Career Chemistry: Best Jobs for Investigative People

Job for people who prefer logic over whimsy and don't mind working alone.

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Do you think of yourself as scientific, precise, and analytical? Good at developing intellectually rigorous solutions to problems? As part of our guide to career chemistry, we've highlighted these top career picks for "investigative" folks who love to absorb detail, prefer logic over whimsy, and don't mind working alone:

Science researcher/professor. The coming decades will see a revolution in how we prevent and treat disease, cope with environmental degradation, and address health threats such as bioterrorism and drug-resistant bacteria. Be advised, this a tough field to enter: Advanced degrees are rampant, and a plain ol' Ph.D. in molecular biology is no longer enough. Landing a good job usually requires extra expertise in fields like computational biology, computer programming, or biophysics, and one to three years as a post-doc student. After that, however, you'll have the opportunity to become involved in work that might save countless lives.

More info: Science Careers; Academic Scientists at Work (second edition) by Jeremy Boss

Software engineer/developer. Designing and creating new applications and operating systems requires a rigorous, logical thinker who can, at the same time, divine what interfaces work best for human beings. Computer security remains a growth industry, with demand for experts likely to increase indefinitely.
More info: www.developers.net; The Career Programmer (second edition) by Christopher Duncan

[See 7 Occupations With the Highest Hiring Demand.]

Computer systems analyst/architect. When you're tired of cranking code, you can become a systems analyst or even architect—if you have the people skills and ability to see the big picture. Your job is to analyze the organization's needs, propose computer-centric solutions, and supervise implementation.
More info: Department of Labor profile: Computer Systems Analyst; Systems Analysis and Design(third edition) by Alan Dennis

Physician assistant. You get to do many of a physician's most rewarding tasks—conduct exams, treat basic problems, and provide health education—without the enormous cost, time, and stress of medical school. Nor does this job require those insane, 100-hour-week internships.
More info: Department of Labor profile: Physician Assistant; Getting Into the Physician Assistant School of Your Choice by Andrew Rodican

Optometrist. Here's another M.D.-like career, with less training required than for ophthalmologists, who do surgery. Optometrists typically train for four years after getting a bachelor's degree. Once practicing, there are many rewards: Optometry is a profession with a high cure rate, regular hours, good pay, and realistic potential for being successfully self-employed.
More info: Department of Labor profile: Optometrist; Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry; American Optometric Association

[See 6 Ways the World of Work is Changing.]

Veterinarian. Vets have to go to school for four years after college, but no internship, residency, or board certification is required. And because most patients—well, the owners of patients—pay out-of-pocket, there's much less hassle with insurance companies. One downside: Veterinary clinics can be noisy: ruff-ruff.
More info: American Veterinary Medical Association, About.com's veterinary portal. True Confessions of a Veterinarian by Gene Witiak

Librarian. Forget the mousy bookworm image. Tomorrow's librarian will be more of a high-tech data sleuth, using computers and sophisticated software to track down information. Some of the best jobs are as special librarians: those who work in corporations, universities, and law firms.
More info: Department of Labor profile: Librarian; American Library Association; Special Libraries Association; The Librarian's Career Guidebook by Priscilla Shontz; Straight from the Stacks: A First Hand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science by Laura Townsend Kane