Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Traditional Careers versus Niche Careers

When I finished high school, I had no idea how many niche/specialized careers there are out there.  Avoid the temptation to discount career options too quickly without looking into all the potential opportunities a particular career path might have.  Here's a few examples I've run across:

Careers in Computer Programming.  Software isn't all about programming.  There's a bunch of other career opportunities that work hand in hand with 'the nerds' on the computers.  For example, have you ever thought it would be great to be a software tester in a company that makes video games?  That's the QA (Quality Assurance) department, and most companies that do software development seriously (not just gaming companies) hire software testers.   Project Managers are also required in software development.  They manage resources, time, money, and risk on software projects, and they generally get paid pretty well (more than the programmers).  Business Analysts translate what the client wants into requirements documents that the programmers use to build the application from.  BA's need to be familiar with the technology the programmers user, and they also need to be familiar with the client and their business.  Technical Writers compose the 'help' documentation for the users (this is the manual for the game, so to speak).  They translate what the application actually does back into language that the average 'Joe' on the street can understand so 'Joe' will know how to use the application.  And I could go on about DBA's (DataBase Administrators), SEO Engineers (Search Engine Optimization Engineers), Network Admins, etc.

Careers in Geology.  Geology has a lot of specializations I never would have imagined.  Hydro-Geologists specialize in studying water that's locked underground, where it's found, how it fluctuates, how it impacts other resources in the ground (like oil and gas), and much more.  Astro-Geologists study the geology on other planets. There are quite a number of people with this specialty working at NASA on the Mars Rovers and other current projects.  One of the last astronauts on the moon specialized in this field.  Vulcanologists study volcanoes, magma, lava flows, earthquakes, etc.  Archeologists I think could be included in this group as well, but they have a bunch of their own specialties.  We have a geologist where I work now who specializes in coal (I'm not sure if there's a name for that specialty or not) It's really quite amazing when you stop to break down one particular field into specialized areas.

Careers in Policing.  Switching gears a bit, there is actually a pretty good variety of specialties you can find in the police force.  Obviously there working 'the beat', catching speeders and robbers - the typical policing gig that everyone thinks of.  But there's more...  think about CSI.  Many police forces have Tech Crimes Units that specialize in retrieving evidence from computers, cell phones, video cameras, etc.  There are also Canine Units that work with police dogs.  Forensic Pathologists find clues and evidence on deceased people.  Police forces have their own Training Units that are staffed from withing the force itself.  They train new recruits coming onto the force.  There's also the SWAT team (hopefully no explanation required), and even Forensic Accountants who go through finances of individuals and companies looking for evidence.

Be careful not to discount a career because it sounds boring or you think there is no future in it.  A fellow I played basketball with in high school got a degree in forestry (which I thought had no future) and now he helps run a company that harvests trees from the bottom of dammed rivers using robotic submarines!  I never would have guessed.

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