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Math, Science, and Computer Students: The Energy Sector Wants You

U.S. News & World Report, September 10 
As the energy sector continues to embrace technology to streamline its operations, it is leading to a sharp increase in new job opportunities for recent college graduates with a background in math, science and computer science. New innovations like smart grids, wireless sensors and predictive intelligence are transforming the job profiles at public utilities and oil and gas companies. As a result, college grads with technical and advanced degrees will be needed to fill relatively high-paying positions as engineers, scientists, and technicians. In fact, over the next decade, the energy sector could become a large driver of job growth in the U.S., especially with a greater willingness to explore alternative energy solutions.
Much of the job creation in the energy sector will be driven by domestic production of shale. These underground deposits of oil and natural gas are found in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, as well as in North Dakota. Job-growth projections from 2010 to 2020 released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics present a mixed view of the energy sector. The BLS foresees an increase of 23,000 oil and gas extraction jobs over the next decade, largely due to the rise in shale production, but a decrease of 47,000 jobs with electric power and natural gas utilities. Skills for energy jobs of the future will vary widely, from high school diplomas to two- or four-year college educations to advanced degrees, depending on the level of expertise required.
Within the oil and gas sector, the dramatic increase in domestic oil and gas exploration and production will create demand for IT specialists. Additionally, professionals with environmental and/or technical backgrounds will be needed to fill positions as occupational health and safety technicians to ensure that energy producers comply with federal, state, and local regulations. Demand could grow if increased domestic-energy production sparks more controversy over environmental consequences. The renewable fuels sector could also see a boost in hiring. While most solar panel manufacturers are overseas, especially in China, demand for solar panel installers in the United States could skyrocket over the next decade as the technology improves and equipment prices drop. Finally, smart grids could also lead to more hiring: although increased automation of energy grids is expected to result in a net loss of positions over the next decade, new ones are still being created, particularly in IT-related areas.

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