Inside Social Scientist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Social Science Uses Math...
I wasn't quite prepared for the amount of mathematics required for social scientists. Nearly all of my research uses statistical analysis, that is often complex." (PhD Student; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, male
School: Studied Public Policy at Georgia Tech in Georgia; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

"Relaxed Environment...
I think a lot of people don't know how much flexibility social scientists have with their careers-- we really do have quite flexible hours and schedules, and generally very laid-back working environments." (Postdoctoral Lab Director; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, female
School: Studied Psychology at University Of Chicago in Illinois; completed Doctorate degree in 2012

"Public Interest In My Career...
I was surprised at the general public's reaction in that they tended to care about the issues, but had absolutely no interest in doing anything to help. Also, I was surprised by how awful healthcare in this country is." (Epidemiologist; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Public Health at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania; completed Master degree in 2012

"Rewriting History...
Archaeology can be a very rewarding career if the funding is available to do the research through Universities. You really need an MA or PhD in order to get into a livable wage. This profession is very vulnerable to economic down turns, and departmental shifts. It is not a profession you are going to do to become wealthy. If you have a passion for history, are detail oriented, love to draw, and to spend days in a library cross referencing obscure never before seen books, this is the job for you. Expect if you have children to place your career aside to raise them. The surprise is how much of a direct impact you have on the writing of human history, For centuries it was thought Pompeii and Troy were fairy tales, myths, and yet, they have been uncovered and great portions of history discovered thanks to the dedicated work of a few Archaeologist." (Archaeologist; 2014)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Texas, female
School: Studied Anthropology at UT Austin in Texas; completed Bachelor degree in 1995

"In my job my career, what I studied at the University is always useful. Everyday I find new uses to the knowledge I acquired at the University. Learning how to conduct a research has proven to be a very important asset in any job I've been. I continue to be surprised everyday about how the knowledge I acquired more than four decades ago continues to bear fruit for me." (Sociologist; 2012)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, female
School: Studied Sociology at University Complutense In Madrid Spain; completed Master degree in 1992

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Economist: "Some of the best things about my career are that I am constantly learning something new and interacting with new people, and this allows me to really let my extraverted side shine. But at the same time, due to the cyclical nature of the job, it's hard for me to feel a real sense of accomplishment. The work is never done, and there are no real final deadlines when everything is done. I am working on several deadlines at once, and I am never without at least two full assignments to work on." (2011)

Social Science Researcher: "The best part of my job is that I get to learn about new things all the time. To discuss a topic with a colleague, I need to read some background materials, which often introduce me to issues I knew nothing about. The worst part is that project work is the priority for my organization and my colleagues, because that is how the institute makes money. So working with me on papers sometimes becomes a low priority." (2010)

Career Background

  Social Scientist Salaries

Career Tips

"Expectations And Training...
If you want to be a successful archaeologist, you really do need a PhD. Anything below that and you will be making less than $17 an hour maximum. An additional degree in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) would be beneficial to anyone not wishing to get a higher degree." (Archaeologist; 2014)

"Know What You Want...
Know what you want to get involved in, instead of just wanting to "help people." Having a deeper knowledge of your area of interest helps you to better bridge between patients, healthcare providers, and lawmakers in order to better serve the population you're most interested in." (Epidemiologist; 2014)

"Take Statistics Classes...
Students should focus on math at the undergrad level. Take at least one calculus class, and multiple statistics courses if possible." (PhD Student; 2014)

"Make Your Curiosity Visible...
Working in labs-- either for pay, or simply volunteering-- is important, since it both builds your resume, and puts you in touch with people whose letters of recommendation can help you get in to graduate school. We see a lot of volunteers, though-- you need to make sure your enthusiasm for the work comes across. Try to attend lab meetings. As your supervisors questions about research, and ask if there are any papers you should read to learn about their work (and actually read those papers and follow up about them!)" (Postdoctoral Lab Director; 2014)

"Need To Come Across With Confidence...
If you want to work for the government or in a similar position to mine, make sure you take a lot of economics and statistics courses. Also, it can be helpful to try to get part time work with the government to get your foot in the door and obtain status for your applications. For my particular position, excellent interviewing skills are key - if you don't sound confident in person or on the phone, the interviewer will probably not want to hire you and if you're speaking with a respondent, they may not want to provide you with data." (Economist; 2011)

"Submit Papers To Conferences To Motivate...
1. Try to think up independent research projects and work on them until you have a completed paper. This will give you a feel for all the stages involved (designing research question, reading background literature, gathering data, analysis, writing). You may like some parts more than others, but you need to be able to do all these things. 2. Submitting papers to conferences is a great way to push yourself to finish a paper and then improve it. If it gets accepted, you won't want to embarrass yourself in front of an audience! 3. Be prepared to spend a lot of time revising. Papers go through countless drafts before they get published. 4. Take at least a few statistics classes, even if they don't come naturally to you. Statistics have made inroads in all social sciences, and you need to at least understand the analysis, even if you don't plan on carrying it out yourself." (Social Science Researcher; 2010)