About 30% of life is spent working.
Let’s put that in perspective, between the ages of 20 and 65 the average American will work about 260 days per year, 8 hours per day to equal about 93,600 hours over a lifetime. If you love what you do, you may not ever spend a day of your life “working.” So, why not turn a hobby into a career?
Here are a few careers — brewing, engineering, nursing — that can grow out of activities you already enjoy.
Professional Beer Brewer
Do you enjoy cooking, homebrewing, and experimenting with flavors and ingredients? Then you may want to think about a career in the beer industry. There seem to be new breweries popping up everywhere, and many of them that started small are increasing production and expanding due to their popularity.
According to the Brewers Association, over 7,000 breweries are operating in the U.S. with those numbers growing each year, creating a demand for professional brewers.
After attending brewing school, Jeff Schauland worked his way up from homebrewer and cellarman to the head brewer at a midsized brewery and now the experimental brewer at Deschutes Brewery’s Roanoke Tasting Room. (Our favorite photo is the one where Jeff is covered in yeast!)
- If you’re willing to relocate or travel, there are lots of brewing jobs available
- Brewing is a creative outlet but also challenges the mind using science, math, and engineering
- The industry is fun and friendly
- You get to attend a lot of beer and food-themed events
- Free beer!
- Manual labor
- Cleaning is about 85% of the job
- Low pay with not a lot of opportunity to advance, especially if the brewery is small
- Competition for expansion in terms of distribution
- Production brewers don’t get to create recipes and a lot of the job is automated
- Must work your way up from cellar work to packaging to brewer in most cases
Yes, there are beer schools! Virginia Tech has a Food Science and Technology Degree with a Food and Beverage Fermentation Program that is recognized by the Master Brewers Association. Virginia Tech also has a program called “The Business of Brewing” for those people interested in opening a brewery.
Do spend all your free time at the rock climbing gym trying new routes and anticipating your next foothold? Or do you find yourself looking for the next place to boulder outside?
Then you may want to think of a career as a bridge inspector/structural engineer. The Roanoke Region is growing rapidly and a quick job search shows that there are many great jobs available in this field. Just as a rock climber would manage through a climb, assess potential problems, and use a great amount of focus, the same can be said for someone doing rope access bridge inspection work and is able to diagnose problems while on the job.
For this career, we spoke with Ian McElhone, a structural engineer at AECOM, the largest engineering consulting firm in the U.S. There are over 85,000 employees total with about 180 staff in Roanoke. (Can you spot him in each of the photos below?)
- Every job and project is different so it is not your typical 9-5 job
- Pay and benefits are competitive and your salary is good right out of college
- Fun travel to bridges all over the world
- The community benefits from your work so there is civic pride knowing you are helping to improve the area where you live and where others live
- Most engineering firms are large companies so there is some bureaucracy involved
- Lots of reports and office work
- Long hours
- Stressful and demanding to accomplish work on time
- Anxiety resulting from a difficult and strenuous climb
Major in civil engineering with classes in architecture and physics. You can get started at Virginia Western Community College for 2 years and transfer to Virginia Tech for the last 2 years.
Do you enjoy working in the restaurant or hospitality industry? As a server, you must be quick on your feet, remember what people have ordered, maintain a positive and friendly attitude, educate guests on new happenings, and be the liaison between the kitchen staff and the customer. The mental balance needed as a server can be connected to a career in nursing.
Nurses use quick, critical, and analytical thinking in a job that varies and creates new challenges each day. They must compartmentalize care, collaborate with other professionals, compromise on treatments, educate families, and advocate for their patients. A career as a hospital nurse is rewarding for those who care about others.
Emily Plaster was able to travel far and wide putting her nursing skills to use before settling in the region to work in pediatrics. She finds that working with children brings out the best in all of us.
- Fast-paced work days where you stay busy
- Meet people from all over the world
- High variety of diagnosis if at a larger hospital, so you may see some abnormalities and rare cases
- Jobs in this field are always available
- Pay increases with time spent on the job
- Night-shift work when you are new
- Hours are long
- Must work nights, holidays, and weekends
- Some communication difficulties with staff, patients, and their families in times of high stress
James Madison University, Jefferson College of Health Science, and Radford University offer nursing programs. Usually, it’s 2 years of prerequisites and then the nursing program is 2 years. After you complete a degree in nursing, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination in Virginia and then you are eligible to apply for nursing jobs.