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5 creative jobs in STEM you never knew existed

Posted March 06, 2019

What kind of job do you imagine when you think of a career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (also known as the STEM subjects)? Do you see yourself working in a lab and wearing a white coat? Or perhaps a high-vis jacket and hard hat, working on a construction site?

The chances are that the type of future job you end up doing doesn’t exist yet… One estimate is that 85% of jobs in 2030 haven’t even been invented![1] But if you scratch beneath the surface of what you already know about jobs in STEM – looking beyond popular roles like doctor, civil engineer and computer scientist – you’ll discover there’s a huge range of exciting roles in STEM that are lesser well known, but just as rewarding.

Below we’ve profiled five creative jobs in STEM you’ve probably never even heard of before. They demonstrate how creative a career in STEM can be, and also give you an idea of the huge scale of jobs and opportunities available to those who pursue STEM subjects to a higher level.


Ethical hacker

If you love cracking puzzles or devising new ways to do things, consider a career as an ethical hacker. It’s a job that requires you to think creatively when it comes to problem solving and to look constantly for ways of challenging the status quo.

Don’t be put off by the word ‘hacker’ in the job title either; as an ethical hacker (also known as a ‘white hat hacker’) you’ll be trying to break into an organisation’s IT systems and compromise their top secret information… But you won’t get locked up for your actions! Like many traditional jobs in IT, a career as an ethical hacker draws on a range of technology skills – you’ll need to know how networks and IT systems are secured first, in order to crack them! – and you can earn a very good salary for your expertise and creativity.

Plus it’s a job that’s only going to become more necessary in the future. We’re more reliant than ever on IT equipment for managing all areas of our lives – not just computers, mobiles or tablets, but fridges, washing machines, cars and so on. This creates more opportunities for ‘black hat hackers’ (criminals) to compromise a company or individual’s IT systems and networks.

Did you know? If you’re wondering where the terms ‘black hat hacker’ and ‘white hat hacker’ come from, they hark back to old Western films, when the ‘baddie’ would wear a black hat, and the ‘goodie’ would wear a white hat.

Top tip: Keen to practise your ethical hacking skills? Take a look at the Cyber Security Challenge UK website. They’ve got tips for getting started, but also run competitions and bootcamps for students who want to develop their cyber security skills.

Read about some of the other exciting roles available in computer science in our Jobs in STEM hub.


Scientific illustrator

Did you know that a job exists which combines scientific rigour and artistic expression? Scientific illustrators bring scientific theories and abstract concepts to life through art – digitally or through traditional means, like painting and drawing – so it’s an ideal career for anyone who enjoys both the traditional disciplines of science and fine art.

As a scientific illustrator, your work is likely to feature in research papers in scientific journals to bring visual appeal to what can often be quite complicated and unknown subjects. Many scientific illustrators work as freelancers and team up with scientists in specialist fields to bring their concepts and, sometimes, sketches to life.

It’s a job that draws on artistic skills, like attention to detail, creative representation and patience. But you’ll also be using the skills developed from studying science (like an interest in how things work and precision) in order to depict the scientific subject matter accurately. Top tip: This article from the journal Nature gives more insight into the role of a scientific illustrator, and includes some examples from scientific illustrators working today.

Read more about STEM roles in other creative industries, like advertising and public relations, in our Jobs in STEM hub.


Green chemist

If you’re interested in how you can use science to develop a more sustainable future, a career in green chemistry could be calling… Green chemistry is an area of chemistry that’s growing fast, as we increasingly realise the need to reduce waste and eliminate harmful substances that damage the environment.

For a career in this sector you’ll need a good grounding in the principles of chemistry, first and foremost – and the skills associated with this, such as problem solving. But you’ll likely be drawing on learnings from biology too, as you look outside the traditional world of chemistry for solutions to sustainable problems, like packaging waste.

It’s a role that requires innovative thinking and collaborative working – you could be working in research teams, across companies or even country borders! – to develop new or alternative sustainable products. Top tip: Find out more about green chemistry through the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. Researchers from here have also created a film explaining the role of green chemistry in developing a more sustainable world.

Read more about STEM roles in research and development in our Jobs in STEM hub.


Architectural engineer

If you thought you had to choose between a creative career designing buildings and one that draws on structural physics and the construction process, then think again… A career as an architectural engineer draws on the skillsets of an architect and an engineer, and combines them in one diverse and hugely exciting role.

If you pursue architectural engineering at university, you’ll study a mixture of architecture and engineering modules, and develop an understanding of project management and finance behind the design and construction of buildings too. As a result, you’ll leave with a multi-disciplinary range of skills, and probably a greater appreciation of the valuable roles played by both engineers and architects in creating outstanding buildings.

Did you know? Architectural engineering isn’t actually a new discipline; Leeds University was the first to offer a degree programme in architectural engineering, around 50 years ago! [1]

Top tip: When considering an architectural engineering course, make sure that it gives you not just a degree, but also accreditation with the relevant bodies – such as the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers – to help you on your way to achieving Chartered Engineering status.

Read our interview with Roma Agrawal MBE, who worked on the design of the iconic Shard building in London, or take a look at some of the other exciting STEM jobs in architecture on our Jobs in STEM hub.


Biotechnologist

Biotechnology is a booming industry in the UK, as scientists increasingly turn to the basic building blocks of life – think cells, tissues and organisms – to solve some of the biggest problems facing society today – such as cancer, food poverty and climate change.

A career as a biotechnologist will appeal to you if you enjoy investigating problems, and thinking of new and innovative ways of solving them. You’ll need the discipline and rigour that pursuing STEM subjects to a higher level gives you, but this role will also resonate with you if you enjoy ‘thinking outside the box’ or want to improve the world for future generations.

Biotechnologist is a broad job title that covers a range of disciplines: you could be working in the environmental sector, for instance, designing biodegradable materials; or in the medical profession, identifying inherited diseases; or in biofuels, developing alternative technologies… or any number of other industries! There are also a wide range of employers, so the future job prospects for a career in biotechnology are very promising. Top tip: Find out more about the qualifications required as a biotechnologist or the study paths you could follow on the Prospects website.

Read more about some of the other varied roles you can pursue from studying STEM subjects in our Jobs in STEM hub.

[1] Leeds courses Architectural Engineering Meng Beng

[2] A divided vision PDF by Dell Technologies 

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