Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Hands-On People
Consider yourself a tinkerer? Enjoy working with tools and machines? "Hands on" people tend to be practical and straightforward and like to work with concrete objects such as wood, plants, or jewelry. They're comfortable working alone and prefer doing to talking. As part of our guide to career chemistry, we've highlighted these choices for hands-on types:
Aircraft pilot. The perks include prestige, money, and travel—plus, you get to fly a plane. And the job market for pilots is finally starting to come out of the tailspin that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But before you start flapping your wings, remember that if you're flying for a national airline, you're away a lot, so it's hard to maintain a stable home life. The good news is that many pilot jobs don't require overnight travel, such as spreading seed for reforestation, ferrying executives in small jets, or flying traffic helicopters. One other downside: Before earning good money, you'll need to pay for lots of flying hours—unless you're in the military, in which case it's all free.
More info: Air Line Pilots Association; Flight Guide for Success by Karen Kahn
Electrician. Unlike plumbing or carpentry, this trade is unlikely to short-circuit your body by the time you're 40. And here's something shocking: Electricians are seriously injured by electricity at only half the rate of the general population. Just don't be color-blind: All electrical wires are color-coded!
More info: Careers as an Electrician by Karen Kahn; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Electrical or electronic engineering technician. With just two years of training or less, you get to play a key role in helping engineers design and develop electrical or electronic products.
More info: American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians
Biomedical engineer. Want to design the next-generation artificial heart? Or a noninvasive alternative to biopsy? Or an implantable vital-signs monitor that spots anomalies and transmits a report to the patient's doctor? Over your lifetime, this field promises to save millions of lives—and create thousands of jobs.
More info: Biomedical Engineering Society
Nuclear engineer. Even many environmentalists believe that nuclear power must become a larger part of the clean-energy solution. The once moribund market for nuclear engineers is already excellent and likely to improve further.
More info: Nuclear Engineering International magazine
Locksmith. This career offers many pluses: The training is short, there's strong demand, customers tend to be grateful, and it's not physically demanding. Think of all the people who get locked out of their homes or cars and the companies and homeowners who need to keep the bad guys out. As perceived security threats rise, demand for high-tech entry-access systems will grow.
More info: Locksmith profile; Associated Locksmiths of America; The Complete Book of Locks and Locksmithing by Bill Phillips
Orthodontist. It's one of the few medical specialties in which self-employment is still possible, and the average self-employed orthodontist earns more than $200,000 a year. Plus, at the end of treatment, you've succeeded with nearly all your patients—they walk out with a better smile. Unlike some hands-on careers, this one calls for good people skills—you're developing long-term relationships. It also requires two or three years of training after dental school.
More info: American Association of Orthodontists; Contemporary Orthodontics by William Proffit
Radiologic technologist/diagnostic imaging specialist. X-rays are giving way to an alphabet soup of higher-resolution, lower-radiation imaging machines: MRI, PET, CAT, CT, and sonography. These newer techniques help provide more accurate, noninvasive diagnoses of everything from prenatal health to cardiovascular disease. Imaging specialists move patients into position and then take pictures of the desired area. Say "cheese"!
More info: American Society of Radiologic Technologists; Opportunities in Medical Imaging Careers by Clifford Sherry
Renewable energy technologist. With an intensifying focus on energy independence, job prospects for technologists are strong in all renewable energy fields: wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and hydropower. This is one of the few disciplines in which rural jobs are increasing. Windsmiths, for example, operate and maintain the turbines on windmills. And technicians are needed to run bioenergy operations that produce fuel from plants.
More info: Careers in Renewable Energy, a U.S. Department of Energy Web page
Surgical technologist. When that surgeon on ER calls, "Sutures! Clamp! Retractor!" he's yelling for a surgical technologist. With just a bachelor's degree, and sometimes less, you can play a role in the life-and-death drama of the operating room.
More info: Association of Surgical Technologists