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Social studies and your career.

Social scientists study how societies work. The number of social scientists is not large-about 100,000, mostly in colleges and universities. Nevertheless, everyone uses principles of the social sciences in their personal lives and at work.

A knowledge of economic, social, and personal behavior can guide you in choosing an occupation and in managing your money. It can help you think clearly about public issues, such as school budgets and subsidized mass transportation systems. It can show you why it is important to vote for public officials whose views you support.

At work, a nurse can learn from sociology and psychology why some patients are more difficult to handle than others. The business executive can use the tools of the economist to predict the effects on profits of raising or lowering prices. I n short, the social sciences can improve your understanding of people and their behavior.

Branches of Social Science

Social science has several major areas of study, each having its own subdivisions and specialties. Consequently, professionals who work in the social sciences are usually specialists.

Anthropologists study human development. Whether examining relics from an excavation or living among primitive tribes, anthropologists strive to piece together an understanding of society's culture. Some specialties within anthropology include archeology, physical anthropology, and ethnology.

Economists analyze, forecast, or advise on economic conditions. Economists often specialize; hence there are agricultural economists, labor economists, and tax economists, to name a few specialists. Many workers require some knowledge of economics. Such workers include stockbrokers, accountants, actuaries, resource management specialists, and market research analysts.

Geographers study the relationship between the physical characteristics of an area or region-such as a continent, country, or river basin-and its economic, political, and cultural characteristics. Some geographers specialize in maps and charts they are cartographers. There are also economic geographers and political geographers and numerous other specialized geographers. Others who need a strong background in geography include climatologists, urban planners, and land-use technicians.

Historians study, analyze, and record data on past events, institutions, ideas, and people to gain a better understanding of the present. Other professionals who need a good background in history include archivists, biographers, genealogists, librarians, and public administrators.

Political scientists examine the origin, development, and operation of political systems. Professionals who need good backgrounds in political science include lawyers, social science research analysts, foreign service officers, and community planning specialists.

Psychologists generally interview, test, survey, and complete experiments to try to understand human actions. Other professionals who need a background in psychology include advertising agents, affirmative action officers, community organizers, career planning counselors, rehabilitation counselors, social workers, parole officers, school counselors, caseworkers, and psychiatric nurses,

Sociologists examine the function and influence of groups. Other occupations that require knowledge of sociology include social workers, family relations specialists, hospital administrators, psychiatric social workers, health policy planners, industrial managers, arbitrators, demographers, urban planners, and occupational rehabilitation counselors.

Social Service Careers

Social service careers span a wide range, from health care to social welfare. Many opportunities exist in social service occupations for those with bachelor's or master's degrees in one of the social sciences. Additional job opportunities are available for the person who couples some work in the social sciences with a degree in another field, such as health, education, business administration, or law.

Professionals in these careers typically help people copewith daily living. Speech pathologists, for example, work with individuals to improve speaking ability. Correction workers counsel juvenile delinquents or adult offenders or serve as probation or parole officers. Homemaker-health aides visit people's homes and help with routine health care, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and many other everyday chores. Rehabilitation counselors help people cope with physical, mental, or social disabilities.


Social science and social service careers share certain requirements. Both kinds of jobs require persons who have flexibility in thinking, an interest in problem solving, and a willingness to ask questions and listen.

Naturally, the amount and kind of social science training needed vary for different occupations. Some careers call for great human understanding and compassion but little formal training. Others require advanced graduate degrees inthe field. Most social science positions require at least a master's degree.

To learn if you are well suited for a career in any of these fields, try to get some practical work experience. Summer, part-time, and volunteer jobs can all be useful. Some places that use volunteers include hospitals, museums, schools, and libraries. In gathering information, don't overlook senior citizen groups or your grandparents and their friends. These people have lived through many changes in society and in the world of work, and often they can help you gain a new perspective on these changes.

Social Studies and Your Career

An understanding of how social institutions work is important in many jobs. The following are examples of jobs that require this knowledge.




Counselors, all fields

Curators and archivists

Directors, religious activities

and education


Employment interviewers



Lawyers and judges

Management analysts and


Personnel specialists and related


Police patrol officers

Political scientists

Psychiatric aides

Psychiatrists .


Public relations specialists and

publicity writers

Purchasing agents and buyers

Real estate agents and brokers

Recreation therapists

Recreation workers

Reporters and correspondents

Securities and financial services

sales workers

Social workers


Teachers, all levels


Urban and regional planners
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Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1987
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