Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Most technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.

At crime scenes, forensic science technicians, also known as crime scene investigators, typically do the following:

  • Walk through the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
  • Make sketches of the crime scene
  • Keep written notes of their observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence as it is found
  • Collect all relevant physical evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence before transferring it to a crime lab

Crime scene investigators may use tweezers, black lights, and specialized kits to identify and collect evidence. In addition to processing crime scenes, they may also attend autopsies.

In laboratories, forensic science technicians typically do the following:

  • Identify and classify crime scene evidence through scientific analysis
  • Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity using the results of chemical and physical analyses
  • Consult with experts in related or specialized fields, such as toxicology, about the evidence and their findings
  • Reconstruct crime scenes based on scientific findings

Forensic science technicians reconstruct crime scenes by carefully studying information gathered by investigators and conducting scientific tests on physical evidence. For example, lab technicians may look at photographs of blood splatter patterns and conduct ballistics tests on bullets found at the crime scene to determine the direction from which a shot was fired.

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories use chemicals and laboratory equipment such as microscopes when analyzing evidence. They also use computer databases to examine fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence collected at crime scenes in order to match them to people and things that have already been identified. Most forensic science technicians who perform laboratory analysis specialize in a specific type of evidence analysis, such as DNA or ballistics.

All forensic science technicians prepare written reports that detail their findings and investigative methods. They must be able to explain their reports to lawyers, detectives, and other law enforcement officials. In addition, forensic science technicians may be called to testify in court about their findings and methods.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and control of water and air pollution. They also address global issues, such as safe drinking water, climate change, and sustainability.

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects leading to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Monitor progress of environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of the hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They also design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental engineers in government develop regulations to prevent mishaps.

Some environmental engineers study ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, and other specialists, such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and sustainability. For more information, see the job profiles on environmental scientists and specialists, hazardous materials removal workers, lawyers, and urban and regional planners.


Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to keep people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine a knowledge of health or safety and of systems engineering to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products are not going to cause harm to people or buildings.

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery or equipment to make sure it meets safety requirements
  • Inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that a building or product complies with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
  • Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
  • Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
  • Maintain and apply their knowledge of current policies, regulations, and industrial processes

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine their causes and to see whether they could have been or can be prevented. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents leading up to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

Health and safety engineers are also active in two related fields: industrial hygiene and occupational hygiene. 

In industrial hygiene, they focus on the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They recognize, evaluate, and control these agents to keep people from getting sick or injured. For example, they might anticipate that a particular manufacturing process will give off a potentially harmful chemical and recommend either a change to the process or a way to contain and control the chemical.  

In occupational hygiene, health and safety engineers investigate the environment in which people work and use science and engineering to recommend changes to keep workers from being exposed to sickness or injuries. They help employers and employees understand the risks and improve working conditions and working practices. For example, they might observe that the noise level in a factory is likely to cause short-term and long-term harm to workers and recommend ways to reduce the noise level through changes to the building or by having workers wear strong headphones.

Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are specific types of health and safety engineers:

Aerospace safety engineers work on missiles, radars, and satellites to make sure that they function safely as designed.

Fire prevention and protection engineers design fire prevention systems for all kinds of buildings. They often work for architects during the design phase of new buildings or renovations. They must be licensed, and they must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers investigate the causes of accidents or injuries that might have resulted from the use or misuse of a product. They propose solutions to reduce or eliminate any safety issues associated with products. They also participate in the design phase of new products to prevent injuries, illnesses, or property damage that could occur with the use of the product.

Systems safety engineers work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety. These engineers take a systemic approach to identify hazards in these new fields so that accidents and injuries can be avoided.

For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.


Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy.

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks typically do the following:

  • Use bookkeeping software as well as online spreadsheets and databases
  • Enter (post) financial transactions into the appropriate computer software
  • Receive and record cash, checks, and vouchers
  • Put costs (debits) as well as income (credits) into the software, assigning each to an appropriate account
  • Produce reports, such as balance sheets (costs compared to income), income statements, and totals by account
  • Check figures, postings, and reports for accuracy
  • Reconcile or note and report any differences they find in the records

The records that bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work with include expenditures (money spent), receipts (money that comes in), accounts payable (bills to be paid), accounts receivable (invoices, or what other people owe the organization), and profit and loss (a report that shows the organization's financial health).

Workers in this occupation have a wide range of tasks. Some in this occupation are full-charge bookkeeping clerks who maintain an entire organization's books. Others are accounting clerks who handle specific tasks.

These clerks use basic mathematics (adding, subtracting) throughout the day.

As organizations continue to computerize their financial records, many bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks use specialized accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases. Most clerks now enter information from receipts or bills into computers, and the information is then stored electronically. They must be comfortable using computers to record and calculate data.

The widespread use of computers also has enabled bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks to take on additional responsibilities, such as payroll, billing, purchasing (buying), and keeping track of overdue bills. Many of these functions require clerks to communicate with clients.

Bookkeeping clerks, also known as bookkeepers, often are responsible for some or all of an organization's accounts, known as the general ledger. They record all transactions and post debits (costs) and credits (income).

They also produce financial statements and other reports for supervisors and managers. Bookkeepers prepare bank deposits by compiling data from cashiers, verifying receipts, and sending cash, checks, or other forms of payment to the bank.

In addition, they may handle payroll, make purchases, prepare invoices, and keep track of overdue accounts.

Accounting clerks typically work for larger companies and have more specialized tasks. Their titles, such as accounts payable clerk or accounts receivable clerk, often reflect the type of accounting they do.

Often, their responsibilities vary by level of experience. Entry-level accounting clerks may enter (post) details of transactions (including date, type, and amount), add up accounts, and determine interest charges. They also may monitor loans and accounts to ensure that payments are up to date.

More advanced accounting clerks may add up and balance billing vouchers, ensure that account data is complete and accurate, and code documents according to an organization's procedures.

Auditing clerks check figures, postings, and documents to ensure that they are mathematically accurate and properly coded. They also correct or note errors for accountants or other workers to fix.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Industrial engineers typically do the following:

  • Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand manufacturing and service methods and activities
  • Figure out how to manufacture parts or products or deliver services with maximum efficiency
  • Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
  • Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
  • Work with customers and management to develop standards for design and production
  • Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning to ensure that products meet quality standards
  • Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects

Industrial engineers apply their skills to many different situations from manufacturing to business administration. For example, they design systems for

  • moving heavy parts within manufacturing plants
  • getting goods from a company to customers, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants
  • evaluating how well people do their jobs
  • paying workers

In all these different projects, industrial engineers focus on how get the work done most efficiently, balancing many factors--such as time, number of workers needed, actions workers need to take, achieving the end with no errors, technology that is available, workers' safety, environmental concerns, and cost.

To find ways to reduce waste and improve performance, industrial engineers first study product requirements carefully. Then they use mathematical methods and models to design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements most efficiently.


Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to keep people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine a knowledge of health or safety and of systems engineering to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products are not going to cause harm to people or buildings.

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery or equipment to make sure it meets safety requirements
  • Inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that a building or product complies with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
  • Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
  • Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
  • Maintain and apply their knowledge of current policies, regulations, and industrial processes

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine their causes and to see whether they could have been or can be prevented. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents leading up to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

Health and safety engineers are also active in two related fields: industrial hygiene and occupational hygiene. 

In industrial hygiene, they focus on the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They recognize, evaluate, and control these agents to keep people from getting sick or injured. For example, they might anticipate that a particular manufacturing process will give off a potentially harmful chemical and recommend either a change to the process or a way to contain and control the chemical.  

In occupational hygiene, health and safety engineers investigate the environment in which people work and use science and engineering to recommend changes to keep workers from being exposed to sickness or injuries. They help employers and employees understand the risks and improve working conditions and working practices. For example, they might observe that the noise level in a factory is likely to cause short-term and long-term harm to workers and recommend ways to reduce the noise level through changes to the building or by having workers wear strong headphones.

Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are specific types of health and safety engineers:

Aerospace safety engineers work on missiles, radars, and satellites to make sure that they function safely as designed.

Fire prevention and protection engineers design fire prevention systems for all kinds of buildings. They often work for architects during the design phase of new buildings or renovations. They must be licensed, and they must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers investigate the causes of accidents or injuries that might have resulted from the use or misuse of a product. They propose solutions to reduce or eliminate any safety issues associated with products. They also participate in the design phase of new products to prevent injuries, illnesses, or property damage that could occur with the use of the product.

Systems safety engineers work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety. These engineers take a systemic approach to identify hazards in these new fields so that accidents and injuries can be avoided.

For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.


Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
  • Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
  • Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
  • Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
  • Contact claimants' doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
  • Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
  • Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Authorize payments

What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable. 

Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.

Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company's adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.

Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.

Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.

They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.

They gather information--including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video--and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.

If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.

Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.

Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.

Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.

Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.

Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers' compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Industrial engineers typically do the following:

  • Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand manufacturing and service methods and activities
  • Figure out how to manufacture parts or products or deliver services with maximum efficiency
  • Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
  • Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
  • Work with customers and management to develop standards for design and production
  • Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning to ensure that products meet quality standards
  • Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects

Industrial engineers apply their skills to many different situations from manufacturing to business administration. For example, they design systems for

  • moving heavy parts within manufacturing plants
  • getting goods from a company to customers, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants
  • evaluating how well people do their jobs
  • paying workers

In all these different projects, industrial engineers focus on how get the work done most efficiently, balancing many factors--such as time, number of workers needed, actions workers need to take, achieving the end with no errors, technology that is available, workers' safety, environmental concerns, and cost.

To find ways to reduce waste and improve performance, industrial engineers first study product requirements carefully. Then they use mathematical methods and models to design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements most efficiently.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

There are two types of physicians: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both types of physicians use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole person) patient care.

Physicians and surgeons typically do the following:

  • Take a patient's medical history
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to do
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Answer concerns or questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene

In addition, surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, diseases, or deformities.

Physicians and surgeons work in one or more of several specialties. The following are some of the many types of physicians and surgeons:

Anesthesiologists focus on the care of surgical patients and pain relief. They administer the drugs (anesthetics) that reduce or eliminate the sensation of pain during an operation or other medical procedure. During surgery, they are responsible for adjusting the amount of anesthetic as needed and monitoring the patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. They also work outside of the operating room, providing pain relief in the intensive care unit, during labor and delivery, and for those who suffer from chronic pain.  Anesthesiologists work with other physicians and surgeons to decide on treatments and procedures before, during, and after surgery. 

Family and general physicians assess and treat a range of conditions that occur in everyday life. These conditions include anything from sinus and respiratory infections to broken bones. Family and general physicians typically have a base of regular, long-term patients. These doctors sometimes refer patients with more serious conditions to specialists or other healthcare facilities for additional care.

General internists diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a range of problems that affect internal organ systems such as the stomach, kidneys, liver, and digestive tract. Internists use a variety of diagnostic techniques to treat patients through medication or hospitalization. They may refer patients to other specialists when more complex care is required. They work mostly with adult patients.

General pediatricians provide care for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They specialize in diagnosing and treating problems specific to younger people. Most pediatricians treat day-to-day illnesses, minor injuries, and infectious diseases and administer vaccinations. Some pediatricians specialize in pediatric surgery or serious medical conditions that commonly affect younger patients, such as autoimmune disorders or serious chronic ailments.

Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) provide care related to pregnancy and the female reproductive system. OB/GYNs specialize in childbirth. They treat and counsel women throughout their pregnancy, and they deliver babies.  They also diagnose and treat health issues specific to women, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, and symptoms related to menopause.

Psychiatrists are primary mental health physicians. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses through a combination of personal counseling (psychotherapy), psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and medication. Psychotherapy involves regular discussions with patients about their problems. The psychiatrist helps them find solutions through changes in their behavioral patterns, exploring their past experiences, or group and family therapy sessions. Psychoanalysis involves long-term psychotherapy and counseling for patients. Psychiatrists may prescribe medications to correct chemical imbalances that cause some mental illnesses.

Surgeons specialize in treating injury, disease, and deformity through operations. Using a variety of instruments, and with patients under anesthesia, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive surgeries on patients. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialties include orthopedic surgery (the treatment of the musculoskeletal system), neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons also examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive healthcare. Some specialist physicians also perform surgery.

D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they can be found in all specialties. About 60 percent of D.O.s specialize in primary care areas such as family medicine, internal medicine, OB/GYN, and pediatrics.

Among physicians and surgeons who work in a number of other medical and surgical specialists and subspecialties are allergists (specialists in diagnosing and treating hay fever and other allergies), cardiologists (heart specialists), dermatologists (skin specialists), gastroenterologists, (specialists in the digestive system), pathologists (who study body tissue to see if it is normal), radiologists (who review and interpret x-ray pictures and deliver radiation treatments for cancer and other illnesses), and many others.

Physicians work daily with other healthcare staff, such as nurses, other physicians, and medical assistants. For more information, see the profiles on registered nurses and medical assistants.


Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product's cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company's goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.


Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product's cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company's goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.


Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently. 

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to be sure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes face-to-face meetings with organization managers and individual clients, and preparing written reports.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some organizations specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decision makers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

The four main types of accountants and auditors are the following:

Public accountants do a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

They work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

External auditors review clients' financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes, such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

They often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They may also help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization's funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization's computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.


Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy.

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks typically do the following:

  • Use bookkeeping software as well as online spreadsheets and databases
  • Enter (post) financial transactions into the appropriate computer software
  • Receive and record cash, checks, and vouchers
  • Put costs (debits) as well as income (credits) into the software, assigning each to an appropriate account
  • Produce reports, such as balance sheets (costs compared to income), income statements, and totals by account
  • Check figures, postings, and reports for accuracy
  • Reconcile or note and report any differences they find in the records

The records that bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work with include expenditures (money spent), receipts (money that comes in), accounts payable (bills to be paid), accounts receivable (invoices, or what other people owe the organization), and profit and loss (a report that shows the organization's financial health).

Workers in this occupation have a wide range of tasks. Some in this occupation are full-charge bookkeeping clerks who maintain an entire organization's books. Others are accounting clerks who handle specific tasks.

These clerks use basic mathematics (adding, subtracting) throughout the day.

As organizations continue to computerize their financial records, many bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks use specialized accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases. Most clerks now enter information from receipts or bills into computers, and the information is then stored electronically. They must be comfortable using computers to record and calculate data.

The widespread use of computers also has enabled bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks to take on additional responsibilities, such as payroll, billing, purchasing (buying), and keeping track of overdue bills. Many of these functions require clerks to communicate with clients.

Bookkeeping clerks, also known as bookkeepers, often are responsible for some or all of an organization's accounts, known as the general ledger. They record all transactions and post debits (costs) and credits (income).

They also produce financial statements and other reports for supervisors and managers. Bookkeepers prepare bank deposits by compiling data from cashiers, verifying receipts, and sending cash, checks, or other forms of payment to the bank.

In addition, they may handle payroll, make purchases, prepare invoices, and keep track of overdue accounts.

Accounting clerks typically work for larger companies and have more specialized tasks. Their titles, such as accounts payable clerk or accounts receivable clerk, often reflect the type of accounting they do.

Often, their responsibilities vary by level of experience. Entry-level accounting clerks may enter (post) details of transactions (including date, type, and amount), add up accounts, and determine interest charges. They also may monitor loans and accounts to ensure that payments are up to date.

More advanced accounting clerks may add up and balance billing vouchers, ensure that account data is complete and accurate, and code documents according to an organization's procedures.

Auditing clerks check figures, postings, and documents to ensure that they are mathematically accurate and properly coded. They also correct or note errors for accountants or other workers to fix.


Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product's cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company's goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.


Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
  • Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
  • Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
  • Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
  • Contact claimants' doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
  • Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
  • Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Authorize payments

What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable. 

Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.

Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company's adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.

Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.

Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.

They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.

They gather information--including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video--and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.

If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.

Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.

Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.

Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.

Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.

Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers' compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.


Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases to and in businesses, homes, and factories.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters typically do the following:

  • Install pipes and fixtures
  • Study blueprints and follow state and local building codes
  • Determine the amount of material and type of equipment needed
  • Inspect and test installed pipe systems and pipelines
  • Troubleshoot and repair systems that are not working
  • Replace worn parts

Although plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters are three distinct specialties, their duties are often similar. For example, they all install pipes and fittings that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They connect pipes, determine the necessary materials for a job, and perform pressure tests to ensure a pipe system is airtight and watertight.

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install, maintain, and repair many different types of pipe systems. Some of these systems carry water, dispose of waste, supply gas to ovens, or heat and cool buildings. Other systems, such as those in power plants, carry the steam that powers huge turbines. Pipes also are used in manufacturing plants to move acids, gases, and waste byproducts through the production process.

Master plumbers on construction jobs may be involved with developing blueprints that show where all the pipes and fixtures will go. Their input helps ensure that a structure's plumbing meets building codes, stays within budget, and works well with the location of other features, such as electric wires.

Plumbers and fitters may use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, use copper, steel, and plastic pipe that one or two plumbers can install. Power-plant water systems, by contrast, are made of large steel pipes that usually take a crew of pipefitters to install. Some workers install stainless steel pipes on dairy farms and in factories, mainly to prevent contamination.

Plumbers and fitters sometimes cut holes in walls, ceilings, and floors. With some pipe systems, workers may hang steel supports from ceiling joists to hold the pipe in place. Because pipes are seldom manufactured to the exact size or length, plumbers and fitters measure and then cut and bend lengths of pipe as needed. Their tools include saws, pipe cutters, and pipe-bending machines.

They then connect the pipes, using methods that vary by type of pipe. For example, copper pipe is joined with solder, but steel pipe is often screwed together.

In addition to installation and repair work, journey- and master-level plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters often direct apprentices and helpers.

Following are examples of occupational specialties:

Plumbers install and repair water, drainage, and gas pipes in homes, businesses, and factories. They install and repair large water lines, such as those that supply water to buildings, and smaller ones, including ones that supply water to refrigerators. Plumbers also install plumbing fixtures--bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets--and appliances such as dishwashers, garbage disposals, and water heaters. They also fix plumbing problems. For example, when a pipe is clogged or leaking, plumbers remove the clog or replace the pipe. Some plumbers maintain septic systems, the large, underground holding tanks that collect waste from houses not connected to a city or county's sewer system.

Pipefitters install and maintain pipes that carry chemicals, acids, and gases. These pipes are mostly in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. They often install and repair pipe systems in power plants, as well as heating and cooling systems in large office buildings. Some pipefitters specialize:

  • Gasfitters install pipes that provide clean oxygen to patients in hospitals.
  • Sprinklerfitters install and repair fire sprinkler systems in businesses, factories, and residential buildings.
  • Steamfitters installpipe systems that move steam under high pressure. Most steamfitters work at campus and natural gas power plants where heat and electricity is generated, but others work in factories that use high-temperature steam pipes.

Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to keep people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine a knowledge of health or safety and of systems engineering to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products are not going to cause harm to people or buildings.

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery or equipment to make sure it meets safety requirements
  • Inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that a building or product complies with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
  • Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
  • Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
  • Maintain and apply their knowledge of current policies, regulations, and industrial processes

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine their causes and to see whether they could have been or can be prevented. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents leading up to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

Health and safety engineers are also active in two related fields: industrial hygiene and occupational hygiene. 

In industrial hygiene, they focus on the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They recognize, evaluate, and control these agents to keep people from getting sick or injured. For example, they might anticipate that a particular manufacturing process will give off a potentially harmful chemical and recommend either a change to the process or a way to contain and control the chemical.  

In occupational hygiene, health and safety engineers investigate the environment in which people work and use science and engineering to recommend changes to keep workers from being exposed to sickness or injuries. They help employers and employees understand the risks and improve working conditions and working practices. For example, they might observe that the noise level in a factory is likely to cause short-term and long-term harm to workers and recommend ways to reduce the noise level through changes to the building or by having workers wear strong headphones.

Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are specific types of health and safety engineers:

Aerospace safety engineers work on missiles, radars, and satellites to make sure that they function safely as designed.

Fire prevention and protection engineers design fire prevention systems for all kinds of buildings. They often work for architects during the design phase of new buildings or renovations. They must be licensed, and they must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers investigate the causes of accidents or injuries that might have resulted from the use or misuse of a product. They propose solutions to reduce or eliminate any safety issues associated with products. They also participate in the design phase of new products to prevent injuries, illnesses, or property damage that could occur with the use of the product.

Systems safety engineers work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety. These engineers take a systemic approach to identify hazards in these new fields so that accidents and injuries can be avoided.

For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.


Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Industrial engineers typically do the following:

  • Review production schedules, engineering specifications, process flows, and other information to understand manufacturing and service methods and activities
  • Figure out how to manufacture parts or products or deliver services with maximum efficiency
  • Develop management control systems to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient
  • Enact quality control procedures to resolve production problems or minimize costs
  • Work with customers and management to develop standards for design and production
  • Design control systems to coordinate activities and production planning to ensure that products meet quality standards
  • Confer with clients about product specifications, vendors about purchases, management personnel about manufacturing capabilities, and staff about the status of projects

Industrial engineers apply their skills to many different situations from manufacturing to business administration. For example, they design systems for

  • moving heavy parts within manufacturing plants
  • getting goods from a company to customers, including finding the most profitable places to locate manufacturing or processing plants
  • evaluating how well people do their jobs
  • paying workers

In all these different projects, industrial engineers focus on how get the work done most efficiently, balancing many factors--such as time, number of workers needed, actions workers need to take, achieving the end with no errors, technology that is available, workers' safety, environmental concerns, and cost.

To find ways to reduce waste and improve performance, industrial engineers first study product requirements carefully. Then they use mathematical methods and models to design manufacturing and information systems to meet those requirements most efficiently.


Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently. 

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to be sure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes face-to-face meetings with organization managers and individual clients, and preparing written reports.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some organizations specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decision makers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

The four main types of accountants and auditors are the following:

Public accountants do a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

They work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

External auditors review clients' financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes, such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

They often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They may also help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization's funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization's computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.


Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
  • Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
  • Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
  • Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
  • Contact claimants' doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
  • Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
  • Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Authorize payments

What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable. 

Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.

Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company's adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.

Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.

Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.

They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.

They gather information--including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video--and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.

If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.

Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.

Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.

Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.

Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.

Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers' compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.


Environmental Engineering Technicians

Environmental engineering technicians engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.

Environmental engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Set up, test, operate, and modify equipment for preventing or cleaning up environmental pollution
  • Maintain project records and computer program files
  • Conduct pollution surveys, collecting and analyzing samples such as air and ground water
  • Perform indoor and outdoor environmental quality work
  • Work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution
  • Review technical documents to ensure completeness and conformance to requirements
  • Review work plans to schedule activities
  • Arrange for the disposal of lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials

In laboratories, environmental engineering technicians record observations, test results, and document photographs. To keep the laboratory supplied, they also may get product information, identify vendors and suppliers, and order materials and equipment.

Environmental engineering technicians also help environmental engineers develop devices for cleaning up environmental pollution. They also inspect facilities for compliance with the regulations that govern substances such as asbestos, lead, and wastewater.


Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently. 

Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to be sure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes face-to-face meetings with organization managers and individual clients, and preparing written reports.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some organizations specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decision makers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

The four main types of accountants and auditors are the following:

Public accountants do a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

They work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

External auditors review clients' financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes, such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

They often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They may also help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization's funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization's computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.


Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers plan and design the construction of highways, bridges, utilities, and other major infrastructure projects. They also help with commercial, residential, and land development.

Civil engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Read and review project blueprints to determine dimensions of structures
  • Confer with their supervisors about preparing plans and evaluating field conditions
  • Inspect project sites and evaluate contractors' work to detect problems with a design
  • Help to ensure that projects conform to design specifications and applicable codes
  • Develop plans and estimate costs for installing systems and operating facilities
  • Prepare reports and document project activities and data

Civil engineering technicians must work under the direction of a licensed civil engineer. For more information, see the profile on civil engineers.

Civil engineering technicians generally help civil engineers, often doing many of the same tasks as the engineers. However, because they are not licensed, civil engineering technicians cannot approve designs or supervise the overall project.

These technicians sometimes estimate construction costs and specify the materials to be used. Other times, they prepare drawings or survey land. Civil engineering technicians may also set up and monitor various instruments for studies of traffic conditions.


Curators, Museum Technicians, and Conservators

Curators oversee collections, such as artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

Curators, museum technicians, and conservators typically do the following:

  • Acquire, store, and exhibit collections
  • Select the theme and design of exhibits
  • Develop or set up exhibit materials
  • Design, organize, or conduct tours and workshops for the public
  • Attend meetings and civic events to promote the institution
  • Clean objects using cleansers, solvents, and soap solutions
  • Direct and supervise curatorial, technical, and student staff
  • Plan and conduct special research projects

Many objects and documents are important or historically significant. Curators, museum technicians, and conservators preserve and organize the display of these materials.

The following are occupational specialties:

Curators manage museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and historic sites. The museum director often is a curator. Curators direct the acquisition, storage, and exhibit of collections, including negotiating and authorizing the purchase, sale, exchange, or loan of collections. They also may authenticate, evaluate, and categorize the specimens in a collection.

Curators often oversee and help conduct the institution's research projects and related educational programs.

Today, an increasing part of a curator's duties involves fundraising and promotion, which may include writing and reviewing grant proposals, journal articles, and publicity materials. In addition, many curators attend meetings, conventions, and civic events.

Most curators specialize in a particular field, such as botany, art, or history. Those who work in large institutions may be highly specialized. A large natural history museum, for example, might employ separate curators for its collections of birds, fishes, insects, and mammals.

Some curators take care of their collections, some do research related to items in the collection, and others do administrative tasks. In small institutions with only one or a few curators, one curator may be responsible for a number of tasks, from taking care of collections to directing the affairs of the museum.

Museum technicians, commonly known as registrars, help curators by preparing and taking care of museum items. Registrars also may answer questions from the public and help curators and outside scholars use the collections.

Conservators manage, preserve, treat, and document works of art, artifacts, and specimens--work that may require substantial historical, scientific, and archaeological research. Conservators document their findings and treat items to minimize their deterioration or to restore them to their original state.

Conservators usually specialize in a particular material or group of objects, such as documents and books, paintings, decorative arts, textiles, metals, or architectural material. They use x rays, chemical testing, microscopes, special lights, and other laboratory equipment and techniques to examine objects, determine their condition, and decide on the best way to preserve them.

In addition to their conservation work, conservators participate in outreach programs, research topics in their specialty, and write articles for scholarly journals. They may be employed by a museum or other institution that has objects needing conservation, or they may be self-employed and have several clients.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Most technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.

At crime scenes, forensic science technicians, also known as crime scene investigators, typically do the following:

  • Walk through the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
  • Make sketches of the crime scene
  • Keep written notes of their observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence as it is found
  • Collect all relevant physical evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence before transferring it to a crime lab

Crime scene investigators may use tweezers, black lights, and specialized kits to identify and collect evidence. In addition to processing crime scenes, they may also attend autopsies.

In laboratories, forensic science technicians typically do the following:

  • Identify and classify crime scene evidence through scientific analysis
  • Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity using the results of chemical and physical analyses
  • Consult with experts in related or specialized fields, such as toxicology, about the evidence and their findings
  • Reconstruct crime scenes based on scientific findings

Forensic science technicians reconstruct crime scenes by carefully studying information gathered by investigators and conducting scientific tests on physical evidence. For example, lab technicians may look at photographs of blood splatter patterns and conduct ballistics tests on bullets found at the crime scene to determine the direction from which a shot was fired.

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories use chemicals and laboratory equipment such as microscopes when analyzing evidence. They also use computer databases to examine fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence collected at crime scenes in order to match them to people and things that have already been identified. Most forensic science technicians who perform laboratory analysis specialize in a specific type of evidence analysis, such as DNA or ballistics.

All forensic science technicians prepare written reports that detail their findings and investigative methods. They must be able to explain their reports to lawyers, detectives, and other law enforcement officials. In addition, forensic science technicians may be called to testify in court about their findings and methods.


Environmental Engineering Technicians

Environmental engineering technicians engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.

Environmental engineering technicians typically do the following:

  • Set up, test, operate, and modify equipment for preventing or cleaning up environmental pollution
  • Maintain project records and computer program files
  • Conduct pollution surveys, collecting and analyzing samples such as air and ground water
  • Perform indoor and outdoor environmental quality work
  • Work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution
  • Review technical documents to ensure completeness and conformance to requirements
  • Review work plans to schedule activities
  • Arrange for the disposal of lead, asbestos, and other hazardous materials

In laboratories, environmental engineering technicians record observations, test results, and document photographs. To keep the laboratory supplied, they also may get product information, identify vendors and suppliers, and order materials and equipment.

Environmental engineering technicians also help environmental engineers develop devices for cleaning up environmental pollution. They also inspect facilities for compliance with the regulations that govern substances such as asbestos, lead, and wastewater.


Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Most technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.

At crime scenes, forensic science technicians, also known as crime scene investigators, typically do the following:

  • Walk through the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
  • Make sketches of the crime scene
  • Keep written notes of their observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence as it is found
  • Collect all relevant physical evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence before transferring it to a crime lab

Crime scene investigators may use tweezers, black lights, and specialized kits to identify and collect evidence. In addition to processing crime scenes, they may also attend autopsies.

In laboratories, forensic science technicians typically do the following:

  • Identify and classify crime scene evidence through scientific analysis
  • Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity using the results of chemical and physical analyses
  • Consult with experts in related or specialized fields, such as toxicology, about the evidence and their findings
  • Reconstruct crime scenes based on scientific findings

Forensic science technicians reconstruct crime scenes by carefully studying information gathered by investigators and conducting scientific tests on physical evidence. For example, lab technicians may look at photographs of blood splatter patterns and conduct ballistics tests on bullets found at the crime scene to determine the direction from which a shot was fired.

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories use chemicals and laboratory equipment such as microscopes when analyzing evidence. They also use computer databases to examine fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence collected at crime scenes in order to match them to people and things that have already been identified. Most forensic science technicians who perform laboratory analysis specialize in a specific type of evidence analysis, such as DNA or ballistics.

All forensic science technicians prepare written reports that detail their findings and investigative methods. They must be able to explain their reports to lawyers, detectives, and other law enforcement officials. In addition, forensic science technicians may be called to testify in court about their findings and methods.


Fire Inspectors and Investigators

Fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures, such as sports arenas and shopping malls, to search for fire hazards and to ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They also test and inspect fire protection and fire extinguishing equipment to ensure that it works. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires by searching the surrounding scene and collecting evidence.

Fire inspectors typically do the following:

  • Search for fire hazards
  • Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
  • Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection and extinguishing equipment
  • Inspect equipment such as gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
  • Review emergency evacuation plans
  • Conduct follow-up visits when an infraction is found
  • Confer with developers and planners to review plans for residential and commercial buildings
  • Conduct fire and life safety education programs
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law

Fire investigators typically do the following:

  • Collect and analyze evidence
  • Interview witnesses
  • Determine the origin and cause of a fire
  • Process and document evidence, such as photographs and diagrams
  • Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
  • Confer with other specialists, such as chemists, engineers, and attorneys, to analyze information
  • Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or an accelerant
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

Unlike fire inspectors, many fire investigators have police powers and carry a weapon.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for issues that pose a wildfire risk and recommend ways to reduce the fire hazard. During patrols, they ensure that the public is following fire regulations and report fire conditions to central command.


Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.

Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
  • Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
  • Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
  • Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
  • Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors  
  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.

For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.

To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.


Forensic Science Technicians

Forensic science technicians help investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. Most technicians specialize in either crime scene investigation or laboratory analysis.

At crime scenes, forensic science technicians, also known as crime scene investigators, typically do the following:

  • Walk through the scene to determine what and how evidence should be collected
  • Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence
  • Make sketches of the crime scene
  • Keep written notes of their observations and findings, such as the location and position of evidence as it is found
  • Collect all relevant physical evidence, including weapons, fingerprints, and bodily fluids
  • Catalog and preserve evidence before transferring it to a crime lab

Crime scene investigators may use tweezers, black lights, and specialized kits to identify and collect evidence. In addition to processing crime scenes, they may also attend autopsies.

In laboratories, forensic science technicians typically do the following:

  • Identify and classify crime scene evidence through scientific analysis
  • Explore possible links between suspects and criminal activity using the results of chemical and physical analyses
  • Consult with experts in related or specialized fields, such as toxicology, about the evidence and their findings
  • Reconstruct crime scenes based on scientific findings

Forensic science technicians reconstruct crime scenes by carefully studying information gathered by investigators and conducting scientific tests on physical evidence. For example, lab technicians may look at photographs of blood splatter patterns and conduct ballistics tests on bullets found at the crime scene to determine the direction from which a shot was fired.

Forensic science technicians who work in laboratories use chemicals and laboratory equipment such as microscopes when analyzing evidence. They also use computer databases to examine fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence collected at crime scenes in order to match them to people and things that have already been identified. Most forensic science technicians who perform laboratory analysis specialize in a specific type of evidence analysis, such as DNA or ballistics.

All forensic science technicians prepare written reports that detail their findings and investigative methods. They must be able to explain their reports to lawyers, detectives, and other law enforcement officials. In addition, forensic science technicians may be called to testify in court about their findings and methods.


Health and Safety Engineers

Health and safety engineers develop procedures and design systems to keep people from getting sick or injured and to keep property from being damaged. They combine a knowledge of health or safety and of systems engineering to make sure that chemicals, machinery, software, furniture, and other products are not going to cause harm to people or buildings.

Health and safety engineers typically do the following:

  • Review plans and specifications for new machinery or equipment to make sure it meets safety requirements
  • Inspect facilities, machinery, and safety equipment to identify and correct potential hazards
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various industrial control mechanisms
  • Ensure that a building or product complies with health and safety regulations, especially after an inspection that required changes
  • Install safety devices on machinery or direct the installation of these devices
  • Review employee safety programs and recommend improvements
  • Maintain and apply their knowledge of current policies, regulations, and industrial processes

Health and safety engineers also investigate industrial accidents, injuries, or occupational diseases to determine their causes and to see whether they could have been or can be prevented. They interview employers and employees to learn about work environments and incidents leading up to accidents or injuries. They also evaluate the corrections that were made to remedy violations found during health inspections.

Health and safety engineers are also active in two related fields: industrial hygiene and occupational hygiene. 

In industrial hygiene, they focus on the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They recognize, evaluate, and control these agents to keep people from getting sick or injured. For example, they might anticipate that a particular manufacturing process will give off a potentially harmful chemical and recommend either a change to the process or a way to contain and control the chemical.  

In occupational hygiene, health and safety engineers investigate the environment in which people work and use science and engineering to recommend changes to keep workers from being exposed to sickness or injuries. They help employers and employees understand the risks and improve working conditions and working practices. For example, they might observe that the noise level in a factory is likely to cause short-term and long-term harm to workers and recommend ways to reduce the noise level through changes to the building or by having workers wear strong headphones.

Health and safety engineering is a broad field covering many activities. The following are specific types of health and safety engineers:

Aerospace safety engineers work on missiles, radars, and satellites to make sure that they function safely as designed.

Fire prevention and protection engineers design fire prevention systems for all kinds of buildings. They often work for architects during the design phase of new buildings or renovations. They must be licensed, and they must keep up with changes in fire codes and regulations.

Product safety engineers investigate the causes of accidents or injuries that might have resulted from the use or misuse of a product. They propose solutions to reduce or eliminate any safety issues associated with products. They also participate in the design phase of new products to prevent injuries, illnesses, or property damage that could occur with the use of the product.

Systems safety engineers work in many fields, including aerospace, and are moving into new fields, such as software safety, medical safety, and environmental safety. These engineers take a systemic approach to identify hazards in these new fields so that accidents and injuries can be avoided.

For information on health and safety engineers who work in mines, see the profile on mining and geological engineers.


Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
  • Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
  • Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
  • Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
  • Contact claimants' doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
  • Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
  • Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Authorize payments

What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable. 

Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.

Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company's adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.

Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.

Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.

They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.

They gather information--including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video--and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.

If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.

Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.

Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.

Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.

Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.

Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers' compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.


Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product's cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company's goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.


Archivists

Archivists appraise, edit, and maintain permanent records and historically valuable documents. Many perform research on archival material.

Archivists typically do the following:

  • Create and maintain accessible computer archives and databases
  • Organize and classify archival records to make it easy to find materials
  • Authenticate and appraise historical documents and archival materials
  • Provide reference services and help for users
  • Direct workers who help arrange, exhibit, and maintain collections
  • Safeguard records by copying to film, videotape, disk, or computer formats
  • Preserve and maintain documents and objects
  • Set and administer policy guidelines concerning public access to materials
  • Locate new materials and direct their acquisition and display

Archivists preserve many documents and records for their importance, potential value, or historical significance. Most archivists coordinate educational and public outreach programs, such as tours, workshops, lectures, and classes. Some work with the boards of institutions to administer plans and policies. In addition, archivists may research topics or items relevant to their collections.

Some archivists specialize in an area of history, such as colonial history, so they can more accurately determine which records in that area should be kept and should become part of the archives. Archivists also may work with specialized forms of records, such as manuscripts, electronic records, websites, photographs, maps, motion pictures, or sound recordings.

Archivists usually use computers to generate and maintain archival records. Professional standards for handling electronic archival records are still evolving. However, computer capabilities will continue to expand and more records will be stored and exhibited electronically, providing both increased access and better protection for archived documents.

Archives technicians help archivists organize, maintain, and provide access to historical documentary materials.


Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
  • Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
  • Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
  • Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
  • Contact claimants' doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
  • Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
  • Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Authorize payments

What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable. 

Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.

Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company's adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.

Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.

Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.

They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.

They gather information--including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video--and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.

If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.

Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.

Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.

Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.

Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.

Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers' compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.


Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims. They decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim, and if so, how much.

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators typically do the following:

  • Investigate, evaluate, and settle insurance claims
  • Determine whether the insurance policy covers the loss claimed
  • Decide the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay
  • Ensure that claims are not fraudulent
  • Contact claimants' doctors or employers to get additional information on questionable claims
  • Confer with legal counsel on claims when needed
  • Keep claims files, such as records of settled claims and an inventory of claims requiring detailed analysis
  • Negotiate settlements
  • Authorize payments

What insurance adjusters, examiners, and investigators do varies by the type of insurance company they work for. They must know a lot about what their company insures. For example, workers in property and casualty insurance must know housing and construction costs to properly evaluate damage from floods or fires. Workers in health insurance must be able to determine which types of treatments are medically necessary and which are questionable. 

Some claims adjusters work as self-employed public adjusters.

Often, they are hired by claimants who prefer not to rely on the insurance company's adjuster. The goal of adjusters working for insurance companies is to save as much money for the company as possible. The goal of a public adjuster working for a claimant is to get the highest possible amount paid to the claimant.

Sometimes, self-employed adjusters are hired by insurance companies in place of hiring adjusters as regular employees. In this case, the self-employed adjusters work in the interest of the insurance company.

Adjusters inspect property damage to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. The property they inspect could be a home, a business, or an automobile.

They interview the claimant and witnesses, inspect the property, and do additional research, such as look at police reports. Adjusters may consult with other workers, such as accountants, architects, construction workers, engineers, lawyers, and physicians, who can offer a more expert evaluation of a claim.

They gather information--including photographs and statements, either written or recorded audio or video--and put it in a report that claims examiners use to evaluate the claim. When the examiner approves policyholder's claim, the claims adjuster negotiates with the claimant and settles the claim.

If the claimant contests the outcome of the claim or the settlement, adjusters work with attorneys and expert witnesses to defend the insurer's position.

Appraisers estimate the cost or value of an insured item. Most appraisers who work for insurance companies and independent adjusting firms are auto damage appraisers. They inspect damaged vehicles after an accident and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then goes to the adjuster, who puts the estimated cost of repairs into the settlement.

Claims examiners review claims after they are submitted to ensure that proper guidelines have been followed by claimants and adjusters. They may assist adjusters with complicated claims or when, for example, a natural disaster occurs and the volume of claims increases.

Most claims examiners work for life or health insurance companies. Examiners who work for health insurance companies review health-related claims to see whether the costs are reasonable, given the diagnosis. After they review the claim, they authorize appropriate payment, deny the claim, or refer the claim to an investigator.

Examiners who work for life insurance companies review the causes of death and pay particular attention to accidents, because most life insurance companies pay additional benefits if a death is accidental. Examiners also may review new applications for life insurance policies to make sure the applicants have no serious illnesses that would make them a high risk to insure.

Insurance investigators handle claims in which the company suspects fraudulent or criminal activity such as arson, staged accidents, or unnecessary medical treatments. The severity of insurance fraud cases varies, from claimants overstating vehicle damage to complicated fraud rings. Investigators often do surveillance work. For example, in the case of a fraudulent workers' compensation claim, an investigator may covertly watch the claimant to see if he or she does activities that would be ruled out by injuries stated in the claim.


Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products
  • Do detailed calculations to compute manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications
  • Direct manufacturing, installing, and testing to ensure that the product as built meets specifications and codes
  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions
  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget

Electronics engineers typically do the following:

  • Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications
  • Analyze electrical system requirements, capacity, cost, and customer needs and then develop a system plan
  • Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment
  • Evaluate systems and recommend repair or design modifications
  • Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure they meet safety standards and applicable regulations
  • Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems to improve technical performance

Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in diverse technologies, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.

The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers must also work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.

Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers. For more information about this occupation, see the profile on computer hardware engineers.


Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product's cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company's goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.


Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators find facts and analyze information about legal, financial, and personal matters. They offer many services, including verifying people's backgrounds, tracing missing persons, investigating computer crimes, and protecting celebrities.

Private detectives and investigators typically do the following:

  • Interview people to gather information
  • Do various types of searches, using a computer or non-computerized records  
  • Conduct surveillance (looking for, following, or watching a person without that person noticing)
  • Collect evidence to present in court
  • Verify employment, income, and facts on a person's background
  • Investigate computer crimes, such as identity theft and illegal downloads
  • Help in cases of criminal and civil liability, missing-persons cases, and insurance claims and fraud

Private detectives and investigators typically work for individuals, attorneys, and businesses. Some have their own investigative agency.

Private detectives and investigators offer many services, based on clients' needs. They may perform pre-employment background checks or look into a charge that someone has been stealing money from a company. They might be hired to prove or disprove infidelity in a divorce case.

Private detectives and investigators use a variety of tools when researching the facts in a case. Much of their work is done with a computer, which allows them to quickly get information, such as records of a person's prior arrests, telephone numbers, social networking-site details, and emails.

They make phone calls to verify facts, such as a person's income and place of employment. They also interview people when conducting a background investigation.

Investigators may go undercover, pretending to be someone else to go unnoticed, to get information, or to observe a suspect.

Detectives also conduct surveillance when investigating a case. They may watch a site, such as the person's home or office, often from an inconspicuous location or a vehicle. Using photographic and video cameras, binoculars, and global positioning systems (GPS), detectives gather information on persons of interest. Surveillance can be time consuming.

Detectives and investigators must be mindful of the law when conducting investigations. They must have a good understanding of federal, state, and local laws, such as privacy laws, and other legal issues affecting their work.

However, as the legality of certain methods may be unclear, investigators and detectives must make use good judgment when deciding how to pursue a case. They must collect evidence properly, so that it can be used legally in court. 

The following are examples of types of private detectives and investigators:

Computer forensic investigators specialize in recovering, analyzing, and presenting data from computers for use in investigations or as evidence. They may be able to recover deleted emails and documents.   

Legal investigators help prepare criminal defenses, verify facts in civil law suits, locate witnesses, and serve legal documents. They often work for lawyers and law firms.

Corporate investigators conduct internal and external investigations for corporations. Internally, they may investigate drug use in the workplace or ensure that expense accounts are not abused. Externally, they may try to thwart criminal schemes, such as fraudulent billing by a supplier.

Financial investigators may be hired to develop confidential financial profiles of individuals and companies that are prospective parties to large financial transactions. These investigators often are certified public accountants (CPAs), who work closely with investment bankers and other accountants. For more information, see the profile on accountants and auditors. Investigators also might search for assets to recover damages awarded by a court in fraud and theft cases.

Store detectives, also known as loss prevention agents, catch people who try to steal merchandise or destroy store property. 

Hotel detectives protect guests from theft of their belongings and preserve order in hotel restaurants and bars. They also may keep undesirable individuals, such as known thieves, off the premises.


Roofers

Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.

Roofers typically do the following:

  • Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
  • Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
  • Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
  • Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
  • Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
  • Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
  • Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
  • Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage

Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.

There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:

  • Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.

    For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.

    An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
  • Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.

    For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).

    To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.

A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.


Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians organize and manage health information data by ensuring its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients' medical and treatment histories.

All technicians document patients' health information, including the medical history, symptoms, examination and test results, treatments, and other information about healthcare provider services. Medical records and health information technicians' duties vary with the size of the facility in which they work.

Medical records and health information technicians typically do the following:

  • Review patient records for timeliness, completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of health data
  • Organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries
  • Track patient outcomes for quality assessment
  • Use classification software to assign clinical codes for reimbursement and data analysis 
  • Electronically record data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
  • Protect patients' health information for confidentiality, authorized access for treatment, and data security

Although medical records and health information technicians do not provide direct patient care, they work regularly with physicians and other healthcare professionals. They meet with these workers to clarify diagnoses or to get additional information to make sure that records are complete and accurate.

The increasing use of electronic health records (EHRs) will continue to change the job responsibilities of medical records and health information technicians. Technicians will need to be familiar with, or be able to learn, EHR computer software, follow EHR security and privacy practices, and analyze electronic data to improve healthcare information as more healthcare providers and hospitals adopt EHR systems.

Medical records and health information technicians can specialize in many aspects of health information. Most work as medical coders, sometimes called coding specialists, or as cancer registrars.

Medical coders typically do the following:

  • Review patient information for preexisting conditions such as diabetes
  • Retrieve patient records for medical personnel
  • Work as a liaison between the health clinician and billing offices

Cancer registrars typically do the following:

  • Review patient records and pathology reports for completeness and accuracy
  • Assign classification codes to represent the diagnosis and treatment of cancers and benign tumors
  • Conduct annual followups to track treatment, survival, and recovery
  • Analyze and compile cancer patient information for research purposes
  • Maintain facility, regional, and national databases of cancer patients

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

Occupational health and safety technicians collect data on the safety and health conditions of the workplace. Technicians work with occupational health and safety specialists in conducting tests and measuring hazards to help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. For more information, see the profile on occupational health and safety specialists.

Duties  

Occupational health and safety technicians typically do the following:

  • Inspect, test, and evaluate workplace environments, equipment, and practices to ensure they follow safety standards and government regulations
  • Collect samples of potentially toxic materials for analysis by occupational health and safety specialists
  • Work with occupational health and safety specialists to control and fix hazardous and potentially hazardous conditions or equipment
  • Carry out and evaluate programs on workplace safety and health
  • Demonstrate the correct use of safety equipment
  • Investigate accidents to identify why they happened and how they might be prevented in the future

Technicians conduct tests and collect samples and measurements as part of workplace inspections. For example, they may collect and handle samples of dust, mold, gases, vapors, or other potentially hazardous materials. They conduct both routine inspections and special inspections that a specialist orders. For more information about specialists, see the profile on occupational health and safety specialists.

Technicians may examine and test machinery and equipment such as scaffolding and lifting devices to be sure that they meet appropriate safety regulations. They may check that workers are using protective gear, such as masks and hardhats, as regulations say they must.

Technicians also check that hazardous materials are stored correctly. They test and identify work areas for potential health and safety hazards.

In addition to making workers safer, technicians work with specialists to increase worker productivity by reducing the number of worker absences and equipment downtime. They save companies money by lowering insurance premiums and worker compensation payments and by preventing government fines.

Technicians' duties vary based on where they are employed. For example, a technician may test the levels of biohazard at a waste processing plant or may inspect the lighting and ventilation in an office setting. Both of these inspections are focused on maintaining the health of the workers and the environment.

The responsibilities of occupational health and safety technicians vary by industry, workplace, and types of hazards affecting employees. The following are examples of types of occupational health and safety technicians:

Environmental protection technicians evaluate and coordinate the storage and handling of hazardous waste, the cleanup of contaminated soil or water, evaluation of air pollution, or other activities that affect the environment.

Health physics technicians work in places that use radiation and radioactive material. Their goal is to protect people and the environment from hazardous radiation exposure.

Industrial hygiene technicians examine the workplace for health hazards, such as exposure to lead, asbestos, pesticides, or contagious diseases.

Mine examiners inspect mines for proper air flow and health hazards such as the buildup of methane or other harmful gases.


Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Civil engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze survey reports, maps, and other data to plan projects
  • Consider construction costs, government regulations, potential environmental hazards, and other factors in planning stages
  • Test soils to determine the adequacy and strength of foundations
  • Test building materials, such as concrete, asphalt, or steel, for use in particular projects
  • Provide cost estimates for materials, equipment, or labor to determine a project's economic feasibility
  • Use design software to plan and design transportation systems, hydraulic systems, and structures in line with industry and government standards
  • Oversee, or participate in, surveying to establish reference points, grades, and elevations to guide construction
  • Present their findings to the public on topics such as bid proposals, environmental impact statements, or property descriptions

Many civil engineers hold supervisory or administrative positions ranging from supervisor of a construction site to city engineer. Others work in design, construction, research, and teaching. They work with others on projects and may be assisted by civil engineering technicians and technologists.

The federal government employs about 12,100 civil engineers to do many of the same things done in private industry, except that the federally employed civil engineers may also inspect projects to be sure that they comply with regulations.

Civil engineers work on complex projects, so they usually specialize in one of several areas.

Geotechnical engineers work to make sure that foundations are solid. They focus on how structures built by civil engineers, such as buildings and tunnels, interact with the earth (including soil and rock). Additionally, they design and plan for slopes, retaining walls, and tunnels.

Structural engineers design and assess major projects, such as bridges or dams, to ensure their strength and durability.

Transportation engineers plan and design everyday systems, such as streets and highways, but they also plan larger projects, such as airports, ports, and harbors.


Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and control of water and air pollution. They also address global issues, such as safe drinking water, climate change, and sustainability.

Environmental engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects leading to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities, air pollution control systems, and operations that convert waste to energy
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Monitor progress of environmental improvement programs
  • Inspect industrial and municipal facilities and programs to ensure compliance with environmental regulations
  • Advise corporations and government agencies about procedures for cleaning up contaminated sites

Environmental engineers conduct hazardous-waste management studies in which they evaluate the significance of the hazard and advise on treating and containing it. They also design municipal water supply and industrial wastewater treatment systems and research the environmental impact of proposed construction projects. Environmental engineers in government develop regulations to prevent mishaps.

Some environmental engineers study ways to minimize the effects of acid rain, global warming, automobile emissions, and ozone depletion. They also collaborate with environmental scientists, planners, hazardous waste technicians, engineers, and other specialists, such as experts in law and business, to address environmental problems and sustainability. For more information, see the job profiles on environmental scientists and specialists, hazardous materials removal workers, lawyers, and urban and regional planners.


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