The Next Hot Career in Health Care Might Be Robotics

Hollywood gives us every reason to fear robots: Skynet, Ultron, the Sentinels, Gort. But in real life, we love our Roombas and Star Wars droids. Add another man-made machine to the list: micromotors.

No, not like that. This week, engineers at the University of California–San Diego announced that for the first time, tiny robots successfully treated bacterial infections in the stomach. Machines half the width of a strand of hair neutralized excess gastric acid, swimming through the stomach until its pH levels were neutral enough to deliver a payload of antibiotics. This is cool on its own, but it's also fixing an issue that can be serious — the side effects of the usual treatments for these infections can include headaches, diarrhea, and fatigue, as well as anxiety and depression.

Nanotechnology has signaled a lot of promise for the medical field ever since sci-fi writers dreamed it up as early as the 1930s. Given how new it is as implemented, there's a lot of room for it to grow as a career. Right now, the average salary for a nanotechnology engineering technician stands around $79,000 a year. Hospitals and physicians are using nanotech for everything from regenerative medicine to fighting cancer to fertility treatments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 10 critical topic areas that need more research, and which may signal growth areas.

If all that sounds exciting to you, what are your next steps for making it your career?

The National Nanotechnology Initiative has collected resources and links for all education levels to get you started. The most helpful feature is its lists of schools: You can browse everything from short technical programs to eight-year doctorates. Professional societies are also great places to learn more about breaking into a field. Try the American Society for Nanomedicine for starters. There's even a dedicated jobs site for nanotech opportunities, appropriately named tinytechjobs.

The health care industry will only keep growing, as will STEM fields. Want to make your mark on the littlest, most vital frontier? Nanotechnology could be in your future, and everyone's.