Modern career like Starfleet officer?
June 3, 2009 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Which modern careers rooted in real life is most similar in nature to that of a Starfleet officer abroad the Enterprise?

I just watched the new Star Trek movie, and am currently revisiting some of the older TNG episodes that I'd missed out. The constant self-exposure to all things Trekkie is making me remember my childhood dreams as inspired by the series: 'to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.'

When I was 10 years old, I told myself that once I'd grown up, I would be leading a life full of exciting adventures. Going on missions of research, diplomacy and explorations! Alas, in reality, I am 28 now and have grown up to be a mere boring computer programmer.

So Hive Mind, .. give me something to mull/dream over and suggest some modern careers (rooted in real life) which most resembles that of a Starfleet crew member abroad a spaceship. The inherent nature of that career must also include all of these aspects: diplomacy, science, defence and exploration. I'm not really a Kirk person, so the ideal role model in my mind would be someone Picard-like. If Picard is too much, then well, at least a Geordi or Scotty will do.
posted by joewandy to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Sadly, we do not have starships and have not gotten off this miserable planet. I don't think you're going to do much about that.

But if you want to see things other people have already seen, get an advanced degree in a field of your choice and go to conferences abroad.
posted by kldickson at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2009

Navy sailor/officer on a aircraft carrier springs to mind.
A prospector.
"Doctors without borders" doctor.
Truck driver?

Remember how they never showed any bathrooms on Enterprise D? Real life is not all romulans and green skinned chicks :)
posted by aeighty at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2009

I think the closest you're going to find today would be the US Coast Guard. But it isn't really very close.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:50 AM on June 3, 2009

Remember how they never showed any bathrooms on Enterprise D?

I was watching through Babylon 5 not too long ago, and I was surprised that there were a couple of scenes in one of the earlier seasons that took place in the men's room.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Archeological and other scientific work that takes place in remote locations is probably the closest you'll get - you're in relatively unknown areas like rainforests, mountains, ice floes, etc; you're engaging in scientific work; you have to defend yourself against animals and natural disasters; you'll frequently need to be diplomatic with regard to the people and governments of the area, ranging from paperwork to explanation of your goals to outright bribery.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Foreign service envoy - career with the CIA or State Department.

If the science angle is more your thing, maybe something within the Department of Energy or other public agency that deals with science issues on an international basis.

If you haven't already, learn a foreign language and many of these doors will open for you.
posted by OilPull at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2009

Foreign Aid Worker
Writer (Enter settings "we" don't know much about and then write about them)

They don't all include every aspect of Jean-Luc Picard, but you left out Jean-Luc Picard's most important quality (sexy) anyway, so if you left one out, I can too.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:56 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Get a job at McMurdo base in Antarctica
posted by kanemano at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm imagining a Foreign Service Officer role--they travel a lot, they need to know other languages, they need diplomacy to the utmost, they represent our nation, and they interpret political affairs for our government.
posted by disillusioned at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2009

If defense is a requirement, you're probably limiting yourself to military/government work (or maybe working for Blackwater or Bechtel or somebody like that).
posted by box at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2009

If you can't get out, go in. The brain is still a largely unexplored frontier.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:04 AM on June 3, 2009

Captaining a [military] icebreaker in and around the Arctic?
posted by patricio at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2009

Remember how they never showed any bathrooms on Enterprise D? Real life is not all romulans and green skinned chicks :)
posted by aeighty at 1:48 PM on June 3

There were bathroom scenes in TNG. Troi and Crusher walking out of them in different episodes. I think an episode where you saw data a lot in his quarters there was also a shot of the bathroom.
There were scenes in Enterprise like that too.
Just no big public restrooms.

For the question: The only jobs I think of that would be even close is doing something technical related on a ship\sub. Or doing science expeditions in a marine wildlife field. They do pretty cool things like getting on a ship and cruising all around places like Alaska.
That would meet all your requirements but defense. Was being a starfleet officer really about defending the earth\federation though? That seemed to be an afterthought...their ships weren't really armed as well as they could have been. The whole exploring\diplomacy\science seemed to be the main focus.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:13 AM on June 3, 2009

The closest thing I can think of is field linguistics. It involves travel to new places, meeting faraway people, and use a large amount of diplomacy and negotiation skills. So, it's like being Uhura with a smattering of Picard. Of course, instead of flying around in a clean ship you might have to get used to pooping outside, but you get the bad with the good.

Being a computer programmer actually gives you a leg up. There is a big need for people with programming skills to build software for taking and analyzing data. A lot of languages (thousands!) are in danger of going extinct in the next few decades, so there is a big push in the descriptive linguistics community to record as many as possible.
posted by Alison at 11:24 AM on June 3, 2009

The inherent nature of that career must also include all of these aspects: diplomacy, science, defence and exploration.

To be fair, the vast majority of people on the Enterprise didn't get to do much of any of these things, much less all of them. Even among the major characters, you get one guy who's basically a mechanic, another one who handles beaming people around, somebody who drives the boat, somebody else who is the doctor, etc. After you account for the 10 most awesome people on the crew, everybody else on the ship is just washing laundry or cleaning bathrooms or something. I bet they even had a bunch of "boring computer programmers" along. Certainly the mission of the ship involves all four of your requirements, but the only person who even gets close to doing all those things is the captain himself. And even he leaves the science up to the scientists.

OK, I sound like such a wet blanket. Sorry about that. I think my point is that to be an exciting person doing exciting things, all those crew members had to become the best in their field at their particular specialty, so they could contribute as a member of a team. If you can make yourself into the world's foremost expert on something, perhaps you will be called upon to join an elite team for some kind of exploratory mission.

All that said, I think the previous suggestion of field research (e.g. archeologist, paleontologist, biologist, anthropologist, etc.) would be most likely to use the majority of those skills. Working as a science advisor to either a large corporation or a large government might also get you at least 3 out of 4 of your criteria.
posted by vytae at 11:26 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Star Trek = space travel. Therefore, NASA. They hire lots of computer people. Lord knows JPL would be a cool place to work, too.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:32 AM on June 3, 2009

Honestly, nothing is like that. Become an actor and star in science fiction dramas. Or use your imagination and frame everything you do in dramatic ways. ("I must water the lawn in fifteen minutes or the house will explode!")
posted by anniecat at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Work for the IAEA as a Nuclear Nonproliferation / Nuclear Safeguards person. You'll go to places few people are allowed (which might count as exploration) and you'll have a mission for the defense of mankind which requires diplomacy (as you're in someone else's country inspecting their installations). And of course there is plenty of science involved.
posted by pseudonick at 11:50 AM on June 3, 2009

Working on an oil rig is iiinsaaaane (or so I am told). It's also a CS gig. You would probably have to work your way up as far as learning the systems before being sent, because it's kind of a production troubleshoot gig with millions of dollars on the line when shit gets fucked. And unlike some of the other jobs listed, there is a huge payoff for the risks.

You could also just wait for another war to start, and get in with whatever crony gets the contracts...
posted by shownomercy at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2009

Or use your imagination and frame everything you [want your little brother to] do in dramatic ways. ("[You] must water the lawn in fifteen minutes or the house will explode!")

posted by GPF at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2009

Travel, excitement, foreign countries, exotic locales: Drug mule.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:56 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend takes ST:TNG dvds with him on deployments (he's a Naval Officer), so he can watch "other people having problems with their ships."
posted by illenion at 11:58 AM on June 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

U.S. State Department sends people all around the world. Other than that, I'm thinking your options are mostly military: the closest to what would be an engineer on the Enterprise would be one the Navy Nuke people (basically, what amounts to a nuclear engineer corps). Or, Army Corps of Engineers. Or civil engineers.

But, really, joining the Navy is what you're looking for.
posted by General Malaise at 12:00 PM on June 3, 2009

Join the Navy. With a college education, you can go right into the officer corps (I believe). As long as you don't get tracked down some sort of land-based electronic warfare thing, you could possibly make captain and get a command.

But, even if you worked in engineering, I think it'd give you a lot of what you want.
posted by Netzapper at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2009

I really disagree with the people that say "there's nothing like that". Hell, everything is like it. Picking something at random, School principal ... now you get to play peacemaker between the romulans and the klingons. Another random job: Sales. Every client call is a diplomatic mission. Barber: Ok, that's a toughie, don't be a barber. Waitstaff: Observing the weird eating habits of alien lifeforms. Taxi Driver: Piloting the shuttle at Warp 5 (I know the shuttle didn't go Warp speed, but you get my point).

It's all how you look at it.
posted by forforf at 12:50 PM on June 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

Barber: Ok, that's a toughie, don't be a barber.

Hey, the Enterprise D had a barber!
posted by at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2009

You could work at the Star Trek: Experience when it reopens in 2010

Besides the ones mentioned above some other possibilities:

United States Merchant Marine
French Foreign Legion - more military / diplomacy / less science
Greenpeace (the folks on the anti whaling ships or research vessels)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2009

Research ship out of Woods Hole: I can't remember the details but a friend of mine was on one with a bunch of other scientists and researchers several years ago, studying the ocean floor.

Not scientific: leading overland trips across Africa or jungle treks in SE Asia. Lots of diplomacy there.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Consider the Peace Corps. With your previous experience, you may find yourself using your technical skills within a culture quite different from your own, which demands diplomacy, curiosity, and a spirit of exploration.

This is not a science job, but the other position I believe resembles the starship captain is the officer on a busy fire engine. S/he is exposed to novel, challenging situations with potentially dramatic outcomes, and must rely on training, some basic operating procedures, experience, and the abilities of his/her team to make rapid decisions and resolve a wide variety of crises. S/he must be a diplomat with the public, a leader to their crew, and a team player to the upper management. Although it's not the same as travel to far-off lands, quite a few adventures can be experienced within a mile of a firehouse.
posted by itstheclamsname at 2:13 PM on June 3, 2009

Okay, I have to say I love this question and all the great answers. I think this would be a perfect question to pose to teenage kids in school to really get them thinking of all there really is out there for them to do.
posted by Chele66 at 2:13 PM on June 3, 2009

I don't see how there's any real answer other than "naval officer".
posted by downing street memo at 4:25 PM on June 3, 2009

shownomercy, working on an oil rig is not insane. Some interesting stuff happens, but there is a lot of process to be followed, especially on the deep water vessels where the day rate is astronomical. Like most process based jobs, there's a lot of mind numbing boredom interlaced with excitement - fire drills! boat drills! lunch! kick drills! dinner!

What's more interesting is the places you go with the job, in 15 years I've worked in 9 countries, lived in 5 and that's a lot less than some of my friends. Some of these countries where oil is found aren't necessarily places where you'd want to go though.

Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting job, but Starfleet it's not. I think the Navy would be the most like Starfleet, and maybe move into a diplomatic attache role?
posted by arcticseal at 6:50 PM on June 3, 2009

I am completely shocked that nobody has mentioned NOAA Corps. Like Starfleet, but the strange new world they're exploring is ours.
posted by crinklebat at 10:37 PM on June 3, 2009

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