Sizing Up the Social Sciences - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Sizing Up the Social Sciences

By Ysolt Usigan
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All we hear about lately are the "hot" careers of 2007 - business, accounting, medicine. But what about another rapidly growing industry like social science? For many interested in these non-spotlighted jobs of labor specialists, social workers, and statisticians (just to name a few), growth rates are soaring. Are you willing to forego the bragging rights of saying you work in finance or health care, and instead say, "I'm a social scientist?"

It wouldn't be a bad idea, especially since trends taking place in the labor market right now, such as the need for researchers in areas of medicine and lifestyle, an increase in cost for child care and elder care, global development, and the growing number of racial and ethnic minorities "have social science majors names written all over them," points out Dr. Aaron Thompson, associate vice president for University Programs and sociology professor at Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, KY). Such trends predict that a social science degree will be an excellent preparation for these jobs to come, such as elder care specialist, environmental health specialist, day care specialist, employment specialist, social worker, social services specialist, management and strategic planning specialist, global technology specialist, and law enforcement.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new legislation, court rulings, and setting standards will spur a call for graduates with social science backgrounds from human resources to government positions.

Experts Weigh In ...
"There will always be an ever growing demand of social science degrees and social science professionals," says trends expert Brian Drum, CEO of Drum Associates, a global executive search firm that staffs Wall Street and various Fortune 500 companies. "We are a growing and changing population - we just hit 300,000,000 people recently. With growth and societal changes, there is a need to figure out why we are growing and changing, and how to deal with it and plan for the future."

That is where the increase in the need for social science professionals comes in - in the government, for instance, Drum points out. "When the population grows and changes, the government needs to grow to provide for and manage the needs of the increased population and changing society," Drum adds.

Social Science is Versatile
"Social science is one of the most flexible areas for a person to major in," says Thompson. "Much of social science focuses on organizational skills, writing skills, speaking skills, planning skills, critical and creative thinking skills, data analysis, research and grant writing skills, and more."

Students are enticed by how broad the discipline is. Upon graduation, students can have their pick of various employment opportunities with their flexible degrees. In addition, students are turned onto the social sciences because it's personal and has close ties with their own lives.

"One of my attractions to the field of sociology is that it deals with the lived experience," says Harmony Newman sociology graduate at Centenary College of Louisiana (Shreveport, LA) and current sociology Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN). Her research interests are in gender and family, particularly motherhood. " By exploring patterns of human behavior, we are able to uncover some of what is taken for granted in everyday life."

Thompson, who continually monitors various trends as they relate to the social sciences agrees with Newman's take. "Social science (sociology, psychology, geography, history political science, etc.) deals with human behavior and human social interaction Thus, there are a variety of jobs and professions that this skill set can prepare a person to perform." From archaeology to psychology, from social work to teaching, with a social science degree, you can be successful in a variety of occupations.

Goodbye Baby Boomers, Hello Social Services
As the baby boomers begin exiting the work force, Drum predicts one of the top areas of growth will be in elder care and social work. "Communities are going to require more social services, as well as human resources," explains the career mentor. "More and more companies are providing employee assistance programs." Not to mention, almost all universities offer their students career-counseling services.

These programs address issues dealing with family and other personal obligations, employees serving time in the military, drug and alcohol addictions, personal finances, and so on. These days, organizations are more apt to help their employees and students than they were in the past, therefore, as programs are developed, jobs that didn't previously exist will have to be filled.

Other Prospering Social Science Jobs
Drum, who has helped more than 30,000 job candidates with their job searches over the past 37 years, also believes the need for professors and teachers within the social science field will continue to grow, and employment for economists/statisticians (polling and trending the ever-changing population) and political science/government employees will flourish.

Potential Paychecks
Although the starting salary for popular social science jobs such as labor specialists and archaeologists average $37K and $44K, the potential to grow such paychecks is promising. "As a social sciences professional, your compensation can increase over time to a good level," Drum explains, pointing out that "economists and professors tend to make more than $90,000 per year." And the benefits beyond the bucks for such jobs is also encourage, Drum says. "If you are more focused on having a job that is rewarding in other ways ... one that has a positive impact on other people's lives, social science is the way to go."

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