Cool Job of the Week: Science Reporter

With today’s full (or partial, depending on your location) solar eclipse happening across the U.S., my pick for Cool Job of the Week is a no-brainer: Science Reporter!

If you turn on any TV station today, you’re going to see a science reporter in action. Today they’ll be focused on explaining how a solar eclipse happens, how to view one safely (don’t forget your eclipse glasses!), and where you can find the path of totality – the places across the country where the sun will be fully covered by the moon’s passage.

Photo credit: “Image of Solar Eclipse as seen by Hinode Satellite,” via NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Even if you don’t have a TV, you can tune into NASA’s coverage of the eclipse at The folks presenting on NASA’s website are a mix of scientists and communications experts, all employed by NASA.

Want to know more about the life of a science reporter?

Check out the Columbia Journalism Review for a great article on David Perlman, a science reporter for the The San Francisco Chronicle who recently retired at the age of 98. He advises: “Be a reporter. It’s the best job in the world.”

Cool Job of the Week: Planetary Protection Officer

Is there anything cooler than defending Earth against alien invaders?


What about getting paid to do the job?

That’s right: this job really exists, and it’s called the Planetary Protection Officer. According to an article from Business Insider, it’s a position within NASA, and it’s currently held by Catharine Conley (who has been the original PPO since 2006).

As this brief article from Fortune notes, however, the job is more concerned with defending Earth against disease-causing microbes than little green men, coneheads, chest-busters, or any other aliens Hollywood has conjured up.

It’s also a job concerned with protecting other planets – like Mars – against human contamination. Which, as you can imagine, is quite a huge task.

Are you up for the job?

If you’ve got the right qualifications, this gig is currently taking applications through August 14, 2017.

What kinds of experience does one need to have to be considered Planetary Protection Officer material? Here’s the short, but action-packed, list:

  1. An advanced degree in engineering, mathematics or physical science
  2. One year or more of experience as a GS-15 government employee (the top pay level for civilians)
  3. “Advanced knowledge” of planetary protection needs (here’s where binge watching every sci-fi movie ever made might come in handy…)
  4. “Demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance”
  5. “Demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions”

And, of course, since this is a government job, only U.S. citizens and nationals are eligible to apply.

Don’t worry if you’re not currently qualified for the gig – it’s quite a senior position, but it also runs for 3-year terms, with the possibility for an extension of an additional 2 years. That means you’ve got 3 to 5 years to build up that résumé and work experience to apply in 2020 or 2022!

Looking for more jobs at NASA?

Check out our “A is for Astronaut” post to learn more about the wonderful world of science in space.

Original, Outstanding, Obtainable Jobs

O is for… Oceanographer!

One of my favorite fictional job titles is “Oceanographic Explorer,” which is actually the name of a magazine that features in Wes Anderson’s movie, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The reporter who arrives to interview Steve becomes quite a thorn in his side, which is part of what makes this movie so funny, but as it turns out one can be an Oceanographic Explorer in real life by becoming an Oceanographer.

Oceanographers study the sea – and its inhabitants! (photo credit: David J. Thomas)

Oceanographers are scientists who study the ocean. There are many different scientific disciplines that fall under oceanography, including marine biology, marine chemistry, marine geology, and physical oceanography. Even NASA is looking for oceanographers, to observe our oceans from space!

UC San Diego is actually a leader in oceanography – and for good reason. The city is, of course, right on California’s coast, and has plenty of access to the water. And the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is interested in training the next generation of marine scientists who can address “issues of global concern, the environment, climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable resources.” (And you can find a full list of things you can do with a degree from Scripps here!)

Whether you’re interested in science or adventure (or a little bit of both!) oceanography is an exciting field to consider.

Further Reading

Related Films

Other Outstanding Jobs That Start With O

  • Obstetrician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Optician
  • Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Osteopath

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.