Nanotechnology: Career Options and Education Requirements

Nanotechnologists typically require significant formal education. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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The field of nanotechnology extends into multiple different industries, including medicine, food science and electronics. This is a field of science at the microscopic level, and those who are interested in working with nanotechnology should be prepared to study microbiology and nanomaterials over the course of their studies.

Essential Information

Those who work with nanotechnology deal with materials and technologies on a microscopic level. Nanotechnologists work in many fields. As medical scientists, they develop treatments and repair damage at the cellular level. As food scientists, they develop new technologies to aid food production, including developing methods to detect contaminants and disease. As engineers, they might develop computer components or super-strong materials. Any career in nanotechnology requires a decent amount of formal education.

Careers Medical Scientists Agriculture and Food Scientists Electrical Engineers
Education Requirements Medical degree, Ph.D., or both Bachelor's or graduate degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% (except epidemiologists) 5% 1%
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $93,730 $72,030 $97,340

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Nanotechnology Career Options

Nanotechnology students study microbiology, nanomaterials, and proper safety techniques. Careers in the field almost always require the completion of some postsecondary education. Read on to learn about the usage of nanotechnology in the medical, food, and engineering industries.

Nanotechnology Careers in Medicine

Medical scientists and technicians plan to use nanotechnology for various patient treatments, such as delivering potential cures or repairing cellular damage. At present, some medical nanotechnology concepts are only theoretical, but other nanotechnology treatments are currently being researched or tested.

Medical scientists conduct research and design experiments to use microscopic nano-sized particles, wires and, eventually, robots to repair the human body. During experiments, nanotechnology technicians conduct tests, gather samples and prepare data for scientists and other researchers to review.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these medical scientists earned a median annual income of $82,240 in May 2015 and are expected to see an 8% increase in jobs during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov).

Nanotechnology Careers in Food Science

Professionals in the food science industry plan to apply nanotechnology throughout the stages of food production, processing and quality control. One way food scientists could use nanotechnology includes using nanosensors to identify any potential diseases or other contaminants dangerous to consumers. Food scientists also conduct research about ways to use nanotechnology to keep food fresher for longer periods of time. For example, some scientists argue that manufacturers can use nanoparticles or nanosensors in product packaging to prevent microbial bacteria from contaminating consumables.

Food scientists and technologists earned a median salary of $65,840 per year in 2015 and could see a 5% employment increase from 2014 to 2024, states the BLS.

Nanotechnology Careers in Engineering

Engineers utilize nanotechnology for many purposes, such as designing computer components, creating explosive-resistant materials and building microscopic sensors. In the computer industry, engineers use nanowires and optics to create microchips with immense storage capacity for data processing. Engineers working in national defense have found ways to use nanofibers to create lightweight, super-strong materials that can withstand the force of bullets or other explosive devices. Professionals have also developed microscopic sensors that can remotely detect trace amounts of dangerous chemicals or radiation.

Salaries for engineers vary by industry. For instance, the BLS reported in May 2015 that mechanical engineers earned a median annual income of $83,590, materials engineers earned $91,310, electrical engineers brought in $93,010 and industrial engineers made $83,470 per year. The field of engineering as a whole is expected to see slower than average growth from 2014 to 2024, with some engineering industries affected by declines in manufacturing, the BLS reported.

Nanotechnology Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that most employers require scientific or clinical technicians to hold the minimum of associate degrees related to their fields of expertise (www.bls.gov). Courses in nanotechnology associate degree programs may include nano techniques and instrumentation, nanomaterials, nanotechnology in manufacturing, microbiology, nanotechnology safety and nano fabrication. Several associate degree programs also require students to complete nanotechnology internships.

Information from the BLS points out that medical scientists generally need doctorate degrees to find employment. Food and agricultural scientists may only need bachelor's degrees for some career paths, although several professionals in this field pursue doctorate degrees so that they can conduct more advanced research projects for various employers.

Typically, most employers prefer to hire engineers who hold the minimum of bachelor's degrees related to their engineering field. Although engineers may work in nanotechnology, they may hold degrees outside of this field, such as bachelor's degrees in computer engineering or chemical engineering.

Nanotechnology can be applied to the medical industry to deliver cures or treatments, although it is mostly in the testing phase at the moment. In food science, nanotechnology is being used to find solutions to crop failures and is used throughout the food preparation process. In engineering, this technology is being implemented in almost every aspect of technological engineering, from weapons to computers to communications.

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