Looking Ahead: Five Exciting Careers For Today's Teens

Let’s face it: most teenagers don’t dream of becoming accountants or office managers. Youthful aspirations tend to be driven by careers that provide excitement and stimulation. In fact, some teens are more inclined to select careers that provide the most fun over careers that pay the most money. As a result, career ideas for teenagers usually tend to be unconventional and many are relatively new occupations.

A 2013 survey by Junior Achievement and ING revealed that there was a “substantial year-over-year decline in teens’ interest in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and medical-related fields.” Although 46 percent of teens surveyed expressed an interest in a STEM or a medical career, this represents a 15 percent decrease from the 2012 survey.  Forty percent of respondents said that they would choose a career because they think they would be good at it, and 13 percent would select an occupation because “it seems that it would be a lot of fun.” Also, 17 percent would select a profession in which they could help people, 12 percent would pursue an option that would allow them to make a lot of money, and the remaining 17 percent chose “other,” as the reason they would choose a career.

However, since teenagers are quick to embrace technological advances, they are in a prime position to become educated and trained in fields that require the ability to quickly learn, adapt to, and apply new technologies. Computer technology, whether in the form of video game development or cybersecurity, provides attractive career choices for teenagers. Media and communications are other sectors that attract this age group, and can provide attainable goals for those who are already using video equipment on an amateur level.  The popularity of TV shows that use sleek and sophisticated equipment to catch criminals may appeal to teens interested in law enforcement. And for those who want to work in the great outdoors, an underwater career provides a daily adrenalin rush.

5 Video Game Development: $48,730 - $78,260

Teenagers who enjoy playing video games all day might enjoy getting paid to work in the video game industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are numerous career choices in this field, including video game content designers, who develop the game’s plot and characters; game mechanic designers, who create specific parts of the game such as the combat scenes; and level designers, who create the environments, such as a creepy background for a horror game. Video game developers also include writers who are responsible for the game’s dialogue and text. In addition, artificial intelligence programmers determine how the computer-generated characters respond to a player’s actions, while graphics programmers use algorithms to create 2D and 3D graphics.

Most video game designers have a bachelor’s degree in game development, game design or computer science. Also, writers usually have a bachelor’s degree in English or a related subject. In addition, programmers need a bachelor’s degree in a computer science-related field, or in video game production. Salaries range from $48,730 for graphic designers, to $58,420 for writers, to $78,260 for computer programmers.

4 Computer Hacking: $80,020

Yes . . . computer hacking is a legitimate job. In fact, the National Security Administration has started an aggressive campaign to hire people with these skills. In an interview with FastCompany.com, General Keith Alexander of the Department of Defense’s Cyber Command division said that between 2009 and 2011, attacks on U.S. computers increased seventeen-fold. As a result, in 2012, the NSA designed cyber operations curricula at four universities -- Northeastern, Dakota State, Tulsa, and the Naval Postgraduate School -- to help train “cyberwarriors.” These schools were chosen because they already had cyber-operations courses in place, and only required some adjustments to become formal NSA programs.

While requirements for the program vary by school, coursework generally includes such classes as malware analysis, electronic infrastructure, and cloud security, in addition to more traditional classes in network infrastructure and programming. Students at the Naval Postgraduate School are involved in simulated war games, while Tulsa teaches students how to reconstruct destroyed phones and “dumpster-dive” for evidence. Students usually take the program as part of a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a computer science field; however, applicants with a police record will be disqualified from entering this program. The salary for computer analysts and network security analysts is $80,020.

3 Commercial Diving: $54,750

For adventurous teens who love the unconventional, working underwater might be a dream job. Commercial divers actually build and repair underwater structures. According to the Department of Labor, they may tighten a bolt 1,000 feet underwater, weld cracks in deep-sea oil rigs, or examine pipes in water treatment plants. Commercial divers may take measurements, repair a septic tank, or dig an underwater ditch. They often wear dive suits that have been designed for the specific kind of water they’re submerged in, and the suits are also designed to handle the pressure the divers are under. Commercial divers also wear helmets or masks, and carry diving equipment on their backs, in addition to other work-related equipment, such as wrenches.

Most divers are part of a team, with some workers underwater and others assisting from either a boat or on shore. The workers above water monitor the diver’s air hoses, keep track of how much time has been spent underwater, and provide instructions. Some divers work with engineers, carrying video cameras that allow the engineers to view their work- basically serving as the engineers’ eyes and hands. Most divers attend diving school, which lasts a few months. They earn an annual salary of $54,750, according to the Department of Labor.

2 Forensic Science Technicians: $55,730

The popularity of crime dramas like “CSI” and “CSI:Miami” has led to an increase in young people wanting to join the ranks of criminal investigators. Forensic science technicians collect and process evidence, and usually specialize in one of two areas. Those who work at the scene of the crime are known as crime scene investigators. They perform an analysis to determine what evidence should be collected and how, take photographs, make notes, and catalog evidence.

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories identify the evidence collected by crime scene investigators, and try to match the physical evidence to possible suspects. They have a variety of responsibilities, including matching found fingerprints with samples in computer databases, determining the trajectory of a bullet fired at the scene, and analyzing blood spatter patterns. Forensic science technicians generally have a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, chemistry, biology, or another natural science. However, the Department of Labor reports that some rural areas may accept a high school diploma. Forensic science technicians earn a yearly salary of $55,730.

1 Camera Operation and Video Editing: $49,010 / $64,060

Camera operators record video images, while editors choose the best images to use in the final product. Camera operators usually work with directors to understand the vision of the production and choose and frame the best images to convey the story. Studio camera operators may work at such places as TV news stations, and entertainment and game shows. Electronic news gathering operators also work for news stations, but will work in the field, recording breaking news and other events. Camera operators who film motion pictures are known as cinematographers. Many videographers film weddings and other types of private events. Still others film corporate documentaries for various companies.

Video editors use computer software to digitize and catalog video footage on a computer hard drive. The best footage is then placed on a timeline and B-roll footage, such as crowd shots or other secondary images, is also added to cover places where the footage has been cut. Video editors also ensure the audio is synced to the video image and is at a volume that can be clearly heard.  In addition, they add text and special effects to the final video product. Video editors may work for television and motion picture companies, or for corporate and private companies. Most camera operators and video editors have a bachelor’s degree in a film or broadcast-related subject. According to the Department of Labor, camera operators earn $49,010 yearly, while video editors make $64,060.

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