Professions in the Social Sciences

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Social science is the study of society and the manner in which people behave and impact the world. As a field of study, the social sciences seeks to explain and understand the nature of human experiences and the different mechanisms that operate in every society. The social sciences can explain the causes of poverty, the reasons why elections are held, or the causes of deviant behaviors in society. Most social science practitioners are employed in various sectors in society like the national and local government units and institutions, nongovernmental organizations, educational and religious organizations. 

Social scientists, the practitioners of the social sciences, have different careers depending on their respective degrees and specialization. Each field of the social sciences focus on a specific aspect of society. Below are the different fields of the social sciences and the different functions or specialization of the practitioners or professionals in each discipline.

Economics

Economists study the optimum allocation of scarce resources and how individuals interact within the social structure to address issues on production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Economists try to explain the question of “who gets what and why.”

Economists ask questions regarding how resources are allocated. Some of the questions that economists have to deal with focus on the use and distribution of the different resources in various economic systems. Below are some of the questions that economists ask.

Questions that Economists Ask

Questions

Description

How can the economy allocate its resources to provide the needs and wants of the people?

Economists explain what shall be produced and how it can be produced.

How fast does the economy grow? How can the economy develop a stable economic growth?

Economists explain how much will be produced by the economy to create a stable economic growth. 

How does the economy distribute money, income, and the goods and services it produces to members of society? 

Economists explain for whom the goods are produced. 

Anthropology

Anthropologists study culture in the past and present time.To understand the complexity of cultures across all of human history, anthropology draws and builds upon knowledge from the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences. A major concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to solve human problems. Anthropologists are trained in different areas, namely, sociocultural anthropology, biological or physical anthropology, archaeology, and anthropological linguistics. Cultural anthropology studies the development of human cultures based on ethnologic, linguistic, social and psychological data of analysis (Repko, 2008, p. 67). It explains how people in other societies live and the effects of their environments to their respective lifestyles. Physical anthropology studies human biological nature, particularly its beginning, evolution, and variation in prehistory. Archaeology studies human life in the past through the examination of things left behind by the people from the past. Anthropological linguistics studies language and their relationship to the cultures in which they are used.

Anthropologists study culture.They are involved in different anthropological endeavors that develop case histories of various tribal and ethnic groups and descriptive accounts of the mores and patterns of people. Anthropologists are interested in developing a total, interrelated picture of a society. Because of this, anthropology is considered as an integrative science.

Anthropologists use different methods to study human culture and behavior. Below is a table that explains the different methods used by anthropologists.

Methods Used by Anthropologists in Conducting Studies

Method

How anthropologists implement the method?

1. Indirect observation

Use of maps, census, writings of previous investigators, examination of artifacts, interviews with informants

2. Direct observation

Use of direct observation by taking down field notes, photographs, voice recording, or video recording

3. Participant observation

Participant observer attempts to join the group under study. He/she learns the language and customs of a group 

History

Historians study past human events in order to understand the meaning, dynamics and relationship of the causes and effects of events as they happen through time. Historians rely on primary and secondary sources to study past events. Primary sources refers to eyewitness accounts or contemporaneous accounts about the event. They also use secondary sources or evidences that are not eyewitness accounts and are based from the primary sources.

Historians ask three important questions. These questions include the following:

Questions

Description

What happened?

Historians ask questions about the basic facts that can be found in a source. These can refer to the persons, places, events, dates, and activities that happened through time. 

Why did it happen? 

Historians ask questions about the reasons why the event happen including the causes, effects, and dynamics behind the event.

What lessons can people learn from the event? 

Historians want to explain the lessons that society can learn from the event. Historians can provide solutions to problems by analyzing the lessons that we can get from the past events. 

Political Science

Political scientists study the different forms and processes of government and the concepts of state, power, ideology, and politics and the effects of these concepts to individuals and groups in society. They examine as well the relationship between people and policy at all levels from the individual to the national and international levels. Political science has several fields of study. It includes domestic politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, public administration, and public law. Domestic politics studies public opinion, elections, national and local governments. Comparative politics studies politics within countries and analyzes the similarities and differences between and among countries. International relations focuses on the political relationship and interaction between and among countries. Political theory studies classical political philosophy and contemporary theories. Public administration studies national and local governance and the bureaucracy. Public law examines legal systems, civil rights, and criminal justice. 

Psychology

Psychologists study how the human mind works in consonance with the body to produce thoughts that lead to individual actions. A psychologist tries to understand how people and groups experience the world through various emotions, ideas, and in diverse conscious states. He/She uses a variety of skills in conducting psychological researches. These skills include observation and analysis. Observation can be done by watching human behavior and writing down what is seen. Psychologists observe to find patterns of behavior or actions that occur in different times. They also look for exceptions in the patterns of behavior. Another skill used by psychologists is analysis. Through analysis, psychologists can determine and examine the meaning of the different patterns and the reasons for the pattern exceptions. Some of the fields of psychology include experimental psychology, developmental psychology, personality psychology, social psychology, and environmental psychology. Experimental psychology studies behavior of humans and animals and examines how and why learning takes place. Developmental psychology studies the ways people change and behave as they go through their life. Personality psychology studies human nature and differences among people. Social psychology looks into the behavior of people in groups. While environmental psychology studies the effects of surroundings on a person’s attitude and behavior.

Sociology

Sociologists study people’s behavior in groups rather than in individuals. They investigate why and how people interact with each other and how they function as a society or social subgroups. Sociologists study social structures, collective human action, social relationships, culture, and even the impact of social contexts on individual behavior (Repko, 2008, p. 69). Sociologists use a variety of methods to study group behavior. These include observation and analysis of human behavior, surveys and personal interviews. Surveys or opinion polls and interviews are used by sociologists to determine what people think about certain issues at a specified time and place.

There are numerous subfields that one can pursue and specialize as a sociology major. These include applied sociology, urban sociology, cultural sociology, rural sociology, medical sociology, sociological theory, sociology of education, political sociology, and military sociology. Applied sociology focuses on the use and proper application of sociological theories, methods, and skills to examine data, solve problems, and communicate research to the public. Urban sociology studies societal life and interactions in urban areas through the application of sociological methods like statistical analysis and ethnographies. Cultural sociology analyzes the development of social institutions, norms, and practices. Rural sociology studies the social life of people in rural areas. Medical sociology examines the societal aspects of health and medicine of people. Sociology of education analyzes how social forces and institutions like politics, economic systems, and culture affects schools and educational systems. Political sociology examines how social structures affect and influence politics. Military sociology is a sociological study of the military organization, the different civilian and military relationships, war experiences, and the use and control of force. 

Geography

Geographers study of the interaction between people and their environments. Geographers probe into both the physical properties of Earth’s surface and their relationship with human societies. They also examine how human culture interacts with the natural environment and the impact of locations and places on people. There are two main branches of geography, namely, physical geography and human geography. Physical Geography studies the natural features of the earth, including land, water and atmosphere. Human geography on the other hand, studies how people create cultures in their natural environments. Geographers developed five themes to understand the importance of learning about the world. These included location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and regions.

Five Themes in Geography

Theme

Description

Location

Position on the Earth's surface Use of absolute location or the exact location and relative location or the location of something in relation to a certain place. 

Place

Physical characteristics of a place are depend on landforms, vegetation, climate, flora and fauna. Human characteristics of a place depend on language, religion, and beliefs. 

Human-environment interaction

Geographers study human and environment interaction to learn how people use the Earth's resources

Movement

By studying human movement, geographers can learn how humans are connected with each other. 

Regions

Regions are the basic units of study used by geographers to divide and understand the Earth and its people. 

CAREER FOR SOCIAL SCIENTISTS

There are different careers available for social scientists. These careers range from government service and academe to research-oriented and related career opportunities in the private sector (e.g. business). The social sciences can also be used as a preparatory course for law school. Below are some of the possible careers that a social science graduate can pursue.

Discipline of the Social Sciences

Possible Careers

Anthropology

Archaeologist, Archaeologist, cultural anthropologist, physical anthropologist, ethnologist, cultural specialist, museum curator, academic career (teaching and research) 

Economics

Economist, financial analyst, bank officer, investment analyst, business consultant, business auditor, academic career (teaching and research)

Psychology

Guidance counselor, behavior analyst, life coach, social educator, experimental psychologist, developmental psychologist, personality psychologist, social psychologist, environmental psychologist, population psychologist, physiological psychologist, comparative psychologist, clinical psychologist, school psychologist, industrial psychologist and consumer psychologist 

Sociology

Criminologist, market research analyst, industrial sociologist, academic career (teaching and research)

History

Law, leaching, biographers, researchers, museum curators, foreign service officer, academic career (teaching and research) 

Geography

Cartographer, urban geographer, researchers, academic career (teaching and research) 

Political Science 

Researcher, law, labor relations specialist, foreign service officer, politician, public administrators, political consultant, academic career (teaching and research) 

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