Have you always liked putting together jigsaw puzzles? Are you an expert at doing a Rubik’s Cube? Do you enjoy immersing yourself in the nearest Escape Room? Does your list of favorite computer games include titles like Tetris, Myst, and Portal? Or maybe you find it hard to resist crosswords, Sudoku, mazes, or other brainteasers? Well, how would you like solving puzzles and earning money for it?
If you have a passion for solving puzzles, you are probably good at pattern recognition, math, logic, problem solving, and thinking outside the box. These skills are sought after in many different fields. If you’re a natural-born problem solver, someone who enjoys a good puzzle, odds are that you’re going to need a challenging line of work to keep you interested.
Depending on your particular interests and educational aspirations, there is likely a vocation within your grasp that will utilize your critical thinking skills and enable you to actually solve puzzles on the job. Here are 12 career options for people who like solving puzzles:
Can you keep a secret? If you are interested in computer science and secret codes, you may enjoy a career as a cryptographer. Cryptographers are people who do the writing and cracking of codes and ciphers. In the past, cryptographers were primarily responsible for wartime code-breaking and writing ciphers to keep information hidden from the enemy. Today, cryptographers often work in the cybersecurity field. Cryptographers develop algorithms, ciphers, and security systems to encrypt sensitive digital information, provide privacy for people, and protect corporations from cyber criminals. Cryptography is used to encrypt confidential data for the military, government, law enforcement, and financial institutions.
2. Ethical Hacker
Are you good at cracking codes? Ethical hackers, also known as white hat hackers, are always looking to stay one step ahead of criminal hackers. It’s an ethical hacker’s job to view computer systems from the adversary’s perspective in an effort to find security vulnerabilities so they can be patched before they are exploited by bad actors. Government agencies and business organizations today are in constant need of ethical hackers to combat the growing threat to cybersecurity. Ethical hackers may work in-house for a company, be employed by an outside cybersecurity firm, or work independently as freelance consultants.
3. Computer Support Specialist
Do you like to look for clues and solve problems? Computer support specialists troubleshoot and resolve various computer and software issues. They may support the computer network at a company or they may provide technical assistance directly to computer users. If a customer brings in a faulty computer, it’s the computer support specialist’s job to determine if the problem is a bad connection, a software problem, a hardware problem, or possibly the person just hasn’t set up the machine properly. You’ll need to run diagnostic tests and use your knowledge of computer systems and their common problems to determine the source of the problem.
What happened to the Anasazi? It’s an enduring archeological mystery still debated to this day. The ancient pueblo people had one of the most sophisticated civilizations in North America, then they suddenly disappeared in the 12th century. Archeologists look for clues to solve puzzles like this as they study past cultures from human remains, artifacts, and structures recovered through excavation, underwater recovery, or other means of discovery. Before removing any artifacts, they create a site grid by superimposing a rectangular grid over the area. They measure each square in the grid and assign it a number. This allows the them to create a precise map and to record the exact location of all the features and artifacts on the site. Many times they find broken pottery. It can be a challenge putting the pieces back together, especially when some pieces are missing. Archeologists also compare findings from one site with archeological data from other sites to look for similarities and differences.
5. Crime Scene Investigator
Who did it? You’re at the scene of a crime, and it’s not a pretty sight. You sift through the evidence and you may find blood, hair, fibers, broken glass, a gun, and fingerprints. Crime scene investigators communicate their findings to the police detective who then puts all the clues together to solve the big whodunit. Many police departments train their detectives to be crime scene investigators, and vice versa. Fans of the CSI television series may also be interested in forensics as a STEM career.
6. Forensic Analyst
Would you like to solve puzzles in a lab using your knowledge of biology, chemistry or physics? Forensics is a science that involves analyzing clues, piecing together a puzzle, and solving the crime based on evidence left behind. Unlike crime scene investigators, forensic analysts do their work in a lab and do not visit the crime scene. Forensic scientists and technicians utilize scientific instruments to analyze the DNA, fingerprints, ballistics, computers, or other evidence brought in by the CSI team. Forensic analysts may also figure out what caused crashes and accidents. Forensic Engineer Timothy Cheek describes his job like this: “The basic process of accident reconstruction involves collecting the evidence; studying the evidence like pieces of a puzzle to put back together; and, once we have a solution to the puzzle, presenting our findings in a way that is understandable to others.”
7. Fire and Arson Investigator
Do you enjoy solving challenging puzzles and are you also interested in fire science? Then a fire and arson investigator may be the perfect career for you! Fire and arson investigators are sworn law enforcement officers who work for state law enforcement agencies, police departments, or fire departments. A fire investigator’s job is to find out what caused a fire, where it started, and whether it was intentional or accidental.
8. Reverse Engineer
Do you like to take things apart to see how they work? Reverse engineering is a process that examines an existing product to determine detailed information and specifications in order to learn how it was made and how it works. For mechanical assemblies, this typically involves disassembly and then analyzing, measuring, and documenting the parts. In computer programming, reverse engineering is a technique used to analyze software in order to identify and understand the parts it is composed of. The usual reasons for reverse engineering a piece of software are to recreate the program, to build something similar to it, to exploit its weaknesses or strengthen its defenses. Patent law, corporate espionage, product improvement, and replacing legacy parts are other common uses for reverse engineering.
Want to be a scientist? Try working on the unsolved mysteries of science. There are many different types of physics puzzles, from questions about physical phenomena, to questions that require theory and mathematics, to questions that require unique, out-of-the-box approaches. The Millennium Problems are the hardest and most important unsolved mathematics problems in the world; they have resisted numerous attempts at solution, over many years, by the best mathematical minds around.
10. Auto Mechanic
Are you good at fitting parts together and figuring out why things don’t work? When a customer brings in a car that isn’t running right, it’s your job to determine what’s wrong. Modern cars are like computers on wheels. You can run diagnostics and isolate the problem area such as engine or electrical, brakes or suspension. From there, you narrow it down until you find the cause of the problem, and then implement the appropriate solution to repair or replace the faulty part and resolve the customer’s complaint.
11. Interior Designer
Do you like playing with color and design as well as solving puzzles? An interior decorator concentrates on making living spaces or business offices visually pleasing. Interior designers are expected to make aesthetic improvements as well as make the space functional. For example, you may be asked to redesign a room as both a home office and a living space. Your puzzle-solving skills will be put to the test as you decide where all the different pieces of furniture can be placed to fit, as well as choosing a pleasing color combination.
Remember the the 2016 film Arrival? Both the film and the story are about a linguist who is trying to make sense of an alien language. If you like solving puzzles and playing with words, you may have an aptitude for working with language communities around the world as an interpreter (spoken words), translator (written words), scholar of ancient languages, or expert on pictographic languages. You might even use your knowledge of letters to help a cryptographer crack a language code.
13. Puzzle Maker
BONUS! If you enjoy word games and logic puzzles, creating your own puzzles and working with game builders can be a rewarding line of work. Crossword creator Francis Heaney has the type of job any crossword fan would love. He spends his days as an editor at Puzzlewright Press and his free time creating crosswords and other types of puzzles for the New York Times and other outlets. If computer games are more your style, you could become a game designer or app developer, as people are always looking for innovative new puzzles to play online. Then there is the escape games sector which is flourishing all around the world. Escape game artists love to design unique puzzles that challenge even the most experienced players. Even curriculum publishers create educational puzzles for use in learning games and skills assessments.