10 Maker Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

The pace of change has accelerated, so much so that you can now make a living doing jobs that didn’t even exist 10 years ago.

1. Quadcopter pilot

The ELEV-8 Quadcopter
The ELEV-8 Quadcopter

Recently on the ITP alumni mailing list there have been several job postings for experienced quadcopter pilots. These buzzing drones are increasingly being used in the commercial space for concerts and other outdoor events and the companies hosting those events need pilots. So in the last year or so a whole bunch of people who built and learned to fly quadcopters for fun, are turning it into their profession.

2. Crowdfunder

Celebrating the second $1 million project in one day
Celebrating the second $1 million project in one day

It took three years for crowdfunding site Kickstarter to have a project that topped the $1 million mark. But then, early February last year, two projects broke the $1 million barrier on the same day. Today, if you raise a million dollars, you wouldn’t even be in the top ten most successful projects. It’s become a go-to funding channel for makers, and influenced Congress to legalize crowdfunding as a way for small businesses to find investors.

3. Makerspace manager

The c-Base Hackerspace in Berlin

The last 10 years has seen the rise of the makerspaces, hackerspaces, and fab labs. But like any place where people gather someone has to run the place, make sure the bills are paid on time every month, the floors swept, the kitchen kept clean. It might not be the most glamorous job in the world, but increasingly even in volunteer run hackerspaces, it’s one that pays.

4. Digital fabricator

3D Printer
The 3D printer has as become a symbol of the make movement

Earlier in the year President Obama mentioned 3D printing in his State of the Union address, yet 10 years ago you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that knew what you were talking about if you’d mentioned it. The recent acquisition of MakerBot by Stratasys should leave nobody in any doubt that 3D printing is now in the mainstream.

5. App Developer

The Adafruit iOS app– Circuit Playground
The Adafruit iOS app– Circuit Playground

The first generation iPhone was released on June 29, 2007, and it really did change everything. Before it the were a whole bunch of different form factors for mobile phones, afterwards almost every phone was the same. A black rectangle hiding magic. Ten years ago nobody would have credited the the arrival of the iPhone, the first rumors only started to surface back in 2004 and the phone that people thought they wanted, and the one that turned up three years later were very different. Ten years ago, you’d never have thought you could make money developing apps for phones. Today, a whole bunch of people do.

6. Bio-hacker

The BioCurious laboratory
The BioCurious laboratory

While biospaces, hackerspaces for biology, are just starting to appear, there are already people making money in the personal bio- and genetics game. Ten years ago you’d never have thought that something like 23andme could exist, let alone turn a profit. It just wouldn’t have been possible. 

7. Personal Space Engineer

A KickSat Sprite Spacecraft

It’s not something I’d thought to see, even at a major Maker Faire. But there were representatives of more than one personal space program at Maker Faire Bay Area this year. If you want to send an something into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) then not only can you do that, you have a choice. There’s competition in the personal space program business.

About a year and a half ago now the first ever project I backed on Kickstarter was Kicksat. A project to put a swarm of small nano-satellites in orbit. The size of a couple of postage stamps, each satellite has solar cells, a radio transceiver, and a micro-controller along with memory and sensors.

awarded Zachary, and the KickSat project, a blue ribbon, the editor’s choice award when they were at Maker Faire Bay Area earlier in the year.  Launch date for Kicksat is now officially set for Dec. 9 this year. Ten years ago a project like this, would not only have been thought impossible, it flat out would have been.

8. Data Scientist

Four of the 500 sensor motes deployed at Google I/O
Four of the 500 sensor motes deployed at Google I/O

The rise of the data scientist has been rapid, although it is only over the last couple of years that the term has become accepted. But data science doesn’t just imply huge data warehouses, it can also be personal. Back in 2005, in what would now be regarded as the infancy of data science, Nick Felton started publishing an annual report on his life and he’s kept it up ever since.

But there’s also a place for the maker, after all the data the new breed of data scientists play with has to come from somewhere, and that has led to an explosion of sensor platforms and distributed sensor networks.

9. UX Designer

The purpose of a UX document. Credit: Boon Chew
The purpose of a UX document. (Credit: Boon Chew)

The profession of UX Designer is really only now being recognised as a “real” job. It was always done, but it was rolled, sometimes badly, into other people’s jobs. However UX design is not just about software, it’s also about hardware and how the user interacts with objects around them.

10. MAKE magazine editor

Volume 34
MAKE Magazine, Volume 34

I couldn’t make this list without talking about MAKE magazine, could I? The first issue of MAKE was published in January 2005, making us not quite 10 years old yet. We’ll be 10 in January 2015, and you know we’ll have something special planned.

16 thoughts on “10 Maker Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

  1. Ross Hershberger says:

    There are plenty of jobs in industry that favor Maker skills. At the moment there’s a shortage of robot programmers and industrial PLC programmers. I work installing and servicing industrial lasers, which are frequently incorporated in complex automated systems with robots. This field is exploding as more and more industrial production is automated. Robot and PLC programmers that I know all love their jobs. Some have degrees but many learned on the job. They need good mechanical skills, some electronics background and strong programming. That sounds like a lot of Make readers to me.
    Industrial controls/Robotics is a field in which people are moving up fast due to strong demand. It’s fun and interesting work!

  2. JMOChicago says:

    Quadracopter pilot sounds v. fun. And UX Designers have been around since late 90’s. So a bit older than 10 years.

  3. Len says:

    Digital fabrication has been around for a lot longer than 10 years – look for information about “Chuck Hull” and “3D Systems”.

  4. writinghist says:

    But, what about all the jobs that have disappeared!!! Every time I walk into a supermarket, or a library, or a government office, and see all of the customers lining up to check themselves out (in other words, work for nothing for that business and do someone out of a job perhaps>>>) I wonder about the lack of customer service, the small number of actual people on any counter, customer checkout point or customer relations desk, and the increasingly large numbers of young unemployed (who can’t train as digital fabricators, or quadcopter pilots, they would just like a job, any job, a paying job) ….our public schools are also losing funding, support and are generally finding it hard to get kids to stay long enough to get unemployment payments which is about all most of them can look forward to as we rush towards this high tech, technological powered lifestyle that suits the few at the top.

  5. aristarcop says:

    Thank goodness that “3D printing is now in the mainstream”! Now all those stinky hipsters won’t meddle in maker space!

  6. jonathan peterson says:

    UX has been around for 10 years?

    Donald Norman published Design of Everyday Things in 1986. Formal academic efforts to put designers and users on an equal footing (largely in Scandanavian IT and product design) goes back to the 70s at least.

  7. Charles Johnson says:

    Thanks for this article. I love seeing jobs that didn’t exist just a few years ago, and that would not have ever been considered jobs.
    I recently met a person whose job is running a fantasy sports league.

  8. cknich5 says:

    Reblogged this on NoCo Maker Faire and commented:
    Wild to think how progressive the Maker community can be! And we love every second of it.

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Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker and tinkerer, who is spending a lot of his time thinking about the Internet of Things. In the past he has mesh networked the Moscone Center, caused a U.S. Senate hearing, and contributed to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered.

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