Alyssa Walker :
The future is liquid-shimmering at the edge of our minds, moving and changing-and literally water dependent. When you think about what to study and why, remember this: no one on this planet is alone. We're all in it together. Earn a degree in any of these areas and make a positive, lasting impact on the future.
1. Coastal and Marine Management
Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is in the ocean-as is ninety-nine percent of the planet's habitable space. 372,000 miles of this planet is coastline, and nearly 2.4 billion people live within 60 miles of a coast. Our oceans and coasts are the cradle of all life. It's no surprise then that a degree in Coastal and Marine Management can put you at the forefront of a local, regional, national, and international-technically and politically complicated-and ecologically critically field. Check out the Coastal Ecology studies at the College of Coastal Georgia or the Master in Coastal and Marine Management in Iceland.
Here's what we know: STEM is vitally important for the future. Here's the problem: STEM and the humanities have been pitted against each other. Here's what we need to do: remember that we don't live in a vacuum-the world is not compartmentalized. Neither are we. Studying the humanities gives students essential skills for living-especially in a STEM-infused world. Apple's Steve Jobs once said "technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." You know what he studied? Zen Buddhism. Prefer a master's degree? Try an MA in International Peace Studies or a Master of Arts in Peace and Justice. But you don't need to focus on peace and conflict to impact the future. Do you want to change the world? Work hard, study something you enjoy-and make a ripple, even a wave for generations to come.
3. Future Studies
While there are no crystal balls or tarot cards in future studies-also called futurology and foresight studies-there's a definitive need for those who can study history to make predictions about the future across all disciplines, from science and technology to the humanities. Even degrees like architectural engineering to robotics can give you a way into futurology. The field began during WWII, when there was a global need to understand the possibilities and ramifications of then "present" actions on the future. That need is even more present today with rapid globalization. Futurists tend to fall in one of two camps-and everything in between. On one side, there are the "doom and gloom" futurists who tend to focus on current, real-world problems without easy solutions: world hunger, overpopulation, depletion of non-renewable resources, pollution, to name a few. As a counterbalance, there are the positive, visionary, evolutionary futurists who acknowledge the doom and gloom, but focus on the technological, societal, and human potentials and empowering people to understand that the future is a choice-and not necessarily and inevitably. Which one will you choose? Consider a Master of Sustainable Futures or an MPhil in Future Studies.
Bye-bye traditional banking and hello fintech. A marriage of finance and technology gives us fintech, one of the hottest new fields out there. What is it and how can you change the world? Fintech focuses on using technology to improve the efficiency of financial markets-investing, digital currency, credit scoring, cyber security, education lending to name a few. If there's a role for technology in finance, fintech will find it, and it's not just in banks. Global investment in the fintech sector has more than tripled over the last five years, reaching over $12 billion since 2014. Study fintech and play a role in the shape of the economic and technological future.
5. Technology and Biomedical Engineering
Blend biology, medicine, engineering and computer science, and make yourself an indispensable player in the future of science and medicine. Tackle modern research problems with a degree in Computer Simulation in Science or develop future-ready specialist knowledge with a Master of Electrical Engineering and IT. Or consider a Master of Science in Nanotechnology Engineering. With technology giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, IBM, and MIT making significant commitments to applying science and technology to medicine for the "eradication" of all disease, the future will certainly need bioinformatics experts, biotechnologists, and biomedical engineers who have the scientific, analytical, engineering, and computer skills to serve the common good and make the future for the future even better. Consider a Master from the Technical University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic, a MSc in Bioinformatics in Malaysia or Portugal, or an M.S. in Biotechnology from The Catholic University of America.
6. Instructional Design
There's a lot to learn in this world and engaged learners learn. What makes for an engaged learner? Amazing Instructional Design (ID)! We live in a world with vast quantities of information, and the amount of that information continues to grow. Just look at big data! Instructional designers streamline and structure information so that it's accessible to you-the learner. As an instructional designer, you will use technology to create better technology formats and programs in areas across the board-education, business, finance, STEM, the humanities. Want to study in the US? An MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Concordia University Chicago, the University of Tampa or Walden University will let you combine your studies in education and technology and a degree in ID will help the future learn what's really important.
It all comes back to water. Without it, there's no life on earth. Make an impact on the future and study the science of water, with a degree in hydrology and water resource management from schools in the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, and around the world. Hydrologists study water's form and function-its distribution, physical properties, patterns of circulation, and rainfall. How will we conserve one of the future's most necessary natural resources? With a degree in hydrology, you can help ensure that future generations will have enough water to live-and to do amazing things.
(Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family).