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Social Scientists - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) has voluntary certification programs for geography professionals in GIS. To qualify for professional distinction, individuals must meet education and experience requirements and pass a written examination. The professional recognition these certifications bestow can often help geographers find employment—especially those who do not have a master’s or Ph.D. degree. Workers in these jobs, however, may not be called "geographers," but instead may be referred to by a different title, such as "GIS analyst" or "GIS specialist."

Some social scientists advance to top-level research and administrative positions. Advancement often depends on the number and quality of reports that social scientists publish or their ability to design studies.

Employment
Anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians held about 11,100 jobs in 2008. Professional, scientific, and technical services employed 37 percent of all workers. A small amount—about 2 percent—was self-employed.

Job Outlook
Overall employment is projected to grow much faster than average, but varies by detailed occupation. For anthropologists and archaeologists, opportunities will be best with management, scientific, and technical consulting services companies. For geographers, opportunities will be best for those who have GIS experience or knowledge. Keen competition is expected for historian jobs because the number of applicants typically outnumbers the number of positions available.

Job Growth
Overall employment of anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Anthropologists and archaeologists, the largest specialty, is expected to grow by 28 percent, driven by growth in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry. Anthropologists who work as consultants will be needed to apply their analytical skills and knowledge to problems ranging from economic development to forensics. A growing number of anthropologists also will be needed in specific segments of the Federal Government, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, to assess the regional customs and values—or “cultural terrain”—of a particular society in specific parts of the world. Employment growth of archaeologists will be driven by higher levels of overall construction, including large-scale transportation projects and upgrades to the Nation’s infrastructure. As construction projects increase, more archaeologists will be needed to ensure that Federal laws related to the preservation of archaeological and historical sites and artifacts are met.

Employment of geographers is expected to increase by 26 percent because the Federal Government—the largest employer—is projected to grow faster than in the past. Outside of the Federal Government, geographers will be needed to advise businesses, local municipalities, real estate developers, utilities, and telecommunications firms regarding where to build new roads, buildings, powerplants, and cable lines. Geographers also will be needed to advise about environmental matters, such as where to build a landfill and where to preserve wetland habitats.

Employment of historians is expected to grow by 11 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations, reflecting the relatively few jobs outside of Federal, State, and local Government. Nonetheless, historians possess broad training and education in writing, analytical research, and coherent thinking, so their skills can be applied to many different occupations. As a result, many workers with a history background will find work in niche areas with specialized titles, such as researcher, writer, or policy analyst.

In addition to opportunities arising from employment growth, some job openings for social scientists will come from the need to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. Some social scientists leave the occupation to become professors, but competition for tenured teaching positions will be keen.

Overall, people seeking social science positions are likely to face competition for jobs. Candidates who have a master's or Ph.D. degree in a social science, who are skilled in quantitative research methods, and who also have good written and communications skills are likely to have the best job opportunities. In addition, many jobs in policy, research, or marketing, for which social scientists qualify, are not advertised exclusively as social scientist positions.

Anthropologists and archaeologists will experience the best job prospects at management, scientific, and technical consulting firms. Those with a bachelor’s degree in archaeology usually qualify to be a field technician.

Geographers with a background in GIS will find numerous job opportunities applying GIS technology in nontraditional areas, such as emergency assistance, where GISs can track the locations of ambulances, police, and fire rescue units and their proximity to the emergency. Workers in these jobs may not be called "geographers," but instead may be referred to by a different title, such as "GIS analyst" or "GIS specialist."

Historians will find jobs mainly in policy or research. Historians may find opportunities with historic preservation societies or by working as a consultant as public interest in preserving and restoring historical sites increases. Many workers with a history background also choose to teach in elementary, middle, and secondary schools.

Earnings
Wages of anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians vary. Median annual wages for anthropologists and archaeologists were $53,910 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $39,200 and $70,980. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,490.

Median annual wages of geographers were $66,600 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,390 and $82,590. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,780, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,540.

For historians, median annual wages were $54,530 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,570 and $77,290. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,530.

In March 2009, the Federal Government’s average annual salary for anthropologists was $88,302; for archaeologists, $70,606; for geographers, $79,223; and for historians, $87,730. Beginning salaries were higher in selected areas of the country where the prevailing local pay level was higher.

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Academic Programs of Interest

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