Where are some places that a social scientist with a PhD can go to work?
January 22, 2009 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Where are some places that a social scientist with a PhD can go to work?

I am nearly done with my PhD in a top ranked social science program (mostly quantitative) at a top U.S. university with a well known advisor. I love doing research - reviewing the literature, coming up with ways to test theory, etc. I really like writing. I really like the flexibility of being on a university campus. I like not having a boss/9-5 job. I sort of like teaching, but I do not like dealing with unmotivated undergrads. I love work with motivated undergrads, especially exposing them to research.

I do not, however, think that I will enjoy the pressures (specifically related to publication) at a tenure track position at an R1 university. I also know that the job market sucks right now. However, I don't think that I'd like the teaching load, lower salary and (most importantly) de-emphasis on research at an R2.

As such, I want to explore other options. But at my university and my department specifically, there is so much pressure to go R1 TT, that I don't know what is out there.

My research area is attitudes toward and use of technology. I have stats and methods skills.

Please hope me with some ideas of companies, organizations, think tanks or something where I could sit and do research on interesting technology related projects. (And possibly make a decent living.) And any ideas about what I can do for my last year of grad school to get me one of these type of alternative jobs would be helpful as well.
posted by anonymous to Education (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought would be an MMORPG. Something like Eve Online's economist.
posted by Jairus at 8:57 AM on January 22, 2009

You do not mention your discipline (but I do see "attitudes"... if you have experience with survey research you might look into pollsters.
posted by onshi at 9:11 AM on January 22, 2009


The Feds hire lots of analysts, including general-purpose analysts with skills in methods rather than substantive experts, and are a generally good employer. I do political science, and CRS and GAO seem to have perennial openings.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:39 AM on January 22, 2009

A place like Pew might be perfect for you.
posted by thisjax at 11:28 AM on January 22, 2009

Also: you might want to look into market research/marketing science and program evaluation (especially if you have experience with survey research).
posted by thisjax at 11:39 AM on January 22, 2009

Not sure exactly what your discipline is, but certain PR agencies, especially those focused on social/online media, might be interested.
posted by downing street memo at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2009

I also have a PhD in the social sciences with a quantitative focus. I also did not want to go into a strictly academic job, but loved to help people answer their research questions, etc. So, I decided that my best bet would be to use my quantitative training to do that.

I work as a statistician in the public health at a research university. It's a perfect combination of the research and literature review, project planning and writing, and I still get to go home at a reasonable hour and don't work on the weekend (unlike my partner, who is a research fellow).

Memail if you want more information.
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 1:08 PM on January 22, 2009

I also know that the job market sucks right now. However, I don't think that I'd like the teaching load, lower salary and (most importantly) de-emphasis on research at an R2.

An R2 (technically they don't use those designations anymore, but whatever) is still a *research* university, so I think you may be unfairly discounting them. R2s do value research, they just may not be quite as high-pressure as the big R1s, which actually sounds like what you want. Undergraduate populations vary too much to make generalizations, as do teaching loads, and salary (which I think is more dependent on the state that categorization, at least for public univs).

Another place to look, and one that is often overlooked by grad programs at major research institutions, is the top-tier liberal arts colleges (assuming they include your discipline). Often they attract smart and motivated undergrads, many of whom go on to grad school, and in my interviewing experience many of them also value research, and particularly faculty who can involve undergrads in research. Teaching loads may be higher, as a general rule.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:21 PM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a small, innovative consultancy dealing in consumer insights?

If they do highly interesting work, and there is flexibility in terms of hours, and you could act for the most part as your own boss with your extensive research experience, it could be something to look into.
posted by pearl228 at 5:46 PM on January 22, 2009

This place is a quantitative analyst's dream:
The RAND Corporation

You couldn't ask for a better work environment: very little emphasis on working nine to five, flexible multidisciplinary project assignment, 24-hour research library, lots of writing opportunities, teaching opportunities in their graduate programs, fascinating colleagues, on and on. Worth a look!
posted by aquafortis at 6:07 PM on January 22, 2009

Whoops, that's RAND!
posted by aquafortis at 7:33 PM on January 22, 2009

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