16 awesome STEM jobs of the future

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Over the next decade, science and engineering jobs will grow by 18.7 percent [1] in the United States. High-paid occupations that hardly exist today, like a memory augmentation surgeon, will be widely in demand. So, what innovative careers should tomorrow’s career seekers prepare for? 

We spoke with three futurists who track industry and employment trends. Amy Webb, CEO of Future Today Institute, reports cutting-edge trends. Headhunter George Dutch recruits high-level executives for the tech industry. Dave Perry is the author of “Hiring Greatness.”

They described 16 jobs that kids studying science and tech today could pursue as future professions.

Mixed reality experience designer

Mixed reality experience designer

“Virtual reality won’t be part of the mainstream overnight, but it will be integrated into real-world experiences,” says Amy Webb. Imagine an advanced version of Pokémon Go, in which designers create complex interfaces, where text and images are overlaid on a street scene or other real-world spaces. It’s not like designing an interactive website, she adds, but something new.

  • Skills required: Graphic design and programming and experience with spatially aware displays.
  • Current salary: $102,000
  • Size of augmented reality industry by 2020: $150 billion (Digi-capital, Indeed)
Wearable product developer

Wearable product developer

The era of wearable technology, like Fitbits and iWatches, is just beginning, and Webb expects the industry to swell. A wearable product developer has the ability to design products that are both comfortable and intelligent, performing useful functions like monitoring vital signs or delivering messages.

  • Skills required: A keen understanding of engineering and programming as well as biology and kinesiology, explains George Dutch, who recently hired two VPs for different wearable companies.
  • Current salary: $123,000
  • Size of wearables industry by 2020: $34 billion (Indeed, Forbes)
Micro robotic designer

Micro robotic designer

One day, miniature robots will be used more frequently, including everything from spy drones that are the size of a fly to surgical equipment small enough to swallow. These micro bots may sound unbelievable but they’ll soon change many aspects of our lives, says Webb.

  • Skills required: Creating these tiny wonders requires an understanding of computer science, mechanics and design.
  • Current salary: $81,500
  • Size of micro robotic industry by 2017: $225 billion (Payscale, Insights)
User experience (UX) designer

User experience (UX) designer

The role of a user experience designer changes with each company. Generally, a UX designer is responsible for developing the interaction between a customer and a business or product. The role’s importance is increasing as interactions are better tracked. The job may include designing an app interface or quantifying the joy delivered by a product’s package.

  • Skills required: In addition to design and analytics training, a UX designer should be able to understand human interaction and how to develop something that’s easily usable and widely adopted, explains Dave Perry.
  • Current salary: $95,000
  • Job increase by 2024: 22.1 percent (MoneyCNN)
Security Systems Analyst

Security Systems Analyst

Ever see a headline about a “data breach”? Security systems analysts discover potential site risks from cyber-attacks and vulnerable code to ensure important data isn’t being leaked.

  • Skills required: According to Dave Perry, the job requires the mentality of a detective, including “brute math skills along with natural curiosity.” Coursework in programming and statistics are also helpful.
  • Current salary: $88,890
  • Job increase by 2024: 18 percent (USnews)
Operations research analyst

Operations research analyst

An operations research analyst has a brain big enough to distill massive spreadsheets packed with numbers, variables and qualitative details into actionable lessons. For example, journalism and medicine will require analysts able to find the stories hidden in big data. A clever analyst might help cure a disease or uncover a longtime criminal.

  • Skills required: Math, statistics and computer science. Anyone who can pay attention to small details is going have a leg up.
  • Current salary: $78,000
  • Job increase by 2024: 30 percent (USA Today, Edureka)
Predictive analyst

Predictive analyst

By digging into big data sets, predictive analysts are able to explain what’s about to happen based on past behavior and other relevant variables. Customer service is a big future area for analysts, says headhunter George Dutch. For example, if an airline customer is unhappy about a canceled flight because, will they be satisfied with a $300 voucher or a free in-flight meal?

  • Skills required: An understanding of statistics and sociology, mixed with curiosity and intuition.
  • Current salary: $112,000
  • Size of predictive analytics market by 2020: $9.2 billion (Glassdoor)
Civil engineer

Civil engineer

Have you ever driven over a bridge or passed through a tunnel and wondered, “who made sure this was built properly?” A civil engineer did. With the infrastructure of the United States in need of repair and replacement, civil engineers are going to be in demand for years to come.

  • Skills required: As the profession has grown into the digital age, civil engineers need to understand physics, architecture, topography, construction and digital modeling to oversee big projects like building roads, bridges and dams, as well as energy and water systems.
  • Current salary: $82,220 
  • Job Increase by 2024: 8 percent (BLS)
Environmental engineer

Environmental engineer

Construction isn’t often considered environmentally friendly. An environmental engineer’s responsibility is to make sure the negative impact of new developments on nature is minimized and to ensure structures are in tune with their surroundings. Growing concerns about water use and quality will contribute to the surge of opportunities.

  • Skills required: Since their work deals with wellbeing and human health, environmental engineers must understand chemistry, biology and earth science, in addition to engineering.
  • Current salary: $84,560
  • Job Increase by 2024: 12 percent (BLS)
Horticultural engineer

Horticultural engineer

With the world climate in flux and rapid population growth, our food system needs to be resilient and adaptable. Horticultural engineers utilize plant science and computer data analysis to create systems that optimize growth.

Skills required: These professionals have an understanding of architecture and engineering in addition to food science and data analysis, says Dutch [15].

  • Current salary: $67,470
  • Job Increase by 2024: 5 percent (BLS)
Video game engineer

Video game engineer

Video games are one of the biggest forms of entertainment on the planet, with the value of the market expected to grow from $75 billion to $100 billion in the next five to 10 years. Designing and programming these intricate worlds requires understanding more than the best way decapitate a bug-eyed alien.

  • Skills required: Coding and graphic design are just the basics. Storytelling and management experience are necessary for this type of engineer to climb through the ranks. VP programmers must coordinate the work of separate teams into one finished project, explains Dutch.
  • Current salary: $61,000
  • Job increase by 2018: 11.5 percent [17-19]


A mobile, tablet or web application can be as simple as a line of poetry or as production-packed as a Hollywood blockbuster. The programmer is the person who sits behind the screen and ensures everything on a site, app or interface looks and reacts as it should.

  • Skills required: Knowing how to program a great destination requires more than HTML. Electrical engineering, math, statistics and design theory are all part of a great programmer’s studies, explains Dutch.
  • Current salary: $64,970
  • Job Increase by 2024: 27 percent (BLS, US News)


With the miniaturizing of many machines, mechanics will be needed to fix them and replace worn-out parts. Even advanced lasers used in surgery have parts that eventually break down, notes Dutch.

  • Skills required: Being a good mechanic requires understanding the circuitry and engineering that goes into building the tool as well as natural curiosity and troubleshooting skills.
  • Current salary: $52,000
  • Size of micro-robotic industry by 2017: $225 billion (PR Newswire, Glassdoor)
Human resources instructional design coordinator

Human resources instructional design coordinator

A new generation of employees raised on video games responds better to strategy and scoring than traditional classroom instruction. Cutting-edge companies have human resource programmers who can turn dry “worker instruction” modules into click-friendly experiences that help people become better at their jobs. “The traditional methods of training and organization aren’t working so a lot of people are switching to game-based learning,” explains Dutch.

  • Skills required: This new take on HR combines programming with an understanding of education and a bit of labor relations.
  • Current salary: $81,000
  • Job Increase by 2022: 13 percent (eLearningIndustry)
Digital marketing specialist

Digital marketing specialist

As more people spend a portion of their day on social networks and search engines, larger amounts advertising dollars are shifting online. A good marketing manager uses a company’s digital advertising budget plus more traditional ad and storytelling skills to bring attention to their products.

Brain Surgeon Focused on Memory Augmentation

Brain Surgeon Focused on Memory Augmentation

With North America’s population getting older, a larger number of people will be affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Biomedical engineers and neuroscientists have been testing whether surgical intervention and electronic implants can stave off and even reverse the memory loss that can come with aging. The field has the potential to be huge, once some forward-thinking treatments are accepted into the mainstream, says Dutch.

  • Skills required: Training in medicine, biology, surgery and neurology. That’s a lot to remember, but the salary just may be worth it.
  • Current salary: $589,500
  • Job Increase by 2024: 14 percent (Work Chron, BLS Physicians and Surgeons)

Ready to start training for a career of tomorrow?

There’s even better news. Silicon Valley and New York City will continue to grow as technology hubs, says Dutch. But smaller cities not necessarily known as tech centers will soon join the list, including Cincinnati, Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Learn how Verizon is on a mission to inspire the next generation and help more kids see the world of possibilities waiting for them.  Share a message of inspiration, or donate to kids in need at weneedmore.com.

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