Guest post by Simplr
A career in STEM offers great opportunities in many different fields, but also an endless choice of paths that a student can take.
Today we’d like to look at some specific and unique areas in STEM that are growing rapidly in addition to facing a severe shortage in skills and talent. We will only be looking at industries that are here to stay and are broad enough to employ millions of today’s students in the near future.
While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) already includes thousands of professions that are much-needed today and will certainly be needed in the future, today we will only focus on a few unique industries today that are still in their infancy stages yet are predicted to become some of the largest.
The industries we’d like to discuss are Blockchain technology, AI (Artificial Intelligence) / ML (Machine Learning), and Robotics. Experts in these fields are currently able to “name their own salary” due supply and demand from the corporate world as well as government contract funding, which is exactly what the computer programing and development world looked like in the 90’s and this industry is still growing and increasing in strength to this day.
Students and teachers: Simplr is currently offering a $5,000 scholarship for higher education in these particular STEM fields. You can take a look and apply here. The 2018 Simplr Artificial Intelligence and Technology Scholarship is a merit-based award that’s available for undergraduate or graduate students in Computer Science (CS), Information Technology (IT), Mathematics or law school programs.
1) Blockchain Technology
If you have ever heard of, or explored cryptocurrencies, chances are that you have also already heard about blockchain technology. This is the tech that was developed at the same time as Bitcoin, and the two have been intertwined ever since. For a thorough introduction to blockchain, we’d recommend a look at the Wikipedia entry.
Blockchain has much more potential than to serve as the backbone of cryptocurrencies however, and its constant development on many fronts has led to breakthroughs in a diverse range of industries. Its full potential has yet to be reached but according to what we have seen so far it might be able to change every aspect of modern businesses and commerce.
Blockchain’s true potential lies in its transparency as well as its capability to hold data and prevent its manipulation unlike traditional databases. Blockchain is the perfect technology for preventing smuggling, identity theft, data manipulation and modern slavery, among many others.
Despite the fact that cryptocurrencies are still frowned upon by many countries and governments, most recognize the potential of blockchain. Even the governments and individuals that were anti-crypto are now open to exploring and further developing this technology. And, while it is still extremely new, blockchain already shows tremendous potential with almost no limits to what it can achieve in the future.
Jobs and salaries
According to Forbes, blockchain expertise is the hottest skill to have in the U.S. market in 2018 and it also captured the no. 1 position on the latest skills index by Upwork. Massive companies such as IBM and Samsung are hard-pressed to find enough talent to hire, among thousands of other startups and smaller companies. Those interested in pursuing programming or computer science may want to consider specializing early on as blockchain developers or programmers. Many other supporting roles exist including blockchain project managers, blockchain quality engineers, blockchain designers, or even blockchain attorneys and legal consultants (IP or intellectual property law as it applies to blockchain and artificial intelligence is another insanely under-staffed profession with experts making over $200-400k per year. The only downside is that a law degree is required, in addition to an engineering degree).
According to Computerworld’s recent report, blockchain jobs are among the hottest on the market, with yearly salaries ranging from $130k and $180k, depending on the country, the company you would work for, and, of course, your experience.
How to get started
When it comes to requirements, being familiar with computer programming is must. Whether you are only interested in creating smart contracts, or you wish to devote yourself to creating and developing entirely new blockchains, you need to be as familiar with as many programming languages as possible. The primary languages to learn are C++, Java, Python, and Solidity.
Most of these programming languages and skills can be learned at home, and anyone with a computer can work with blockchain tech. Remember that blockchain is by nature an open-source technology, and there are a ton of resources online to get you started.
To get acquainted with the basics of blockchain and crypto, there are some great forums and discussion boards you can join including r/Cryptocurrency, r/Blockchain, r/ICO, and the like. You may also want to follow up on BitcoinTalk forum since it also reports all the recent news and discoveries in the field to whet your appetite.
Even though blockchain is still a new and cutting-edge technology, there are already some top universities that are already offering blockchain-related courses. For example, Cornell University has IC3 (Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts), which provides education and certification for this tech. Duke University, Georgetown University, NYU, Princeton University, and of course, MIT are also leaders in this field. The good news is that just like software development in general, an Ivy-league education is not required. Passion is far more important, as well as the people you surround yourself with. A public college or University with a strong CS program is plenty to get you on the right path. Blockchain people are very bright and 9 out of 10 will hire based experience and what you bring to the table (projects you’ve worked on, things you’ve created, and people you’ve collaborated with) and not your degree.
2) Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Technology has become a large part of our everyday lives, and we’re at point when most of us cannot even imagine a life without machines that are helping in various everyday tasks (iPhones, tablets, automobiles etc.). However, many experts believe that we have only scratched the surface when it comes to this and that the potential for machines is actually much larger and more involved than what we can imagine right now.
AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) are thought to be the way this revolution will come to pass. They are closely connected, but it is important to note that they are not the same. When it comes to AI, AI is a concept that revolves around machines doing things in a way that might be described as ‘intelligent’. Basically, they can not only be programmed to make the same motions over and over but instead are capable of changing their “minds” and adapting to new situations on their own.
Machine Learning is a similar technology, but there are differences. ML might be seen as a sub-branch of the AI, where a machine is capable of overcoming its mistakes and finding a way to complete its task without human supervision being present at all times. Slight but important difference.
As you can imagine, these fields are still very new and undeveloped, and many believe that it will take decades, if not centuries before we can get to the actual intelligence in artificial intelligence. We don’t believe that, and our viewpoint is that breakthroughs in tech development are happening every day in universities and companies around the world, and with the advent of quantum computing, breakthroughs in this field will soon become the norm. Applications of this technology can go from exploring the smallest particles of the universe through nanotechnology, to virtual reality, to cutting edge social services, to space exploration, among many others.
Jobs and salaries
According to a report published by Glassdoor, there is a large roster of unfilled AI jobs at present. Top positions include titles such AI software engineer, AI research scientist, AI data scientist, AI computer scientist, AI learning and development specialist, and many more. As usual, not only is this area in-demand but also pays extremely well.
The same report claims that AI-related jobs come with salaries of around $111k per year on average. Not too shabby (note: this industry also keeps up with inflation so these salaries are not static). Besides the salary alone, this is a great opportunity that lets you directly contribute to the development and advancement of humanity.
How to get started
As you can imagine, it is helpful to know a programming language or two if you wish to become the one who will unlock the secrets of artificial intelligence. Similarly to blockchain development, AI also requires you to know some common programming languages, with Python being the most common. Besides that language, you will eventually learn an AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) such as IPL, Lisp, Prolog, Planner, or STRIPS.
If you’re familiar with code, you can get started right away playing with open source AI frameworks such as Google’s TensorFlow, Keras, Scikit-learn, and other. They provide documentation and instruction. There are also great forums and message boards to get you going including AI Dreams and The Artificial Intelligence Forum.
For a formal education (which is absolutely needed in this field), there are many public and private schools with excellent AI programs and CS courses that you can choose, depending on where you live. Most of these schools are in the US, but there are great universities around the world as well. A good list can be found here.
As we continue to advance technologically, it is expected that more and more human jobs will be replaced by robots. This doesn’t mean that you should expect a humanoid android to greet you when you go to the supermarket in a few years (although, you never know!), but there are already numerous stores that have self-checkouts and other technologies that are far more complex than what meets the eye.
For example, robots that look like giant octopuses have already become a part of numerous factories and production line floors, and even companies such as Amazon are known for using robots for package transporting in their warehouses. The robotics industry will almost certainly continue to change, advance, and improve due to the positive ROI it delivers and increasing labor costs that are driving this technology. This industry isn’t as new as blockchain and AI, but it is just as important and surely one that won’t run out of career opportunities anytime soon.
Robotics technology in fact will be pretty tightly connected to AI and ML, and the marketplace will greatly reward anyone who is knowledgeable in both fields. Last but not least, those that design, build, improve upon, or fix the robots are also guaranteed a great career.
Jobs and salaries
On average, robotics engineers earn over $100,000 per year, however pay can range between $70k and $100k per year for the lower end, while some positions demand a salary as high as $130k, according to Glassdoor.
Considering how robotics engineering is a field that we have already spent decades developing, there are countless companies already in short supply of talent. Giants like Apple and Amazon as well as smaller companies that focus entirely on robots such as Boston Dynamics are plenty, and one will have no trouble finding a great company to start and advance their career.
How to get started
The best way to get started with robotics is to take the most advanced courses you can in math and science. Also, major in something like mechanical or electronics engineering with an emphasis in robotics that many universities offer.
Programming languages that we mentioned previously apply here as well, since they are all part of a similar branch of technology and science. Languages like Python, C, C++, Pascal, Java, MATLAB, and alike are mandatory to know depending on what you’re working on.
If you’re curious about the industry and the cool new tech coming down the pipe, check out RobotShop.
We see a great future in these technologies and in STEM careers, and as a successful Silicon Valley startup involved in machine learning and AI we would like to give back by offering our support and encouraging students in the US to be creative while at the same time studying and earning degrees in these more difficult and technical fields.
For 2018 we are offering a $5,000 award to a deserving student who is pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. You can take a look and apply here: https://www.simplr.ai/scholarships
Open source images from: