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Engineering and science

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October 14, 2007

One need only listen to the news to know our country's aging infrastructure needs serious rehabilitation. "Just like with an old house, and the cars and people we love, there's always something to fix. It's the same with old roads and bridges," said Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Dr. Cornelia Demers, associate professor of civil engineering technology and coordinator of the school's civil engineering technology program.

Mechanical and electronic engineering grads are two of the most sought after by recruiters coming from around the nation to Boston-area schools, according to Greg Denon, Wentworth's director of career services. In Massachusetts, firms want these specialists for work in medical devices and alternative energy.

In the sciences, Boston and Cambridge remain strong for academic jobs, research, product development, and sales of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. The area’s diverse markets enable most professionals to find work, despite the changing fortunes of some biomedical companies.

For professional and career connections, check nspe.org, www.engineers.org, and sciencecareers.org.

BIOLOGICAL SCIENTISTS

Average salary: $73,770

Demand: Very good in most areas. Industry demand is particularly strong in this region from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies; government funding remains good for research on cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and gene therapies. Sales, marketing, and applied research also offer good opportunities. Competition for work and grant money tempers the market for PhDs in some other biological sciences.

Qualifications: Doctorate necessary for independent research; master's for applied research; bachelor's for some sales.

CHEMISTS

Average salary: $77,640

Demand: Fair to good. Opportunities are good in pharmaceutical, medical, and environmental research, but competition is tough. The market for nonpharmaceutical chemists is weaker.

Qualifications: Independent research requires a PhD; those with a master's can work in applied research, sales, and marketing.

CHEMICAL ENGINEERS

Average salary: $86,480

Demand: Mixed. Much chemical manufacturing is in decline, but opportunities are good in energy, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Some work goes offshore.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree required. Must keep current in field or face layoffs.

CIVIL ENGINEERS

Average salary: $80,010

Demand: Strong. Civil engineers are in high demand to rehabilitate our aging infrastructure, and to design environmentally sustainable green structures. Businesses, schools, and governments are actively seeking more engineers, both experienced and at entry level.

Qualifications: Civil engineering degree plus state licensure. Keeping current with new technologies is crucial.

ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERS

Average salary: $94,060 (electrical); $88,130 (electronics)

Demand: Very good. Firms actively seek these specialties for energy management, medical device design, wireless electronics, and more.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree, plus continuing courses to stay current in new technologies; analytical and creative abilities.

ENGINEERING AND NATURAL SCIENCE MANAGERS

Average salary: $126,690 (engineering); $139,750 (natural science)

Demand: Strong. Experienced engineering and science managers with additional business backgrounds are in demand.

Qualifications: Bachelor's degree in engineering, field experience, good technical and communication skills. Additional degree in business or engineering management increases marketability.

MECHANICAL ENGINEERS

Average salary: $86,660

Demand: Very good. Demand is high for mechanical engineers for designing medical devices, fuel cells, wind turbines, and other alternative energy systems. Also, many engineers are retiring, leaving more jobs to fill.

Qualifications: Degree in mechanical engineering, continuing courses in new technologies.

GEOLOGISTS, GEOPHYSICISTS, AND OCEANOGRAPHERS

Average salary: $79,890 (geoscientists); $88,680 (oceanographers)

Demand: Good. Growing needs to find new energy sources and to study the impact of climate change on our water, earth, and undersea life are fueling increased demand for these scientists. New technologies enable more advanced studies of tectonic plate movements, shipwrecks, and whale populations. Retirements also create openings.

Qualifications: Graduate degrees required for research; bachelor's degree for entry-level work. Mobility and a second language necessary for many fields.

PHYSICISTS AND ASTRONOMERS

Average salary: $102,340 (physicists); $120,570 (astronomers)

Demand: Mixed. Competition continues to be tough, as the '90s produced far more PhDs than jobs, and federal research funding has been cut in many areas. Energy research, defense work, and applied research and development provide good opportunities.

Qualifications: PhD and postdoctoral training needed for university teaching and research; master's degree can qualify for applied research and product development; those with bachelor's degrees often switch to engineering or computer work.

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