5 humanitarian STEM careers

As a hydrologist, Bradley Moggridge's expertise is in Kamilaroi and Indigenous cultural values of water and the environment.

If you’re keen to make major social impact, there are loads of opportunities in STEM

When we think of humanitarian and social impact careers, we often think of legal aid, education and social work-type gigs, yet there are a stack of opportunities in disaster relief and aid work that require solid STEM skills. Here, we break down some of the science, tech and engineering jobs making a massive impact on others.

1. Geographic information systems (GIS) analyst

Experts in geographic information systems use their navigation, map-making and data processing skills to assist when disasters – like earthquakes, floods and human conflicts – strike. They create maps to assist in-situ field workers access hard-to-reach places, as well as process geographic data to predict, prevent and improve response time for future scenarios.

Study: Bachelor of Applied Geographical Information Systems at Flinders University  Salary: AU$53K – AU$96K*

2. Agronomist

Agronomists traditionally study plants, animals, soil and cultivation techniques to improve the productivity and sustainability of farms and agricultural industries, yet act as key specialists on food security when extreme climates or conflict hit. The agricultural scientists re-asses the use of effected farmlands in struggling environments, and offer solutions on reducing famine and maintaining a steady crop supply.

Study: Bachelor of Agriculture at the University of New England
Salary: AU$36 – AU $88K*

3. Hydrologist

Similar to agronomists, hydrologists work in climate or conflict-effected zones and remote communities to assist in the restoration of the vital systems that keep the population well. These guys deal with all things WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene – implementing proper practices and rebuilding devastated infrastructure.

Study: Masters of Hydrogeology at the University of Western Australia
Salary: AU$44K – AU$141K*

4. Data analyst

Being able to draw meaningful insights from big datasets, is a huge asset to any humanitarian organisation or NGO, as it allows them to uncover climate trends and patterns to better predict and prepare for environmental events. Conducting surveys and studies, creating data management systems and developing more effective data capture procedures are ways in which data analysts can assist policy makers in making informed humanitarian and political decisions too.

Study: Bachelor of Computer Science at Deakin University
Salary: AU$50K – AU$103K*

5. Epidemiologist

These guys spend their time focusing on diseases – how they’re caused and spread, but also how they can be contained and prevented – in vulnerable communities. Disaster relief teams rely on epidemiologists to investigate outbreaks (think: meningitis and cholera in an over-populated refugee camp), which often involves managing large-scale studies and mining massive data sets to support health campaigns and programs.

Study: Master of Epidemiology at The University of Melbourne
Salary: AU$45K – AU$146K*

*All salaries taken from PayScale.


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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