Emotionally intelligent robots. Quantum computers. Flying taxis. Commercial space flights. These are just some of the technologies envisioned to be fully functional in the coming years. As such, the tech industry is spurring innovation—and leading the way to the future.
This may be part of the reason why the tech sector’s job market has two of the 20 fastest-growing occupations based on the percentage of change in employment between 2016 and 2026, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Software developers ($103,620 average base pay) have a growth rate of 31 percent, while information security analysts ($98,350 average base pay) will have 28 percent more jobs by 2026. Statisticians and mathematicians—whose skills are needed in the tech industry—are also on the list.
So what will the future of tech jobs look like? Check out these five future-forward tech careers—and the degrees you’ll need to play your part in them.
1. IoT Security Engineer
From refrigerators that can detect out-of-stock supplies (and order them for delivery) to lights that automatically turn on and off and adjust their brightness, homes of the future will be run (even more than they are today) by smart devices. Security will be one of the most pressing issues as these devices get smarter.
As an internet of things (IoT) security engineer, you’ll be fixing any hacks against IoT-enabled devices—which are everyday objects that have Internet computing devices embedded in them—and keep them safe from threats and attacks. Your expertise could extend beyond smart home devices and encompass areas where internet of things is growing in use, such as agriculture and farming, the automotive industry, and healthcare.
To prepare for this career, you’ll need a degree in computer science or information technology. Some universities already offer courses in cryptography, digital forensics, and ethical hacking as part of these degrees. Getting a master’s degree in cybersecurity or obtaining cybersecurity certification can also increase your technology skills and give you an edge over the competition.
2. Machine Personality Developer
From android replicants in Blade Runner to Ex Machina robots, artificial intelligence has been depicted as so advanced that machines with their very own personalities—capable of thinking and feeling—could be what the future holds.
Machine personality developers program machines to make them more human. This includes adding emotional intelligence and the ability to process speech and language, as well as customizing machines based on characteristics such as skin and hair color, and even age.
So, what about educational requirements? The position might require a degree in computer science, with a specialization in artificial intelligence or machine learning. With this degree, you can achieve skills in human-computer interaction, natural language processing, and robotics, among others.
3. Quantum Computing Programmer
Quantum computers may be the supercomputers of the future. They’ll have more than enough speed and power to carry out a wide range of computations and solve the world’s most complex problems, such as making accurate predictions and performing almost-perfect encryptions. These computers will need their own set of algorithms and software programs, which is where quantum computing programmers come in.
As a quantum computing programmer, your job will involve applying quantum computing principles to the design, development, and testing of software applications for quantum computers. You’ll possess the skills required to handle large datasets of quantum information and optimize the algorithms that process this information.
Before taking on this role, you’ll need a degree in computer science, math, physics, or statistics. Earning an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate in computer science, might be preferred by companies hiring for these positions in the future.
4. Data Trash Engineer
With billions of data bytes floating in the data universe, there might be millions of data considered trash: low-quality data, old data, unused data. But as the popular saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In this case, turning trash into treasure could uncover numerous possibilities.
As a data trash engineer, you’ll be responsible for transforming junk data into meaningful data. Your role will be just like a data analyst or a data scientist, but with a focus on data waste. You’ll identify data considered trash, clean and refine it, process it using machine learning methods, and analyze and visualize the results. You’ll also develop specific techniques and optimized algorithms to handle data trash.
To perform well in this role, you’ll need a degree in computer science, math, or statistics. A number of universities now offer degrees in data science or data analytics, or you can choose to major in either field.
5. AI Ethicist
As artificial intelligence advances, so will the algorithms that power it. The tech world is becoming increasingly aware of the moral and social implications of these algorithms, so the need to make them fair and equitable is crucial.
AI ethicists are tasked with auditing algorithms. In this role, you’ll review inputs and outputs, analyze design practices, and investigate development processes to identify any ethical issues. You’ll create guidelines and methodologies for ethical algorithm development and ensure these are followed. You’ll train and educate people on the role ethics plays in shaping algorithms and AI.
To do the job, you’ll need a degree in information systems or computer science, with a specialization in artificial intelligence. Educational institutions such as Columbia University, Stanford University, and Vanderbilt University already offer courses on the ethics of AI.
These careers may come sooner than we think—or they may be far-off into the future. Whichever the case may be, it doesn’t hurt to anticipate the possibilities and be as prepared as possible for what tomorrow may bring.
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