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November 27, 2012 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I want a job where I can: research/gather information, organize and do basic, preliminary analysis on said information, write reports. But not a paralegal, not in academia, probably not in tech. What field with a decent employment outlook would allow me to utilize my strengths? [little long inside, sorry!]

I looked into paralegal training; the local community college has a good program and they offered to waive all Gen Ed reqs for me (I am ABD in a social science). But the job prospects for paralegals are just as grim as the rest of the legal industry. I'm not out to make tons of money, but I'd like to have a living wage and health insurance. I've given up the idea of working in law.

I plan to stay ABD and can't stomach the idea of working for a university in any capacity. This may change in the future, but for right now, I can't return to my prison in the Ivory Tower.

Tech is out because I am not technologically inclined. It's a goddamn miracle I know how to download apps on my phone.

Other skills I have that are less important than the research/analysis/writing portion: love working in teams, but fine if my work is solitary. I cannot work from home or have 0 interaction with co-workers. I enjoy doing bookkeeping, financial justifications, making schedules, office management type things, but only have informal experience as a defacto office manager for a research lab. I was a contract archaeologist for several years and have analytical and writing experience outside of academia. Lots of experience working with state government offices/bureaucracy/red tape.

I've always been drawn to public arts, museums, but have no strong preference to work in that field more than any other field, like medical/financial/education, etc. I am willing to return to school for a few more years, to earn a certificate or AA/S.

What are some career tracks I should look in to to utilize the things I like/am good at?
posted by peacrow to Work & Money (21 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Marketing research? Lots of social science people end up there.
posted by desjardins at 7:45 AM on November 27, 2012

Contracts. Program Management Professional. ?
posted by KogeLiz at 7:47 AM on November 27, 2012

I have a friend with a similar background who does Evaluation Research for grant receiving organizations. She does this on a freelance/contractor basis and has made a nice living for herself. And, seconding Market Research.
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:58 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yep, looking at Grant Writing or doing research for charitable organizations on potential donors, grant receiving or giving.
posted by tilde at 8:08 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say public health at the state, or large city, level would have a ton of jobs like what you are describing. Or at least a few. Often you need to have some quantitative ability as well.
posted by OmieWise at 8:13 AM on November 27, 2012

In the UK there is an office that writes summaries of technical topics for parliamentarians. Maybe there is something similar in your state?
posted by srboisvert at 8:13 AM on November 27, 2012

It sounds like real estate underwriting might be up your alley. You would collect info on rent rolls, tenant improvements, occupancy rates, etc. and create reports/recommendations off of that information.
posted by Ostara at 8:47 AM on November 27, 2012

Librarians and Competitive Intelligence Professional do this for companies
posted by sandra194 at 9:16 AM on November 27, 2012

Urban planning. Job outlook has been meh in the midwest where I am, but stronger in growing areas (Arizona, California, Florida), but it's a lot of research and writing, and information gathering with public meetings. Not necessarily technical at all beyond Word, Excel, PowerPoint. It's not the same thing as urban design or architecture, although interest in those certainly helps. The American Planning Association has a good article: What do Planners Do?
posted by desjardins at 9:37 AM on November 27, 2012

You could work for government agencies or non-profits and write Requests for Proposals. Or work for companies (consultants, etc) who need people to write proposals responding to the RFP's.

There's also policy analysis within the government, I think a fair number of Social Science post-grads end up there.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 9:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding librarianship. Special libraries or corporate libraries.
posted by Blake at 10:48 AM on November 27, 2012

I paid insurance claims for a few years. I think that might fit your criteria. It started at better than minimum wage. They put me through an initial training programming at their expense me and paid me to boot. The training lasted about three months. I did get health insurance. You can climb the corporate ladder after starting there though it was an entry level job. I didn't write a lot of reports, but paying claims involves a lot of research and I didn't sometimes have to write letters which had to meet a rigorous legal standard. It appeared to be a job they had trouble filling, so my impression is if you can qualify, they will hire you.
posted by Michele in California at 1:19 PM on November 27, 2012

I did consider library school but I know no less than six people (friends, other anthropology drop-outs) who have recently started MLS programs. It definitely seems to be the thing smart folks do when they don't know what else to do. It's the new law school and I worry about there being a glut of unemloyable, highly specialized librarians in a few years.
posted by peacrow at 1:38 PM on November 27, 2012

I think NGOs often need people to do research. Always seemed like an interesting career path to me.
posted by Shebear at 5:57 PM on November 27, 2012

I want to second the suggestion above about evaluation research. One of the many hats I sometimes wear is as an evaluator. I started doing this when I was ABD in a social science, and wasn't committed to completing my dissertation. Ultimately I did finish, but people around me do well without the PhD (getting to the mid-to-mid/high levels corporately).

If you have a strong background in methodology (survey design, experimental methods, etc.) this transition is easier. If you don't, picking up a couple grad-level classes in those things is straight-forward.

You don't have to work for organizations that receive grants (like universities or non-profits). I work for a private, for-profit company. Most of our work is directly contracted with various governments (Federal, state, tribal, local, etc.) and foundations. Depending on the kind of work you choose, there can be a reasonable amount of job security.

MeMail me if you want more specific information.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:37 PM on November 27, 2012

It definitely seems to be the thing smart folks do when they don't know what else to do. It's the new law school and I worry about there being a glut of unemloyable, highly specialized librarians in a few years.

It's already past that point--by perhaps as much as half a decade. It was at least that long ago that people were talking about how mass retirements were coming, clearing the field for new graduates. I'd say your friends are late on the train, unfortunately for them.
posted by Pryde at 10:38 PM on November 27, 2012

You sound perfect for market research. MeMail me if you have any questions.
posted by taltalim at 7:36 AM on November 28, 2012

Great leads folks! Thanks so much. I'll definitely be using these suggestions as a springboard.

@Pryde, thanks for the heads up. It was my gut feeling, but didn't have anything to back up my take on the situation.

I'll be contacting those that offered more details via MeMail. Thanks again!
posted by peacrow at 1:16 PM on November 28, 2012

It sounds to me like healthcare (or pharmaceutical) consulting would be perfect for you. If you start at a small company, you'll probably learn more and get more experience, faster. Lots of proposal writing, report writing, analysis, and reading/summarizing. You'll be paid well, and there are lots of good jobs in a growing field.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:05 PM on November 28, 2012

It's the new law school and I worry about there being a glut of unemloyable, highly specialized librarians in a few years.

The library job market was not strong before the financial crisis. If you have strong language skills in a non-European language, this might be a good idea - I know someone who reads Chinese, Japanese, and Mongolian who has a job after his MLS. But I wouldn't recommend it as a field with strong job prospects to anyone without foreign languages.

It does seem to be seen as a potential fall-back for a lot of social science and humanities PhDs and ABDs - certainly it's been recommended to me as such. But - having worked in libraries and as archival/library support (cataloging, literature searches) - I find that librarianship is a completely different type of intellectual work than research and really doesn't necessarily suit all (or even most) people in the humanities and social sciences.
posted by jb at 1:06 PM on November 29, 2012

Healthcare and nonprofits are a great route to investigate. Government and allied industries. There are whole companies who specialize in exactly what you want to do, specifically Westat and NORC. I'm sure there are others.

If you're ABD in a social science, you will not need more education for almost anything. Since it aligns with your interests, there are actually a couple firms that specialize in strategy consulting for nonprofit arts organizations; the one I'm most familiar with is Slover Linett, who seem sort of boutiquey, but I'm sure there are "arts and culture" divisions at other nonprofit-oriented consulting firms.

Oh, and stop thinking of yourself as "not a tech person." Surely you did some sort of statistical analysis in your social science career. You're probably an Excel or SPSS whiz. It's not a huge leap, conceptually, to pick up some SQL basics, and it would stand you in very good stead job-wise.
posted by katya.lysander at 2:00 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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