What are the Careers of the Future?

careers of the future

Decisions about choosing a career or school subjects have you confused? Here we give you the careers of the future and what you can study to get involved with these careers.

Electricity, the telephone, radio, television, the computer, the calculator, cars, airplanes – are some of the best and greatest inventions of the past centuries. What makes them so great? The fact that they’ve increased the worlds’ efficiency in terms of communication and our quality of life. These inventions have also made it so much easier to entertain ourselves for hours, or even days, at a time. (What would a sick day be without reruns on TV, surrounded by gooey tissues?)

Probably one of the most game-changing inventions ever was invented by Vincent Cerf – the internet. It simply revolutionalised the world. People were able to communicate instantly. Now, it allows us to control our lights at home… From 1 000 kms away. The internet, along with other major inventions in technology (think artificial intelligence), is introducing a new set of careers and university courses to the world.

We can no longer study the same courses from 10 years ago; things aren’t done in the same way anymore. Sure, we will always need doctors, dentists and teachers. But the methods of teaching and practicing medicine have changed due to major technological developments. So what are they and how do we keep up with both old and new careers?

How do we Keep up with the Careers of the Future?

As technology changes and constantly improves, we’ve learnt to adapt to new ways of doing things quite easily. Prime example – 2 year olds know how to operate an iPad nowadays. When it comes to cool technology, our brains are sponges. We can all embrace the change and use it as a foundation for our future. If you’re in high school, taking a gap year or in varsity but still undecided on what you want to do, then listen up. There are a few key technologies and careers of the future that you want to be a part of. 

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What Should I study? 

From the research I’ve conducted and the conversations I’ve had, there are a few different fields, each with their own technologies, that are bound to thrive in the future. I spoke to individuals with a vast amount of knowledge on these different fields and got their advice on what to study.

Commerce and the World of Finance

To get information on this field, I was fortunate enough to score a meeting with a world leader and entrepreneur in finance, Zachariah George. He has an engineering degree and a MS Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. To sum up my point: he knows a large amount about the world of Financial Technology (FinTech) and Commerce.

Here are some of the careers he recommends and why:

  • Computer Programming (Coding)

“There’s a shortage of about 30 000 coders in South Africa. The opportunity for students to learn how to code from as early as Grade 8 or 9 is huge.”

With the huge shortage of coders and the necessity of the skill going forward, the opportunity is huge. This applies to every sector, not just commerce or finance. You could code software for the financial world or you could be a part of the Artificial Intelligence revolution. You can decide where your skills as a coder would be best used.

“Now a lot of coding is open source, meaning you can get stuff for free online. Studying coding isn’t expensive. You don’t need to go to a school to learn it.”

How to get involved? The opportunity for you to learn how to code from a young age is there. And you don’t need to go and study a 3 year degree to do it. Take a look at Coursera and CodeEx for coding courses. 

  • Law

“A lot can be digitized now a days but you will still need courts, lawyers and judges.” – Zachariah George

You can’t take people out of every industry. Some things will always need the input of humans with a set of morals and values that machines simply don’t have. (Yet anyway).

How to get involved? There are so many different law degrees out there, find one which suits you.

  • Renewable Energy

Whether it’s business consulting or working for an organization who innovates new sustainable methods, this field is only getting bigger with time.

How to get involved? You can study anything from business management to architecture or even get involved in renewable energy and sustainability.

  • Big data and Storage of Information

Ever heard of the Cloud? Well a career in big data and the storage of information is becoming larger and the need for experts is increasing.

 How to get involved? You could study programming or do an online course through Cloud School.

  • Travel, Tourism and Hospitality 

“You’re always going to have interest in these fields. It’s just a question on how you study it.”

Instead of bookings made via phone calls, all it takes is a few clicks and an online credit card payment. Soon you may even get to choose the layout and design of your hotel room online. 

 How to get involved? You can study tourism and hospitality at many different institutions throughout SA. Take a look at EcoTraining and Damelin.

  • Anything in the Virtual Reality Space

Virtual reality is defined by Merriam-Webster as

“an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determines what happens in the environment.” (The environment being the image displayed on your computer or other technological device).

This new development in technology is up and coming and it may come sooner than we expect. Just look at Google’s goggles. You can now attend virtual concerts – it feels like you’re in the crowd of a huge concert like Mumford and Sons. You can feel the vibe. Only difference is you’re lying on your bed at home without the risk of a stampede.

How to get involved? Take some coding courses or study Mechanical or Mechatronics Engineering.

  • Online Gaming

WOW, LOL, Call of Duty. These are only a few of the games which connect gamers all across the world. The online gaming experience is only going to improve. This is where online gaming and virtual reality meets. Mental Floss has some cool innovations that are soon going to change the world of gaming.

How to get involved? Coding, engineering, computer science and pretty much anything that could involve you in artificial intelligence.

  • Mobile Food Trucks

Yip. This is exactly what you think it is. Those cool food vendors you see in the movies. There’s a huge opportunity for this. If you choose to do this, try and lean towards the healthy food side of fast food (just my personal opinion).

How to get involved? Perhaps a course in business management or entrepreneurship could be beneficial.

Llew Claasen, Managing Partner at Newton Partners, also added his opinion on the future developments in process. Here is what he has to say regarding the financial sector:

  • Blockchain Technology

If you have an interest in the financial world, coding and being a part of something new then Blockchain Technology may be the way forward for you.

A whole new world of exchanging and storing money is introduced. Bitcoin is a new, online currency which is taking the world by storm. To avoid going into too much depth, read up on Bitcoin basics for a better understanding.

To become involved with Bitcoin and earn a living from it, you would need to help with the verification processes of users as well as improve and keep the system transparent. By putting your time, technological power and effort into this, the Blockchain will reward you with Bitcoins.

How to get involved? Take a look at the Blockchain Academy in SA for some courses. 

Check out these videos below.

Medical and Science Fields

The developments happening in this field are huge. The way doctors are performing surgery is changing – they now use robots for simpler, routine surgeries. New technologies for detecting illnesses and irregularities in the body are forever being innovated and improved. The outlook for the health of humans is getting better every day.

I chatted to Anja Schwaer and Lynn Tyers, both doing postgraduate studies at UCT. Anja is going to be doing her masters in Neuroscience in Holland while Lynn is currently busy with her masters in Genetics and Cell Biology. Here are their views on the future of the field and what you should study to be involved in the progression:

  • Gene/DNA editing

Genetic editing is a rather new and ethically challenged field. They use this to take out genetic deficiencies like Downs Syndrome or Huntington’s Disease. So this is where the defect sits on only one gene. Major developments are going to come in this area with regards to fighting precursors of cancer, diseases and weaknesses in a human’s DNA. Scientists are fighting the ethical debates and restrictions to make this possible.

How to get involved? This would involve studying Computational Biology.

  • Organ Design

While experimental research into 3D printing of organs is being conducted, there has been success in using a person’s stem cells to reprogramme a stem cell to being a specific organ cell. Thereby, a new organ can be created from it.

How to get involved? This is a specialised field of Biotechnology or Computational Biology.

  • Biochemistry

This is also the basis of many science fields. It involves more of the chemistry regarding what goes on inside the body or plant.

How to get involved? Studying Biotechnology and continuing a postgraduate degree to become more specialised.

  • Neuroscience

This field centers around the brain. The brain is the core of who we are and what makes us human. A lot of research is being put into understanding the brain, like the Human Brain Project in Europe. Not only are we curious and want to understand the brain, but uncovering the in-depth workings of this organ will allow potential cures for diseases, mental illness and cancer to be found. One of the latest specialties of neuroscience is Trans-Cranial Mangnetic Stimulation (TMS).

How to get involved? Biological Sciences with postgraduate studies.

  • Computational Biology

This is basically coding, except you code DNA by understanding the sequencing of genetics. This is to help the biologists and scientists discover the genomes of diseases and weaknesses. Lynn says that computational biologists are

“sought after like nothing on Earth.”

How to get involved? You would need to study engineering with a postgrad in neuroscience or genetics. Alternatively, you could study bio-informatics or computer science with a postgrad in neuroscience or genetics.

  • Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is taking the medical world by storm. These tiny particles can be used to fight specific cancer cells without killing the healthy cells. The potential to change medicine here is huge. One of the latest innovations is Photodynamic Therapy for brain cancer.

How to get involved? Biomedical Engineering would be the way to go to get involved in this groundbreaking field.

Check out these videos below.

Sustainability and Agriculture

The sustainability movement has only recently started taking huge steps in changing the way things are done in South Africa and the rest of the world. To really understand the importance of it and how students can get involved, I chatted with Devan Valenti, co-author of the book “Green is Not a Colour.”

There are some really cool developments in sustainability and agriculture. Devan gives his recommendations on how you could become involved:

  • Building Management

There are two focal concerns in the world of sustainability: the usage and depletion of both water and energy. Building Management is where systems are installed in buildings to make them more water and energy efficient. This is by keeping track of any leaks or weaknesses in the consumption of water and energy in a building.

How to get involved? Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or even building management.

  • Technology in Transport

Some of the latest and biggest developments to save energy in South Africa, in terms of transportation, has been the MyCiti Bus and Gautrain. Not only have they improved the safety and efficiency of public transport, they’ve created apps that help you with timetables and loading credits onto your card. This also helps decrease fuel consumption and the release of harmful gases as less people use their cars to commute.

How to get involved? Mechanical engineering and computer programming.

  • Agriculture

New methods of farming are always being developed. This is important for efficiency, production and quality of the crops and meat being produced. They’ve also produced drones which take photos of your farm. These photos measure the typology and radian heat. You can use this to assess the state of your farm from hundreds of kilometers away. There are also huge breakthroughs in creating more sustainable crops and means of agriculture.

How to get involved? Study Coding to get involved with the drones and artificial intelligence side of things. Study Agriculture for the actual farming and running of a farm.

  • Structural Engineering

Roof top gardens and vertical farming are going to become a big part of agriculture. Vertical farming makes use of large, tall structures with a rotational system in large cities. Watch the video below to get more information.

How to get involved? Structural engineering and agriculture would be the leaders in this field.

  • Architecture

“We need to design, build and create structure for resiliency.” – Devan Valenti

Architects can now design houses that don’t need aircons. The way it is designed creates the ability to cool or warm up a house without needing electrical heating. More eco-friendly building materials can be used.   Architects need to take this into consideration when designing a house.

How to get involved? With architecture of course!

  • Business Management

You can transform any business to integrate sustainability. No matter what you study, you can somehow integrate sustainability.

How to get involved? You could study business management and sustainability and use your knowledge to consult companies on how to make their businesses more sustainable.

  • Green Building Consulting

This is one of the fastest growing industries in the South African sustainability sector. All you need is basic knowledge on engineering, business or the like.

How to get involved? You would need to do a course through private companies that offer this.

  • Green Star Rating

This is a rating that measures the level of sustainability in a company.

How to get involved? You would need a background in engineering or environmental studies to do a course through a private company.

  • Efficient Transportation

Ever heard of Tesla? Well they are making huge strides in this department. They’re creating solar-powered cars which can actually store the energy in a PV cell (yes, they have created a battery that can actually store solar power now). While Tesla isn’t in South Africa yet, there are other car manufacturing companies which are conducting similar research.

How to get involved? You would need to study mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or coding to get involved in this type of technology.

These are only some of the key technologies and careers of the future. There are many more careers out there which you could definitely go into. The trick to keeping up with these changes and not giving up is this.

Don’t give up on your passion! Just because doctors use machines for surgery now doesn’t mean we no longer need doctors. You just need to learn to take your career or passion and adapt it to keeping up with technology and following trends. There really is no reason to despair.

Check out these videos below.

The Decision is Yours 

Deciding on what to study can be pretty daunting. The rest of your life depends on this one decision. Or so you think. The information above is just a guideline on how the world is likely to change and how you can get involved in a career that partakes in the change.

My advice would be: take your strengths, whether they lie in maths, science or art, and somehow combine them with new technology. Artists and designers are still, and will always, be necessary. There is simply a shift from hand drawn images to doing everything with the use of software on a computer.

You can literally do anything. It’s about adjusting what you do to suit the new technological advancements.

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Take some time to do your own research and assess your skills, strengths and weaknesses. Find out what you’re interested in. Job shadow some professionals and see if you actually like the career you’re considering. The world is changing and we’re the generation that will implement this change. Let’s embrace it!

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