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Cool Careers (Excerpt)

By Marty Nemko

The following excerpt is from the book "Cool Careers for Dummies: Second Edition" by Dr. Marty Nemko.

Cool Careers

Here are introductions to many interesting careers, including a recommended website and/or book for those who want to learn more. For the entire list of 500 careers, see the book "Cool Careers for Dummies: Second Edition". Click HERE.

Ahead of the Curve Careers
Artist/Graphic Artist
College Student Advisor
Genetic Counselor
Geriatric Care Manager
Home Stager
Information Abstractor
Interior Designer
Investment Banker
Lighting Designer
Personal Assistant
Physician's Assistant
Reunion Planner
Talk Show Host

Home Stager

This is a well-paying career for artistic types without much talent. When a homeowner decides to sell, he's willing to invest a few bucks to make the house look its best. Stagers come to the house, recommend moving and removing furniture and decorations. ("That stuffed moose head must go.") They also suggest low-cost improvements, for example, painting one wall a dramatic color to enliven a nondescript room. Because the home seller stands to make big bucks, these one-day decorators can earn good money, and while it's an artistic career, staging doesn't require a Rembrandt. .


Traditionally, the way that divorcing husbands and wives avoid killing each other is by hiring two attorneys and letting the lawyers slug it out. That's expensive, adversarial, and often, just plain yucky. An increasingly popular alternative is to hire a mediator. Don't like divorce mediation? Tackle employment case-- before going to trial, most wrongful termination suits must be mediated. Lawyers generally are chosen to mediate complicated fact-centered disputes while counselor-types more often are used when emotional issues are at the core. Whether a lawyer or counselor, a really good mediator needs the listening skills of a suicide counselor, the patience of Job, and the wisdom of Solomon. But, not to worry, mediation can be a rewarding career even for mere mortals. Mediation Information and Resource Center: , American Arbitration Association Center for Mediation: .

Geriatric Care Manager

Imagine that you had aging parents living in another city. They need help dealing with the HMO, finding someone to look in on them, or completing some paperwork. You want to keep them out of a nursing home. You'd help out if you were local, but you're not. The answer? Hire a geriatric care manager. US News & World Report tells of geriatric care manager Pat Gleason. She "has dozens of 'adopted' grandparents. As she makes the rounds to private homes and nursing facilities in Texas, she is showered with hugs and kisses from clients she helps with the problems of aging. It may be a woman recovering from a broken hip who needs help making her home easier to navigate, or a widower having trouble rebuilding a social life… One job perk, she says, is free history lessons, such as the stories she heard from a 104-year-old about crossing the Oklahoma Territory in a covered wagon." National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers: .

College Student Advisor

In years past, professors used to advise the students, but colleges have realized that professors are more interested and knowledgeable about their own research than about what courses Jill should take. So colleges now hire counselor types to advise undergraduates. Sometimes, it's just a matter of reviewing a transcript and suggesting courses, but with the amount of malaise that many college students feel, it often goes well beyond. National Academic Advising Association: . National Clearinghouse for Academic Advising: .

Talk Show Host

I excluded this career from this book's first edition because the odds of making a living at it are small. But so many people see it as their dream career that I decided to include it and simply tell you how to maximize your chances of defying the odds.

Start by thinking about what your unique style would be. Are you a particularly tough interviewer? Someone from the political far right or far left? With encyclopedic knowledge about something? Are you an unusually self-revealing person? You'll probably increase your chances of success by incorporating your unusual characteristics into your talk show. For me, it's that I have the ability to answer practical questions quickly. So my show is heavily call-in and about a practical topic: work. I also like doing interviews in which I don't just ask the questions, but participate in the conversation/debate--I often contribute almost as much content as the guest does. I'm also constitutionally fast. I talk fast; I interrupt. Rather than homogenizing myself into being just another mid-speed-talking host, I allow myself to be my regular, fast self. So, what are your unique attributes and interests? Make those the centerpiece of your radio persona and structure for your talk show.

Then practice interviewing people and taking "call-ins," using that style. Do it at home and record the interviews. Critique yourself mercilessly. Have friends and family critique you too. When you've taped an interview you're proud of, edit it down to three to five minutes of great excerpts and hand-deliver it to the program director of every local radio or TV station. Any station that won't let you see the program director gets a mailed copy and a follow-up phone call two days later.

That's how I got to host my first talk show, and now I'm in my 13th year as producer and host of "Work with Marty Nemko" on a National Public Radio affiliate in San Francisco. Radio Online: . Talker's Magazine: .

Personal Assistant

According to the New York Post, a typical day in the life of Olympia Dukakis's personal assistant consists of rendering a second opinion on a movie contract, dropping off her dry cleaning, picking up her dog's gourmet dog food, and suggesting ideas for marketing Dukakis's new salad dressing. Salaries range from $30,000 to $100,000, plus perks. What sort of perks? Well, this isn't typical, but Carol Burnett gave her assistant a Land Rover for her birthday. Of course, not just celebrities need assistants. These days, just about any busy person could use one. Niches: executives, college presidents, wealthy widows, and your run-of-the-mill busy middle incomer. Sometimes, the job may be more like an office assistant: word-processing a report, coordinating a project, handling the bookkeeping, but Beth Berg makes a good living with none of that. She started "Dial a Wife." She'll plan the meal, wait for the plumber, take Sara (and her friends) to ballet, perhaps plant your herb garden, even do the initial househunting. Sounds like a traditional wife, but she gets paid $40 an hour. Berg's first ad simply said, "Buy time." Personal Assistants International:


Taking pictures for a living sounds like fun, but can you actually make a living at it? Only if you're an aggressive marketer. Photographer Dennis Miller says, "Photography is 75 percent sales if you're very talented; 95 percent if you're not." You also must be strategic. For example, most lucrative work is in large cities. Many people can take pictures but fewer can take pictures with a digital camera and perform postproduction magic to create images that will dazzle and persuade--which is precisely what magazines and ad agencies want.'s photography portal: Professional Photographers of America: . Rohn Engh's books, How to Sell & Resell Your Photos and .

(Neat Niche) Newborn Photographer. It amazes me that life's most awe-inspiring event, childbirth and the day after, is rarely photographed professionally. Try to get a hospital director to grant you the right to offer photographic services to expectant parents who will be giving birth at the hospital.


Sixty thousand kids a year are treated in hospitals for trampoline-related injuries. So Mark Publicover invented JumpCourt which provides 360-degree protection around standard-sized trampolines. JumpCourt is now sold in 7,000 outlets. How does an invention get invented? It starts by asking yourself: "What's annoying?" and "What could I invent that would solve the problem?" Inventors, mostly engineering types, usually develop their prototypes as an after-work spice to their corporate day jobs. How to do it successfully? You needn't build the prototype yourself. Find a model maker in the Yellow Pages. Then test out your prototype on potential customers and retailers. If it passes muster, find out what it would cost to manufacture--use the Thomas Manufacturing Register of 160,000 manufacturers to find one ( ). Is it cheap enough to allow ample profit? Have them make a small run and distribute it through trade shows, a Web site, direct mail, or wholesale it to retailers. Or try to get a corporation to buy (and not steal) your invention. Avoid services that promise to help market your invention. They usually cost you more than you earn. The Wal-Mart Innovation Network ( ), however, provides a 13-page review of your invention for only $175. And if you score high enough, Wal-Mart may test market your invention in its stores. Inventors Digest: . Maurice Kanbar's Book, 'Secrets from an Inventor's Notebook."


I include this career partly because you'd think I was nuts if I omitted such a prestigious, well-paying profession; but listen to this: There is an oversupply of doctors, especially specialists, in most urban and suburban areas. Many experts believe that demand for doctors, especially specialists, will decrease as HMOs increasingly use nurse practitioners and physician's assistants to lower costs. Even if you can find a job, HMOs severely constrain how physicians can practice medicine: Visits are shorter, and more and more treatments are subject to external scrutiny. Meanwhile, malpractice suits climb. Perhaps the biggest minus is that a physician's life is extraordinarily stressful. Consider the typically six to eight years after college that it takes to prepare to be a physician, the enormous cost of medical school, the fraternity-like hazing called internship, the strain of high-stakes decision-making, having to inform unsuspecting patients of severe illnesses, and the now prohibitive costs of starting your own practice. And there's more. Medicine is changing so rapidly that it's impossible to keep up, so many physicians practice while feeling guilty that because of their own lack of knowledge and HMO constraints, they may not be giving their patients the best possible treatment. Because physicians have ready access to mind-altering drugs, many docs turn to them for stress relief. American Medical Association: . DoctorLink: . Jobs: , , and . Marita Danek's book, Becoming a Physician Robert Marion's book, Learning to Play God: The Coming of Age of a Young Doctor.

For many aspiring physicians, physician's assistant (See profiles) may be a smarter career choice even though it obviously has less prestige and lower income potential. If, however, you want to consider the M.D. route, there are neat niches:

(Neat Niche) University Student Health Service Physician. College student health problems are usually curable, you have no overhead, and you work in a beautiful, stimulating setting.

(Neat Niche): Infectious Diseases. As you're reading this, terrorist groups and governments are refining their ability to create one-of-a-kind mutated viruses to use as bioweapons. Natural selection is creating superbacteria that are resistant to even the most powerful antibacterials. The likelihood of contracting infectious diseases is growing because of easier worldwide travel, more crowded public transit, and increasing sexual promiscuity. I'm not just talking about rare, newly discovered pathogens such as the dreaded West Nile or Hanta viruses. Cases of the formerly thought-of-as-cured tuberculosis are increasing, even here in the U.S. And then there's AIDS: the virus itself, and the myriad opportunistic infections that its victims contract. Infectious disease researchers and practitioners do some of our most important and challenging work. Infectious Diseases Society of America: .

(Neat Niche) Occupational Medicine. This niche offers many advantages. Need: On-the-job accidents and job-related illnesses are frequent, with a relative shortage of occupational medicine docs. Compensation: Employers and insurers know that your efforts to prevent on-the-job illnesses and accidents will save them lots of money, so compensation is good. Variety: Internal medicine, psychiatry, surgery, epidemiology, toxicology, forensic medicine, administration, preventive medicine-- occupational medicine encompasses them all. Success rate: You help a high percentage of your patients. Occupational medicine portal: .

(Neat Niche) Hospital Research Director. Many hospitals, even those unaffiliated with universities, conduct research. Research director is a great job for a burned-out doc who'd like to improve the quality of medical care rather than just implementing the status quo. Grant proposal writing skills are key.

(Neat Niche) Cosmetic Surgeon. Newly available techniques are making it evermore likely that you'll delight your patients. Society tends to denigrate cosmetic surgery as a narcissistic luxury, one that objectifies the body rather than focusing on a person's substance. I used to think that way myself. But I've seen so many people's lives be so improved as a result of the surgery, they feel much better about themselves every minute of every day and are even more productive at work. So, I've become a fan. I wonder if cosmetic surgery has done more to improve people's sense of well being than psychotherapy.'s plastic surgery portal: .

(Neat Niche) Sports Medicine. As the fitness fad continues, the number of weekend warriors grows, and in turn, the number of injuries. Most of these are fixable, so sports medicine is rewarding. American College of Sports Medicine: .

(Neat Niche) Infertility Specialist. Women working outside the home are deferring parenthood, sometimes until getting pregnant isn't so easy. Enter the infertility doctor, with an ever-growing array of fixes including in-vitro fertilization, now with egg screening to help ensure normalcy. What's next? Probably sooner than later, to maximize chances of a normal baby, cloning one of the parents. American Society for Reproductive Medicine:

Physician's Assistant

You get to do some of the most rewarding of doctor's tasks: exams, diagnosing and treating curable illnesses, and health education. And the education is much shorter than to be a physician.

To enter this field, you need a bachelor's degree in a science/health field and experience as a nurse, EMT, or paramedic. Then the training is just 2-3 years long. American Academy of Physician Assistants: . Terence Sacks' book, Opportunities in Physician's Assistant Careers.


A master's-level job with doctor-level prestige. Plus, the field's terrific new tools make you look like a miracle worker. For example, new hearing aids enable the user to amplify only those frequencies with a hearing loss. For the self-conscious, some new hearing aids are so tiny that everything fits into your ear canal except the gizmo you pull it out with. The nation's most famous user is Bill Clinton. Many audiologists get out of the office, and spend part of each week in hospitals, rehab centers, and special schools. Oh, there's one part of audiology that isn't prestigious: You spend a fair amount of time removing earwax. American Academy of Audiology:

Reunion Planner

"I can't believe it. Back when we were in school, he was skinny!" High school reunions are intriguing events but who has time to mail invitations, take reservations, hire bands, find food, arrange hotels, line up child care, plan activities, and more challenging -- dig up all those missing class members? The reunion planner. Tracking down missing class members, mainly using online databases, adds a detective component to an already fun job. National Association of Reunion Managers: . Training course:


The Texas A&M toxicology home page begins, "Hardly a week goes by without hearing about a chemical that may threaten our health: pesticides in the food we eat, pollutants in the air we breathe, chemicals in the water we drink. Are these chemicals really dangerous? How much does it take to cause harm? Is that powder anthrax? Toxicologists answer these questions. Society of Toxicology: .


Like a career in acting or film directing, journalism is one of those job aspirations likely to result in poverty. I was on a top floor of the Time-Life Building talking with four editors from one of Time-Warner's major magazines, and everyone agreed how obscene it was that colleges continue to welcome more and more journalism majors even though only a small fraction will ever make a middle-class living in the field.

So why is journalism on the list of cool careers? Because it's so rewarding and enjoyable that it's worth considering--if you love interviewing, digging up information, and cranking out clear prose rapid-fire. To increase your chances of landing a good job, specialize-- science, technology, ethnic issues, and education journalists may have an edge.

Warning: Many articles and TV news segments are slanted. Even in prestigious media outlets--too many journalists select stories so they can sell their viewpoint (for example, pro affirmative action). They fill the article with support for their position, carefully nuancing every word, adding just enough balance to make it look fair. Biased coverage is the main reason the media is distrusted. You may never completely control your biases but the public trust demands that you make your best effort.

American Society of Journalists and Authors: Society of Professional Journalists: Jobs: Newslink: and and .

Information Abstractor

Would you enjoy synthesizing articles into a paragraph or two? Can you do it quickly? In an hour, an abstractor must abstract two to three articles. If you can do that, you'll be in demand because of the need to distill that relentless information explosion. Major hirers: Web sites, corporations needing to distill material for scientists and executives, and publishers of research abstracts. You'll be particularly in demand if you have content expertise, in law, medicine, engineering, chemistry, or real estate. To land a job, find the articles you'd like to abstract-- see a directory such as the Ebsco Index and Abstract Directory -- and submit sample abstracts. To get corporate work, send samples to corporate librarians and departments responsible for technical writing. National Federation of Abstracting & Information Services: .


Nothing inspires or heals like music. It can lift a depression, tame an angry soul, move one to gyrate with joy--even if you're alone in your kitchen. How terrific to have a career in which music is your main activity. But how do you fight the odds against making a living at it? First, you gotta find out if you really have enough talent. Don't count on your teachers to be candid. They have too much vested interest in encouraging you. Besides, it's hard for someone who knows you to tell you, "You're probably not good enough." How do you discover the truth about your talent? Play for (or send tapes to) people who don't know you but are in a position to pay you for your work: orchestra conductors, studio gig contractors, wedding band leaders, nightclub owners, and so on. If you audition 20 times and receive little encouragement, cut your losses. Make music your after-work passion. For example, join a community symphony orchestra. If you get sincere encouragement but not a full-time paying gig, you may have to be entrepreneurial to make a middle-class living. Find great musicians to join your musical group. Then seriously market it. For example, convince local government or corporate leaders to hire you to play at their events, play host to a party for wedding planners, or invite event planners via direct mail to visit your Web site, which contains audio clips of your music. Musical Online: .

Artist/Graphic Artist

Get real. If you have visions of hanging out in your loft, splattering paint on some enormous abstract canvas, congratulations -- you have a cool hobby. The Princeton Review profile of artist careers reports that "as a purely self-expressing career, 90 percent of artists make under $1,000 per year on their art." If you expect to make a living as an artist, brand this into your brain: Seventy-five percent of the art available in the United States is produced by the advertising industry. Much of the rest appears on Web sites. And almost all is computer-generated art produced by people with excellent freehand drawing skills enhanced by the computer. You must make good friends with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Pagemaker, and QuarkXPress. The good news is that demand for computer artists is growing. More good news: In production art, degrees don't count; your portfolio does. Send it to art directors at ad agencies or the new design/marketing agencies -- and don't forget the small houses. Oh, one more sad truth: Only a third of people who start a career in graphic arts last five years.'s graphic design portal . American Institute of Graphic Arts: . Graphic Artists Guild: . ACM SigGraph: . World Wide Web Artists' Consortium: . Long list of artist careers: .

Lighting Designer

Here's a backdoor into a film or theatrical career is lighting design. You train for this career in college-based stagecraft programs like the ones at the University of California at Irvine and Cal Poly, Pomona. Lighting designers are hired not only in film and theater, but also for trade shows, and for lighting major buildings -- hotels, corporate lobbies, museums, concerts, and theme parks. International Association of Lighting Designers: .


Is that airport runway level? What are a park's legal boundaries? Where does your neighbor's land end? Surveyors figure these things out. They still use the old-fashioned theodolites on tripods, but increasingly use satellite-based Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Surveying is a fine career for someone who doesn't have a college degree but is comfortable around algebra and geometry, likes to learn as an apprentice, and wants an outdoor career with some status. The director of California's state apprenticeship programs told me that of the hundreds of apprenticeable careers, he'd say that surveying was the best. The job market is tight. American Congress on Surveying and Mapping: . Land Surveyors Reference Page: .


Mushing medicines together with mortar and pestle? Forget about it. Today's pharmacist is often a front-line healthcare provider, teaching diabetics how to inject themselves with insulin, assisting with blood pressure monitoring, and ensuring that people know how to take their medications. The latter isn't as easy as it sounds. Many older people must take many medications, each of which must be taken at a different time, some of which must be taken on an empty stomach, others when not drowsy. Perhaps the most important thing a pharmacist does is ensure that drugs can be taken together. The TV show Dateline did a test in which an obviously pregnant woman walked into ten pharmacies asking whether two drugs could be taken together. Six of the ten pharmacists said yes. In fact, when a pregnant woman takes those two drugs together, it's lethal. Each year, thousands of people are hospitalized because they take prescription medications improperly. Pharmacists can be lifesavers.Some of the more interesting pharmacy jobs are in drug companies' research departments. Second choice: hospital pharmacies. In addition to filling prescriptions, you may conduct research, instruct interns, and assist surgeons in preparing infusions. American Council on Pharmaceutical Education: .

Genetic Counselor

We are becoming ever more aware that we are greatly affected by our genes. The upshot of recent Time and Newsweek cover stories is that our personalities and intelligence are significantly mediated by our biology. What do genetic counselors do? Typical example: a married couple both suffer from severe depression. They're thinking about having a child. A genetic counselor helps them understand the risk that their child will suffer from depression, facilitates their deciding whether to get pregnant, and helps them make peace with their decision. People enter this field from a wide range of disciplines including biology, psychology, nursing, public health, and social work. National Society of Genetic Counselors:

Investment Banker

Business's growth hormone is money. A typical I-banker's assignment is to get money on the best terms. Are you willing to work into the wee hours and do lots of traveling to get a company the best deal on the money? You don't raise the dough by calling a few banks and saying, "Hi, will you lend us some dough?" Here's how investment bankers work: A growing private company needs more money. Should it go public? Issue bonds? Spin off a division? Get bought out? You do complex calculations to help the company come up with an answer. Let's say the company decides to go public and issue stock. You attempt to price it right. Then you hand off the project to a different kind of I-banker -- the salesperson -- who attempts to convince banks, mutual fund, and pension fund managers to buy your stock or bond offering. To sell requires more than a slick tongue, but that helps.

Most I-bankers are first hired with just a bachelor's degree (in any field, as long as it's from a designer-label college at which you got good grades). Your first job is an analyst, a number cruncher. You usually need an MBA before making the big bucks. A couple of years as an I-banking analyst is usually a ticket to top-name MBA programs. But I'm talking full years. In The Fast Track, Mariam Naficy writes, "The amount you'll work in investment banking cannot be overstated. One analyst reported that he bought 50 pairs of underwear because he had no time to do laundry."

In part thanks to movies like The Bonfire of the Vanities, many people believe that investment bankers do absolutely nothing for the world. The reality is that their job is to help companies raise money so that they can bring a better product to market. Even media-reviled investment banker Michael Milken, by raising money for MCI as an investment banker, was key to making the telecommunications industry more competitive, and in turn, lowering all our phone bills. Before deregulation, you were paying 40 cents per long-distance minute. Now, you pay 5 to 10 cents. Thank an investment banker. The most sought-after jobs are at "bulge bracket" firms such as Goldman Sachs, but the fastest-growing segment is mid- to large-sized traditional banks, which are now allowed to participate in investment banking. Careers in Finance: . Ohio State U's finance portal: . Mariam Naficy's book, Fast Track.


The good news is that the job market may be improving a bit. With the proliferation of Internet video for entertainment and training, increased cable and satellite viewership, and more foreign demand for American productions, the need for actors is increasing. But there's plenty of bad news. For example, 80 percent of actors in the Screen Actors Guild (those who have already acted in a union job) earn less than $5,000 a year from their acting! Even the term actor is misleading. It implies you're acting, doing something. For the most part, actors wait. They wait to be hired. Once hired, on the set, they wait for their turn, for the weather to clear, for the technoids to set things up, for the producer, director, and minions to make up their minds. Casting Director Lisa Pirriolli, in Gig, says, "It's a horrible life . . . it's all about getting the job and about rejection. If you do get the job, it's all about doing it correctly and getting the next one, and the next one, just trying to get famous. And if you do get famous, it's all about being famous. And then it's about when your star is going to fall."

Okay. Despite it all, you've decided to try to make a living as an actor. Here are some keys to making it: First choose a niche. Are you the insecure villain type? A singing airhead? Be sure your headshot, sample reel, and resume capture your niche, and send the package to local acting agencies. It may be smarter to start in a large city other than Los Angeles or New York, perhaps Toronto ("Hollywood North") or Wilmington, North Carolina ("Hollywood East"). To get leads on gigs, contact each city's film commission. Or start out in industrials -- training and promotional videos. It'll be much easier to obtain credits and develop a sample reel. To avoid starving in the meantime, rather than or in addition to waiting tables, consider interim jobs that help polish your craft: mock trial participant, mock patient (used in medical school training), role-player in employee training seminars or police crisis simulations, traffic school instructor, and Santa Claus. (Don't let your little kid read that.)'s acting portal: . More links: . The Screen Actors Guild's tips for wannabe actors: . Robert Cohen's book, Acting Professionally.

Interior Designer

What fun! Helping people figure out how to make their homes or offices beautiful and functional. And you get to go on shopping sprees. Trouble is, if you expect to make a living, the job usually requires much more than that: reading blueprints, creating estimates for commercial and residential projects, developing mockups using computer-aided design (CAD) systems, and knowing whether you can knock down a wall without the building collapsing. In short, you're somewhere between a decorator and an architect. Interior decorators often practice without credentials, but interior designers must have a bachelor's degree, and to get the respected American Society of Interior Designers certification, must know building codes and space planning. The site explains the latter: "If a person enters a building's lobby and can't easily figure out how to get to the bathroom or the elevator, then back to the lobby, you've got a problem." Side benefit: You have to have a cool-looking office. American Society of Interior Designers: . Jenny Gibb's Handbook for Interior Designers.

(Neat Niche) Housing for the Elderly and Disabled. To meet the needs of the elderly and disabled and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, housing developers are turning to interior designers with special expertise in these areas.

Professor A professorship has many upsides: the joy of creating knowledge and helping others acquire it through your classes, advising, writings, and professional presentations. You have intelligent, civilized (usually) colleagues, and after a few years, tenure for life. Plus, you get to work in one of the more appealing work environments: a college campus. The professoriate also has its downsides. More and more students are utterly unqualified to do college work and unwilling to work hard, yet routinely complain about too-tough grading if they get a C. (See the eye-opening book Generation X Goes to College, by Pulitzer prize nominee Peter Sacks.) Despite students' virtual illiteracy, professors, except at two-year colleges, usually need a doctorate, which takes an average of 6 to 12 post-bachelor's degree years to complete. Does tenure sound good? Be aware that colleges increasingly hire part-timers and temp faculty. Prospects for permanent jobs are best in engineering, business, and computer science, and for Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

College classes stress the importance of treating labor fairly, yet colleges are notorious for hiring part-timers to avoid paying for benefits.

There's often pressure to publish journal articles when you'd rather be teaching. Ernest Boyer, former vice president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching wrote, "Winning the campus teaching award is often the kiss of death for promotion and tenure." A final minus: On many campuses, there is pressure to be politically correct -- to assign certain types of readings, express certain views, and even to pass students of certain races even though you believe the student's work does not justify a passing grade. American Association of University Professors: . Hire-Ed:

Ahead-of-the-Curve Fields

Would you like to get in on the ground floor? Imagine, for example, if you had gotten into television or computers when they first came out. But what will be the blockbuster fields of this decade? If the leading edge calls to you even though it sometimes turns out to be the bleeding edge, keep your eyes open for developments in these areas.

Viral Defense

The most devastating weapon in the next war will be one of two viruses: a biovirus, mutated to ensure that no vaccine is available. Or it will be a computer virus designed to stop the stock exchanges, banks, or Internet. The president has admitted that we don't know how to stem these threats. Career implications: Toxicologists and computer security specialists will be treated like royalty. Jonathan Tucker's book, Toxic Terror.


"What's my password for my Schwab account? For that Web site? For my calling card? Passwords and PINs are multiplying, easy to forget and easy to steal. And they'll soon be obsolete. Your iris or your fingerprint will prove your identity. Biometrics is changing the way we identify ourselves.

Web Commercials

The likely way that Web sites will start to make money? Commercials. As the Internet begins to support full-motion video, Web sites will require users to watch commercials every ten minutes, just as when we watch TV. And just as television stations charge big bucks to advertisers, so will Web sites. People who specialize in producing Web-optimized commercials may be on the ground floor of an enormous industry.

Gene Therapy/New Reproductive Choices

Back in 1999, Princeton scientists demonstrated that they could increase mouse intelligence and that of its progeny by adding a gene. This suggests that we soon will have the capability to use gene therapy not only to cure disease, but also to enhance humans, physically and mentally. When the science advances and the ethical concerns have been carefully addressed, I am convinced that gene therapy will be the field of the 21st century. First, gene therapists will be allowed to alter genes only to prevent or cure diseases. For example, a gene therapy treatment for Parkinson's appears to control and even reverse this devastating disease. But I predict that human' temptation to enhance themselves and their children will be irresistible. Imagine that you were thinking about having a baby but a test revealed that you'd have a 50/50 chance of passing on a gene cluster for low intelligence, but that if you elected to replace that cluster, your child would likely have above-average intelligence. Don't you think that some parents would desperately want that option? Career implications: Get a research lab job at a university or biotech company that is developing any of these technologies:

· Genomics and proteomics. Thousands of companies are working on figuring out what each gene does and which proteins they express.

· Cloning. (See below.)

· Egg selection. This will be one of the earliest "gene therapies." It will enable a woman, when she's young and her eggs maximally healthy, to freeze thousands of her eggs so she can better control when she gets pregnant. That way, her baby will be conceived with a young, healthy egg, even if she's in her 40s. Perhaps of greatest benefit, right before getting pregnant, she can have hundreds of her eggs tested to pick one that has no defective genes.


A one-in-a-million hybrid produces a cow that has less fat. Cloning will enable us to reproduce the cow. Thousands of people each year die waiting for an organ transplant-- cloning can save their lives. Even more heartening, cloned organs are likely to be young. A study found that six cloned cows show signs of being younger than their chronological ages. So your cloned heart, for example, will be like the one you had when you were young.

Ethical concerns about full human cloning should dissipate as people realize that cloned babies will not be identical -- environment plays a large role in determining who we are. People also will come to see cloning for what it is -- giving birth to a delayed identical twin. Also, like current versions of assisted reproduction, such as in-vitro fertilization or even the birth control pill, as the concept of cloning becomes more familiar, fear will diminish. Human cloning will probably first occur in other countries, with America soon adopting it in response to the demand. Would anyone prefer that only rogue nations' scientists be permitted to clone humans and their organs?

Career implications: Soon, jobs for researchers developing less expensive, more reliable ways to clone stem cells into organs will become available. People with a bachelor's degree in molecular biology may soon be able to land positions as "organ engineers" -- the people who will use stem cells to actually create the organs, and later, complete humans.

Anti-Aging Research and Practice

Certain substances appear to slow the aging process -- antioxidants, for example. Even more exciting, scientists have begun to unlock what actually causes aging, including certain enzymes and shortened telomeres, the appendages to DNA molecules. More recently, scientists at LifeSpan Biosciences have identified four genes whose expression is highly correlated with aging. They're now asking, "Would turning off those genes inhibit aging?" As the public begins to understand that major life extension may be possible, public demand for such research will grow, and in turn, so will the research opportunities. Of course as the evidence gets stronger, the demand will become greater for physicians and other healthcare providers who specialize in anti-aging.


Nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate, molecule by molecule. This will enable the creation of molecule-sized machines. Why would anyone want such a small machine? Well obviously, you'll be able to wear a heckuva powerful computer on your wrist. But more intriguing applications may include cleansers that can remove any stain, insulation that can keep homes at a constant temperature, and true medical miracles. In 2000, Time magazine reported, "A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer would be devastating to any of us, bringing with it the horrors of debilitating chemotherapy and a slim chance of surviving the next five years. Fifteen years from now, however, you might not even bat an eye at the news. Your doctor will simply hand you a capsule packed with millions of nanosensors, each programmed to seek out and kill the cancer cells in your body . . . . And that's not all. One day, autonomous "Nanobots" far smaller than motes of dust will patrol the body, repairing aging organs and fixing genetic damage before it can turn into disease." The U.S. government just funded a $500 million nanotechnology initiative -- See . It also contains links to other nanotechnology information.

Cryonic Suspension

Thanks to nanotechnology, in 50 to 150 years, we will likely be able to repair age-damaged cells -- for example, by lengthening the aforementioned telomeres. More and more people are deciding to be frozen in liquid nitrogen upon their deaths, hoping to be revived when science has advanced enough that this molecule-by-molecule repair can be done. Though the odds of all this working out are small, the alternative is absolute certainty of being eaten by worms and an eternity of death.

Artificial Intelligence

Scientists have touted artificial intelligence for decades, but slow computing power and crude programming languages have inhibited progress. Things are starting to change: We already have $40 software programs to diagnose medical problems, almost do your taxes for you, and design a landscape that looks great year-round in your microclimate. Artificial intelligence programs help mutual fund managers decide whether to buy a stock, corporations to decide how to market a new widget, and the FBI to determine the best response to a terrorist threat. TradeTrek ( claims that its artificial intelligence program enables anyone to "trade stocks like a pro, and consistently beat the stock market." The future? In routine situations, virtual lawyers may be able to tell you what law and regulations apply, far more accurately and less expensively than your live shark. And a few years later, according to Ray Kurzweil, holder of nine honorary doctorates and author of the Age of Spiritual Machines, the thinking robot of sci-films will become a reality. American Association of Artificial Intelligence: . Movie: Spielberg/Scorsese's A.I.

Virtual Reality

One of education's few unassailable truths is that we learn by doing. Computer simulations allow students to do things that are normally impossible to do, or at least do safely, such as perform surgeries or fly airplanes. The next level of simulation is to virtually be in the environment -- virtual reality. Virtually land on the surface of Mars and decide what to explore and how. Be virtually transplanted to Argentina and fend for yourself in Spanish. Be virtually teleported into the Battle of Gettysburg, in the role of General Grant, deciding what to do next. The options are limitless, and all represent a monumental improvement over traditional lecture, textbook, and conventional computer-based instruction. Of course, applications of virtual reality extend far beyond education and entertainment. For example, already, virtual reality goggles enable architects to give clients a real sense of what their building will be like, down to whether there will be glare from their desk. If anything's wrong with the building, it can be easily fixed before the first nail is hammered.

Online Education and Training

For the past 20 years, technophiles have been predicting that computer-based instruction would start supplanting live instruction. It hasn't even come close to happening. I predict that this time it will be different, because online courses will soon amalgamate three powerful features: full-motion video on-demand, interactivity with artificial-intelligence-powered simulations, and human interactions via e-mail and chats. Combine all three and online education becomes vastly superior to in-person instruction, especially compared with the lecture class. Instead of having to commute and find a parking spot to listen to some instructor, good, bad or indifferent, drone on, you'll get a hand-picked, world-class lecturer, augmented by simulations and discussions that any student (even a home-bound elder) can access on demand, 24/7. Additional pressure to move to online education will come from the ever-faster pace at which knowledge grows -- impossible for the average instructor to keep up with. Perhaps the most compelling use for online education will be K-12 education. Political exigencies (which I think are absurd, but that's another book) are forcing students of all abilities -- from developmentally disabled to gifted -- to be placed in the same teacher's class. Without computers, it's virtually impossible to provide all the students with appropriate-leveled instruction. Simulation-based, individualized modules will revolutionize instruction. Teachers' roles will be primarily to get kids unstuck and to preside over socialization activities. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education: . WebNet Journal:


All media -- TV, Internet, stereo, VCR, computer -- will soon reduce to one box, enabling you to interact with galaxies of information and entertainment material. Time magazine predicted: "All content -- movies, music, shows, books, data, magazines, recipes, and home videos -- will be instantly available anywhere on demand."

Convergence will allow for such goodies as contextual shopping. You'll watch a Madonna concert (which of course, would begin whenever you want). You want to see what she looks like from behind. No problem, one click. Then you decide you like her shoes. One click and you've ordered it, so-called T-commerce. Before turning off your box, you'll be alerted to upcoming attractions based on your past selections.

I believe the killer app will be immersion. Combine the convergence and virtual reality trends, and I predict that millions of people will spend their evenings, not watching sitcoms, but experiencing amazing things in 3D: You'll virtually be flying the Mars Explorer, performing open-heart surgery, exploring the Amazon jungle, batting against Roger Clemens, climbing Mount Everest.

Career implications: Work for an artificial intelligence firm, one of the six broadly diversified content companies (Disney, News Corp, Seagram, Sony, Time Warner, and Viacom) or a broadband Internet infrastructure company such as Inktomi ( Also pipe owners (for example, AT&T, which has covered both the phone- and cable-based delivery systems) should be big beneficiaries of the convergence movement. See's portal to info on broadband: , NYU offers a program in interactive telecommunications: . More of a hands-on type? Design and build those all-in-one media boxes or the new Internet backbones that will be required to handle the increased bandwidth.

Wireless Telecommunication

Third world countries can't afford the cost of wired radio/TV/internet/phone infrastructures. Wireless is their dream come true. In advanced nations such as the U.S., more and more businesses are networked. Not only is the massive tangle of cables usually just one mishap away from a problem, cables tether workers to their office. Wireless telecommunication, for example, using the new infrared BlueTooth technology, will offer answers. We all love freedom. Imagine that embedded in a watch-sized device you'll wear on your wrist, you'll be able to access the Internet, shop, phone, take pictures, and watch video-on demand. That's what wireless telecommunication companies are developing.


Yes, some people will always love the idea of touching and feeling items before buying them, but ever more people and businesses will gladly trade that away for the pleasure of not having to traipse around hoping to find what they need. People appreciate the greater selection and price comparison available on the Net. Many people also don't like dealing with salespeople. With a bricks-and-mortar vendor, the salesperson you happen to get can be good, bad, or indifferent, whereas on a company's Web site, you always get the best information available.

Many vendors also prefer selling on the Web. There's no cost of a bricks-and-mortar store, no shoplifting, it's easy to track and market to customers, and the e-store can be open 24/7 at no additional cost.

The things that have heretofore inhibited e-commerce are rapidly being fixed -- slow-loading catalog pages, an inadequate site search function, weak presale advice, cumbersome checkout procedure, dicey customer service. With these weaknesses mitigated, the percentage of transactions on the Net will skyrocket.

Career implications: E-commerce will put many salespeople, distributors, and bricks-and-mortar businesses out of business. Work for a category-leading company with a serious commitment to e-commerce, for example, the leading broker of elder housing. The Internet also will affect the priests of professional expertise: lawyers, librarians, and doctors, as people expect instant information with the click of a hyperlink. No matter what your field, to maximize chances of survival, one of your first questions should be: "How should I use the Internet?"

Market Rationalization

Yes, if a customer needs a high level of service, it may make sense to patronize a small vendor, but in most cases, shopping at a small vendor is irrational. Large ones, such as Home Depot, provide better selection at better prices. Buyers who do most of their shopping with the little guy essentially are providing him with an act of charity. And as charitable as Americans are, they have a limit. So, the number of little guys will continue to decline. Career implication: In general, go with the big boys.

Home Schooling

Public schools are evermore focused on the needs of the poor and low-achieving. So, middle-income parents, especially in mixed socioeconomic areas, and especially if their children are bright, are realizing that their children's needs are unlikely to be well met in the public schools. One parent told me, "I thought that one of the main benefits of paying taxes was public education. Well, I can't get that benefit without risking my child's future." So parents in droves are home-schooling their children. In just 20 years, the number of American home-schooled has gone from 300,000 to 2 million(!), and growing. It's tough to beat the combination of one-on-one instruction aimed at a child's personal interests, from someone who loves him. And home schooling's growth rate will accelerate even faster as more compelling online courses and edutainment come available (For example, see StarPeace at But home schooling is a daunting task.

How can you capitalize careerwise? Train parents to home school better. Or provide one-on-one small-group tutoring in math and science, which are generally poorly taught by home schooling parents. Offer that tutoring in-person, by phone, or via Internet instant messaging. Or create activities that bring homeschoolers together -- physical education, field trips, sports and music activities.'s homeschooling portal: .

Mass Customization

Warp-speed advances in computer technology are enabling companies to create customized products in mass quantities. Dell and Gateway computer companies ushered in this revolution by building computers-to-suit. Greeting cards (, custom music CDs, one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls, and customized college textbooks followed suit. I predict that modularized homes will be next -- a way for the masses to own a custom-designed home. But my vote for the coming killer app for mass customization is clothing. Go to the clothier's Web site, pick a style, fabric, and color, enter your body measurements, and UPS will deliver your custom-tailored garment to your front door. No more endless shopping mall treks in hopes of finding something that looks great not just on the mannequin, but on our very unmannequin-like bodies. (See .) Land's End is already working on this. Other likely candidates for mass customization: upholstered furniture, window treatments, and, within a decade, drugs.

Non-Polluting Vehicles

Cars give people freedom that mass transit can never touch, even if we tripled the mass transit budget. But cars, trucks, and busses pollute. The answer: nonpolluting vehicles. It's unclear what combination of fuel cell, electric, solar, and gas-powered engines will emerge as optimal, but it is clear that soon, government will require vehicles to be much easier on the environment. Institute of Transportation Studies: .

Aging Parents

Boomers don't want to send their aging parents to a nursing home. Besides, they can't afford it -- they haven't saved enough for their own retirements. And with people living longer than ever, the issue will be unavoidable. Businesses that can make life easier for boomers to care for their aging parents will thrive. Ideas include build in-law units, "Coping with Alzheimers" coaching for family members, and geriatric care management to handle the details of an aging person's life when the children reside in another city.

Non-Techno Trends

Finally, two non-techno trends that I believe will offer tremendous career opportunities:

Eastern Europe and China

A decade after opening Eastern Europe to capitalism, some of the kinks have been worked out. Now may be the time to jump in. Entrepreneurs, do what you know over there. A client set up a medical journal publishing company in Poland. Another conducts corporate training in Hungary. Both of those fields are fairly full in the United States but wide open in Eastern Europe. Both clients are now millionaires. And now that China has permanent trading status in the World Trade Organization, its 1.2 billion(!) people represent a hugely untapped, if Wild West-like market.

Haves versus the Have-Nots

The decades-long trend of ever-growing differences between society's haves and have-nots must be addressed. Well-paying jobs require ever-higher-level skills that seem unreachable by growing numbers of people. Their inability to compete renders them economically vulnerable, which reduces their chances of ever rising from poverty and increases the likelihood of social unrest. Issues such as healthcare will not have easy solutions. The "have-nots" use healthcare resources at a far greater rate than others. Should they, even though they don't pay into the system, and may even be illegal aliens, be allowed to use more healthcare resources than U.S. citizens who do contribute? Even if it decreases the quality of health care available to the contributors? Especially in the area of health, where we're often literally talking life or death, there will be strong feelings on both sides of this issue. Researchers and policymakers are sorely needed to figure out solutions to the haves/have-nots problem that don't require confiscatory taxation policies that would generate a revolt from the haves.

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