls, and engines.
For thousands of years, people enviously watched birds coast through the skies and wondered how they did it. But in the last one hundred years, flying on this earth has become as unremarkable as walking, and space travel is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
As an aerospace engineering major, you’ll learn the basics that helped the Wright brothers and others conquer the age-old problem of flight. You’ll learn how to apply these ideas to developing new types of air- and spacecraft that are better, safer, and stronger. You’ll find out how space flight works and dream up new ways of exploring galaxies unknown.
As an agricultural engineering major, you’ll learn how to use science to improve the production, processing, storage, and distribution of food, timber, fiber, and renewable energy sources while protecting the environment.
Could the earth run out of earth? It doesn’t seem possible, but it takes thousands of years for soil to develop. This means that soil is practically a nonrenewable resource. Meanwhile, soil is being worn out by farming, polluted by chemicals, and eroded by wind and water.
If this concerns you, you’re not alone. Some agricultural engineers come up with farming practices that use soil more efficiently. Others help farmers by designing power systems, tools, and storage space. Still others look for ways to ensure food safety during processing. Thanks to agricultural engineering, farmers are getting better at producing safe food more efficiently while protecting the environment and using natural resources wisely.
Students of architecture prepare to become professional architects. Classes cover such topics as architectural theory, design, and history; drafting; and project and site planning.
While architecture is grounded in science, its heart is in the arts. Well-designed buildings not only serve the people who use them. They are also works of art that help define the town or city in which they stand.
As an architecture major, you'll learn how to work with others to imagine buildings, from straw-bale houses to the tallest skyscrapers. And with the technical know-how you pick up in such classes as architectural engineering and construction materials, you'll know just what needs to be done to bring them to life.
Astronomy students study space, the history and future of the universe, and the objects within, such as planets, stars, and galaxies. Subjects of study include the evolution of stars, how the stars and planets move through space, chemistry, and advanced math.
When you look up at the night sky, what do you see? There are patterns of stars, planets, the moon, and some sights that you may not be able to explain. Astronomy is the study of those objects in space — how stars, planets, and galaxies form and behave — and the universe itself.
If you want to understand the mysteries of the night sky, this could be the major for you.
Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology
Meteorology students study the atmosphere (the gases that surround the earth), focusing on the weather and how to forecast it. Areas of study include the climate, the physics of the atmosphere, and chemistry.
You’ve got your bathing suit on and your sun block packed, but by the time you get to the beach, it’s pouring rain. What happened to that sunny day you expected? Why is the weather so changeable, so uncertain?
Meteorology is the field of science that seeks to understand and predict short-term weather as well as long-term climate processes.
Biomedical engineering majors learn how to use engineering to solve health and medical problems.
People often compare the human body to a machine, made up of systems that work together to keep itself running. Like machines, though, pieces of the body can break down. This is where the exciting world of biomedical engineering comes in.
As a biomedical engineering major, you’ll build a foundation for a future that could take many directions. You might look for the chemical signals in the body that warn of cancer. You might invent a new and improved type of prosthetic (artificial) hand. You might refine the robots that doctors are just beginning to use in some surgery.
Chemical engineering majors learn how to put chemicals to work. Classes cover such topics as improving the way factories use chemicals to make products and solving problems such as rust and pollution.
Suppose you have this great recipe for chocolate ice cream. You like to make it at home for your family and friends. You make it in a little one-gallon machine that goes into your freezer. But what if you sell your recipe to a big food company? Now they have to be able to make thousands of gallons a day. Each gallon of ice cream needs to taste exactly the same and look exactly the same.
What kind of equipment could they use? How would the recipe change? How can the factory make the ice cream at low cost? These are all questions for the chemical engineer.
Chemistry majors use math, theory, and experimentation to study matter (physical substance). They look at what it’s made of and how it behaves, down to the atomic level.
Lightning crackles in the sky as the camera pans over a dark castle. Down in the laboratory, a mad scientist stands among his many vials, test tubes, and beakers, mixing liquids to produce a bubbling, smoking potion.
The popular B movie villain, haphazardly mixing chemicals for evil purposes, is a far cry from the professional chemist. In reality, chemists work in controlled environments, using the scientific method to make valuable contributions in a range of fields, including medicine, biology, psychology, and geology. As a chemistry major, you’ll explore many different topics, from the chemical basis for life to the environmental problems caused by chemicals.
Civil engineering majors learn how to use math and science to design big construction projects. Topics covered include the calculation of how much weight a structure will hold and the environmental issues that surround construction.
The first Homo sapiens who put a bunch of sticks together to get a roof over their heads were, in a way, civil engineers. Today’s civil engineers have more responsibility than ever. They build skyscrapers that reach thousands of feet in the air. They hang suspension bridges that support tons of cars and trucks each day. They create water systems that support millions of city dwellers. If you study civil engineering, you’ll learn what you need to know to work on the projects that make modern life possible.
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.
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.
Geology students look at the earth and the forces acting upon it, including the solids, liquids, and gasses that make it up. Study includes such topics as historical geology, rock and soil chemistry, and the use of minerals in industry.
If you study geology, you’ll learn about the Earth's treasures, such as fossils and gems, as well as its dangers, such as volcanoes and earthquakes.
Industrial engineering majors learn how to improve the way factories, hospitals, and other organizations run. They learn to take all factors into account -- from equipment and materials to people.
How many copies of the first Harry Potter book should the corner bookstore keep on its shelf? How many people need to work the night shift at a cupcake factory in order to supply the local chain of grocery stores? Will technology stocks rise or fall over the next three months?
As an industrial engineering major, you’ll draw on math, science, business, and psychology to answer questions like these. You’ll learn how to create factory schedules, determine delivery routes, set up customer service systems, and much more.
As a materials engineering major, you’ll use math and science to study ceramics, metals, polymers (such as glass, rubber, and plastic), and other materials. You’ll learn how to invent and manufacture new materials.
In 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the top of
High-tech gear like that wouldn’t be possible without modern materials. Everything is made out of something, whether cotton, titanium, or GORE-TEX -- materials engineering majors study that something.
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.
As a mechanical engineering major, you’ll learn the science behind machines and the energy that makes them work. You’ll also apply what you learn by creating your own machines.
Machines may not have taken over the world as imagined in some science fiction, but they are certainly a big part of life today.
Students of mechanical engineering learn about the machines that bring convenience and excitement to our lives. They study the physics that make roller coasters loop and planes fly. They learn about the properties of materials that can withstand the heat of the sun and the cold of outer space. And they discover the secrets behind control systems such as the cruise control in the family car.
Nuclear engineering majors study radioactive materials and radiation and learn how to use them in areas such as power, nuclear medicine, and industry.
It wasn’t long ago that scientists first began to split the atom, releasing nuclear energy in a process called fission. Now nuclear energy is used to supply electricity to homes all over the world and may someday be used to power rockets twice as fast as a space shuttle. And in medicine, radiation plays a big role, making possible everything from x-rays to treatments that destroy cancer cells.
Of course, nuclear energy also creates problems, such as the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. As a nuclear engineering major, your studies will go beyond the basics of fission and the benefits of nuclear energy to include its challenges.
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.
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.
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.
Agricultural and Food Scientists
Agricultural scientists study farm crops and animals to improve their quality and yield. Food scientists research foods and develop new ways to preserve and package them.
In the old days, you sprinkled a lot of salt on your meat, hung it in your attic, and hoped for the best.
Today, thanks to agricultural and food scientists, we find an incredible range of choices on supermarket shelves. Even during the coldest months, we enjoy fruits and vegetables kept fresh by food preservation techniques, such as special plastic bags. And when we eat ice cream, we know exactly how much fat we’re digesting.
Agricultural engineers use science and math to meet agricultural challenges. They help farms grow better and more food, look for ways to conserve soil and water, and design tools and equipment.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, it took four farmers to grow enough food for ten people. By the end of the century, one farmer could feed one hundred.
Agricultural engineers have contributed to this dramatic improvement. They’ve invented machinery, improved production systems, and found ways to grow healthier and stronger plants.
Air Traffic Controllers
Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic, making sure that planes stay a safe distance apart during takeoff, in the air, and during landing.
While pilots might have the most glamorous job in the sky, it’s certainly not the only important one. Air traffic controllers are the men and women who sit above the tarmac in the control tower, managing traffic that no simple stoplight can handle.
They’re responsible for keeping order on busy runways and preventing crashes in the air. Some controllers direct traffic at the airport, while others direct traffic between airports.
Aircraft and Avionics Technicians
Aircraft and avionics technicians inspect and repair airplanes and helicopters.
The pilot is not the only person who keeps you safe during a flight. Aircraft and avionics technicians maintain and repair everything from radar to landing gear.
Avionics technicians specialize in navigation, radio, radar systems, and other electronic and computer instruments and controls. Aircraft technicians check for wear and tear, using x-ray or magnetic equipment to look for cracks and punctures invisible to the human eye.
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.
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.
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.
Biological scientists study living organisms like animals, plants, and microbes. They also examine their relationships to the environment and other living things.
We have always been interested in the living world around us. To survive, we had to understand which animals and plants were dangerous to us and which were good to eat.
Today’s biologists still study living organisms, but they do so using the modern methods of science. These scientists of life look not only at plants and animals but also at microbes, microscopic organisms invisible to the naked eye. Biologists work in such fields as biochemistry, aquatic biology, botany, microbiology, zoology, and ecology.
Biomedical engineers design and develop devices and systems -- from artificial organs to medical equipment -- that solve health problems.
In 2001, a doctor in the U.S. performed gall bladder surgery on a woman in France. Strange, but true. The surgeon used a remote to control a robotic arm that performed the actual work on the patient.
The surgical robotic arm is an exciting biomedical engineering achievement. But it’s far from the only one. Biomedical engineers work to make prostheses (artificial body parts) better, diagnostic procedures more accurate, and drugs easier to take. Thanks to biomedical engineers, becoming healthy and staying that way is getting easier every day.
Chemical engineers use chemistry to bridge the gap between scientific invention and manufactured goods.
Chemical engineers know that there’s more to creating a great product than coming up with a new idea. They figure out how to turn new ideas into products that can be mass-produced.
Whether they’re making perfume with a fragrance that lasts or cookies that taste homemade or tape that sticks in the rain, chemical engineers are using their understanding of chemicals and chemical reactions.
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.
Civil engineers design, plan, and run large building projects, such as bridges, buildings, roads, dams, and water-supply systems.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing. And it does make people wonder: How did the Egyptians, working over forty-five hundred years ago, ever manage to build it? With a base that spreads over 13.1 acres and a height of 481 feet, it would be quite a project even today. Yet the Egyptians engineered ways to meet the huge challenges they faced. And they did it all without power tools, computers, trucks, or even pulleys.
Today’s civil engineers have it a lot easier, but their projects are no less fascinating. They help construct the wonders of the modern world.
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.
Conservation scientists manage natural resources, such as rangeland and water. They develop programs that both make resources productive and protect them.
How do you manage a ranch so that it supports the most cattle while maintaining the land so wildlife can live there? Solving this type of issue is the job of a range manager. A soil conservationist, on the other hand, might figure out how to restore farmland where the soil has been worn away. A water conservationist may look at how to assure a clean water supply for a growing town.
All of these scientists make complex decisions to come up with plans that balance economic goals with environmental impact -- and meet government regulations.
Conservators care for and repair art objects and artifacts.
Conservators strive to protect precious objects -- everything from medieval tapestries, Chinese porcelain, and Mexican murals to classic comic books -- and to restore them to their former glory.
Conservators know a lot about art history and chemistry. They also work with a wide range of professionals, including archaeologists, art dealers, interior designers, architectural preservationists, and even nuclear physicists.
Construction and Building Inspectors
Construction and building inspectors examine new and old structures to make sure that they are built soundly and follow building codes and other laws.
As a construction or building inspector, you’ll carry a lot of responsibility. You will inspect the construction sites of homes, office buildings, bridges, and other structures to decide if the builders are following the building code and if the structure is safe. Specialists called home inspectors look closely at homes that people hope to buy. Their verdict on a home’s foundation, electrical system, or overall safety can make or break a sale.
You have to know a lot about construction materials and methods, electrical and mechanical systems, and building code to work as an inspector. And you won’t learn everything at school; you’ll need several years’ experience in construction before you begin this career.
Construction managers plan and coordinate construction projects, including residential, commercial, and civil (or public works) building.
Large construction projects may take years or even decades to complete -- think of a high-rise office building or a subway system. On projects this complicated, teams of construction managers handle different steps. One team might be responsible for estimating costs. Another team might schedule the activities of the various subcontractors. And yet another team might work on-site supervising the construction work in progress.
On smaller projects, one team may tackle several, or even all, of these functions. Regardless of the size of a job, it takes a group of dedicated construction managers to keep the project running on schedule and within budget.
Dentists prevent, diagnose, and treat health problems of the mouth. Most dentists are general practitioners, but some specialize in areas such as orthodontics (straightening teeth with braces) and endodontics (providing root canal treatment).
Dentists search for the culprits behind pain and disease. They delve into countless mouths to remove tooth decay, fill cavities, and repair fractured teeth. They also perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones. And among their less serious but more popular tasks is the whitening and reshaping of teeth to enhance their patients' smiles.
Like other health care professionals, dentists also work to prevent disease. They inspire their patients to do so as well, encouraging healthy diets and good oral hygiene.
Drafters create technical drawings and plans that are used in construction, architecture, and engineering. Their drawings show details and dimensions, explain procedures, and list materials.
You’ve probably heard of Leonardo da Vinci as the artist who painted the Mona Lisa. But did you know that he was also a highly skilled draftsman? An engineer, scientist, and architect, da Vinci produced many more drafts of his scientific ideas than actual paintings. His notebooks contain designs for mechanical weapons, diving suits, seacraft, and a flying machine.
Today’s drafters have it a lot easier than da Vinci did in the fifteenth century. Computers allow drafters to change their drawings, make copies, and fill in details in seconds. They can make 3-D models and preview the whole construction process. That’s a big help when you’re making plans for everything from bridges and skyscrapers to toys and toasters.
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 and Science Managers
Engineering managers oversee engineers, scientists, and technicians who design and develop machinery, products, and systems. Science managers direct the research and development projects of life and physical scientists.
Whether checking the work done by an engineer or directing a team of medical scientists on a biomedical project, engineering and science managers work on two levels at once.
Understanding complex science and math concepts is only the beginning. They also need to know how to translate those concepts to customers. And they use management skills to help the engineers and scientists they work with meet deadlines and complete projects.
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.
Environmental engineers use math and science to address environmental challenges such as hazardous waste and pollution. They also study the impact on the environment of proposed construction projects.
Back in 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt stressed the importance of treating our natural resources well. He said that we must pass them on to the next generation improved -- not impaired.
Environmental engineers work toward that goal. They help cities and construction companies find ways to build that don’t damage the environment. They help to clean up environmental problems from the past. They work with factories so they pollute less. Environmental engineers do their part to make sure that the earth will be in good condition for those who live here tomorrow.
Environmental scientists use ideas from the life and physical sciences to protect natural resources, such as forests and water.
Environmental scientists use their expertise to protect natural resources. If you're interested in chemistry, you might examine how certain chemicals affect plants, animals, and people. If you're interested in ecology, you might research the way rainfall, temperature, pollutants, and human activity affect an area.
As our population grows, we will need environmental scientists to preserve water, give advice on land-use and building projects, study and design sites for waste disposal, control pollution, and repair damaged natural areas. Whatever your focus, you'll work to solve some of the most serious problems facing the world today.
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.
Forensic scientists, sometimes called crime laboratory analysts, provide scientific information and expert opinions to judges, juries, and lawyers.
Forensic science is more complex than TV might lead you to believe. In 1991, a postal worker in
Years later, other forensic scientists conducted DNA testing of saliva found on the victim's clothing. The testing revealed that the postal worker was innocent and identified the true murderer. Forensic science helped condemn an innocent man -- and then it redeemed him. It is a field constantly growing and changing.
General practitioners, also known as family doctors, are often a patient's main doctor. They perform yearly checkups, treat a variety of conditions, and refer patients to specialists.
Have you ever wondered how general practitioners (GPs) know so much? How they are able to recognize health problems as different as strep throat, pulled muscles, allergic reactions, ulcers, and asthma -- sometimes all before lunch?
GPs are trained to both see the big picture and zoom in on the problem’s cause. And if they can’t fix the problem, it’s their job to refer the patient to a specialist who can.
Surveyors use measurements to determine land, air, and water boundaries. Surveying technicians help them by making measurements out in the field. Cartographers make maps using physical, social, and historical information. Photogrammetrists use aerial photos to fill in details on maps.
How high is Mount Everest? To find out, you need only turn to the nearest encyclopedia or computer. But the answer wasn’t always so easy to come by. It wasn’t until 1852, during the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, that the mountain was recognized as the world’s highest peak. As you can guess from the survey’s name, math played a key role in the work of the surveyors.
Geographic specialists (including surveyors, cartographers, surveying technicians, and photogrammetrists) use math as well as computers, aerial photography, and even satellites to measure and map the globe. They also help construction teams and property owners find the best places to build.
Geoscientists study the earth's structure and composition. They study its history and evolution, rocks, internal structure and core, oceans, and resources like gas and oil.
Rarely do we consider the earth as something active -- we usually think of it as a solid piece of rock. But in fact, it’s a dynamic system with a lot going on. That’s easy to see when there’s an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. Geoscientists study our constantly changing planet. They pay special attention to the earth’s physics and the chemical relationship between the core, crust, and atmosphere.
Geoscientists specialize in specific areas. Oceanographers, for instance, study the geology, biology, and chemistry of the oceans. Hydrologists study the way water circulates both on the earth’s surface and underground. Seismologists study earthquakes and earthquake faults.
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.
Industrial engineers consider factors such as location, inventory, and the needs of workers to create systems that help businesses and other organizations run better.
Suppose you had a great idea for a new product. Even better, suppose a lot of people wanted to buy it. First, congratulations! Second, how are you going to make it? How many workers will you need? How many items can they produce? What kind of system will help them make more? What kinds of parts will they need to make it? How much should you keep on hand?
An industrial engineer can help you answer these questions. Or, if answering questions like these sounds like an interesting challenge, you could become one.
Industrial Production Managers
The industrial production manager is in charge of planning, budgeting, and monitoring a plant's production schedule.
Though much of today’s manufacturing is now done by factories overseas, there are still a number of manufacturing plants in the United States. Many of these factories involve complicated systems of machinery, computers, and workers.
The industrial production manager is the person in charge of day-to-day operations, making sure it all works together as quickly and cheaply as possible, while still turning out a quality product.
Interior designers design and furnish interiors of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings.
Good interior designers are able to create indoor spaces that not only look good but also work well. That is, their designs suit the intended purpose of the room -- whether it’s an office, a reception area, a child’s playroom, or a beauty salon. Each of these spaces has its own purpose, from raising workers’ productivity to providing a safe place for children to play, and therefore, its own design requirements.
Landscape architects design and create outdoor spaces using plants, trees, structures, and other natural and human-made elements.
Landscape architects create outdoor areas that beautify and accent the buildings they surround. But they do more than design around buildings. They also create large open spaces, such as parks and golf courses, and help conserve and restore natural resources, such as forests.
Landscape architects make these outdoor spaces user-friendly, sustainable, and pleasing to the senses. To do so, they draw on their knowledge of design, construction, ecology, botany, horticulture (the study and practice of growing plants), and soil science.
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.
Materials engineers find ways to use and improve existing materials and then come up with new ones. They work with metals, ceramics and glass, plastics, and other natural and synthetic materials.
Did you ever wonder why rubber bands stretch and string doesn’t? Which would help your golf game more, a club with a graphite shaft or one of steel? What makes something waterproof? Would you build a bridge in a cold climate out of the same material as you would in a hot place?
These are the kinds of questions that materials engineers answer. They find -- or make -- the right materials for the job.
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.
Mining and Geological Engineers
Mining and geological engineers help find deposits of coal, metals, and minerals. They also design mines and mining equipment for bringing these materials to the earth. And they solve safety and environmental problems related to mining.
A lot has changed since the nineteenth century when the forty-niners panned for gold in California. Mining and geological engineers now use satellite photography and variations in the earth’s magnetic field to find new deposits of minerals. They use machines that can remove 10.8 metric tons of coal per minute.
But it’s not just about the tools. Today’s mining pros are also finding ways to mine that are safer for both mine workers and the environment.
Nuclear engineers find ways to use nuclear energy (produced when atoms split or, potentially, when they fuse) and radiation.
No longer the stuff of science fiction, nuclear power provides electricity for much of the world, and scientists are even working on nuclear-powered rockets. What’s more, radiation has many medical uses. It allows us to treat cancer and to see inside the human body without surgery.
Nuclear engineers still face many challenges, however. What should we do with the radioactive waste created by nuclear reactors? How can we prevent accidents at nuclear reactors? If you become a nuclear engineer, you can join in the search for solutions.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Nuclear medicine technologists give patients radiopharmaceuticals and then make images of the drugs as they collect in the inner organs. Physicians use these images to diagnose illness.
Radiation is a fascinating form of energy. Despite its dangers, it is a powerful part of today’s medical efforts. It can reveal tiny parts of the body, such as blood vessels in the kidney or liver, without surgery.
Nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) use drugs that give off radiation and complex equipment to make images of internal organs. Doctors then look at the images to find out what’s wrong with their patients. The work of NMTs is precise and exacting because lives depend on it.
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
Occupational health and safety specialists promote better health and safety in work environments and prevent harm to workers and the general public. They also enforce air quality and environmental regulations.
As an occupational health and safety specialist, your job will be to make sure that working conditions are as safe as possible. You may inspect and enforce safety standards on assembly lines or protect workers against biohazardous waste in hospitals. You may inspect safety standards at nuclear power plants or within public schools.
The job may also require studying, redesigning, and updating working environments. And if an accident occurs, occupational health and safety specialists help investigate possible causes and recommend corrective action.
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.
Petroleum engineers search for oil and gas. They design ways to remove as much as possible from the earth and to turn it into fuel we can use.
The United States gets about 63 percent of its energy from oil and natural gas. That means that there’s a constant race to find new sources of petroleum and natural gas, get them out of the earth, and process them.
Today’s petroleum engineers are using the latest high-tech equipment to do just that. They keep homes heated, cars running, and stoves burning.
Pharmacists prepare and distribute medications prescribed by doctors and other health practitioners. They advise patients on the drugs they take and make sure that they avoid dangerous drug interactions.
When you imagine pharmacists at work, do you see them counting out pills and filling bottles? That’s actually only a small part of a pharmacist’s job.
These professionals play a key role in the treatment of disease. They advise both doctors and patients about the dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. In fact, pharmacists don’t only work at the corner drugstore. You’ll also find them researching new medications for drug companies or monitoring drug therapy at hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health institutions.
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.
Sales engineers use their background in engineering to sell complex products and services. They also help customers choose, customize, and, troubleshoot products.
Suppose you own a toy factory. You have many decisions to make: Which electronic parts will give your toys that added zing? Should you use polystyrene or polyethylene to package them? And just how much RAM do your managers need in their computers?
Don’t worry -- you’ll get plenty of help from sales engineers who, in their efforts to sell products, will advise you on the details of each purchase decision.
Science technicians focus on the practical matters of scientific experimentation and research. They maintain equipment and instruments, record data, and help scientists calculate results and draw conclusions.
When you think of science, do you imagine a complex chemistry experiment complete with test tubes, beakers, and flasks? Or maybe you see a large radio telescope, scanning the sky for signs of alien intelligence.
Science technicians maintain complicated instruments like these and make sure that experiments run smoothly.
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.
Surgeons are doctors who treat and correct injuries, diseases, and deformities by operating on patients.
When our brain works properly, when our heart pumps normally, and when our bones and muscles move with ease, we are barely aware of just how remarkable a machine the body is. But when something goes wrong and that machine breaks down, the mechanic you need is often a surgeon. Surgeons mend bone and tissue and repair major organs damaged by disease and injury.
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.
Urban and Regional Planners
Urban and regional planners help communities decide on the best use of land. They find places to build homes and businesses, deal with transportation issues, and study the environmental effects of possible projects.
It’s a hot day, and you wish your town would hurry up and build that pool everyone keeps talking about. But where should it be built? What land is available? How will people get there? How would building it affect the local wildlife? What do you say to neighbors who worry about noise and traffic? As an urban or regional planner, it would be your job to help the town answer all of these questions -- and many more.
As the nation’s population grows, so do our cities and suburbs. Planners play a key role in managing that growth. They help keep communities safe, livable places and work to improve them.
Veterinarians prevent, diagnose, and treat illness in small animals (such as cats and dogs), large animals (such as horses and cows), or both. They may also research diseases and their cures.
If you’ve ever pulled a thorn from a dog’s paw, you know the satisfaction that comes from making an animal feel better. But if you’ve ever given a cat a pill, you also know that it’s not easy to tell an animal what’s best for it.
As a veterinary student, you’ll learn about more than the health problems of animals. You'll also learn how to diagnose patients who can’t explain their own symptoms.
You may be surprised to learn that people skills are a must for veterinarians. That's because for every animal a vet treats, there's a human standing by. In fact, one of the hardest things vets have to do is tell someone it’s time to let go of a sick pet.