Help me be sociocompuspatialistically useful.
September 18, 2010 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure if I fit into the typical "liberal arts graduate" box, so what jobs do I apply for? Please help me work through my ridiculous interdisciplinary special snowflake details.

I should be finally done my undergrad after this upcoming winter, which means it's time for me to start thinking about my entry-level job search.

What I'm doing in school: I'll be graduating from a good Canadian university with an honours major in sociology. As well, I'll have something between a minor and an additional major in mathematics (with a good chunk of CS and senior-level statistics), as well as an additional diploma in GIS. On top of that, I've completed graduate coursework in applied quantitative methods in the social sciences, and my undergrad thesis research involves some analytical techniques that, AFAIK, usually don't show up at the undergraduate level (working with large-scale survey microdata, multilevel modelling).

What I've done in the past: I had a couple of internships doing web application development, and another one working as a data analyst/DBA/survey research assistant for a market research firm. I've also done a lot of freelance Python work, and have been involved in a somewhat-notable open source project. Most of my coding work these days is in the context of mapping — either Python scripting in ArcGIS or building web mapping apps with a variety of open-source frameworks.

What should I apply for?: I'm worried that because I don't have a "proper" math/stats degree that I'll be out of the running for more data-centric jobs. I've had some trouble getting around HR types who've cut me off and told me that "they don't hire sociologists." I feel like I'm in a complicated situation: I've got some qualifications beyond what most liberal arts grads have, but it's an oddball mix that might not seem sufficiently technical to employers.

I'm really interested in working in market research, web analytics, or demography again. If possible, I would like to pursue the GIS end of my skillset to the extent that it's related to social planning or program evaluation. I don't want to be a web dev again, and I don't think that I want (nor am I traditionally qualified for) a career where I'm primarily writing code. However, I do want to find a job where I get to make use of as much of my skill set as possible. What do I look for? Or, should I just not bother and limit my search to the typical entry-level communications/PR jobs that are within reach of most social science grads?
posted by thisjax to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
And yes, I know that part of the answer to this question is to get a masters degree in either survey research methodology or statistics (with a focus on spatial statistics, possibly), but that's something that I'll have to put off for a couple years.
posted by thisjax at 2:17 PM on September 18, 2010

A friend who is a fellow "special snowflake" just completed this college diploma program - is it similar to the diploma that you have now? Would you consider doing something like this? Most of my peers with undergrad-only educations have either a) needed to go on to grad school, or b) obtained a specialized college diploma.

(My husband, also a "special snowflake" arts undergrad - poli sci - did a Library Tech college diploma, got an excellent government job, and is now going to grad school part-time.)
posted by purlgurly at 2:53 PM on September 18, 2010

purlgurly: the diploma I'll be getting is more GIS-specific -- if I'd wanted to be a planner I would have just done planning at the undergrad level, so I'm not sure that's an option.

As well, some of the "Research Analyst" post-grad certificate programs don't seem to make any sense for me -- between all my majors and grad coursework I've covered most of their content to what I suspect is a similar depth. If I had the same extent of coursework as most of the people graduating from my department, yes, it would make sense, but I've gone beyond what's required for my degree.

I'm trying to avoid at all costs doing a post-grad certificate that has a significant amount of overlap with coursework that I've already done -- it just doesn't seem worth it.
posted by thisjax at 4:59 PM on September 18, 2010

Or, should I just not bother and limit my search to the typical entry-level communications/PR jobs that are within reach of most social science grads?

Definitely not!

I've had some trouble getting around HR types who've cut me off and told me that "they don't hire sociologists."

I'm really surprised by this. My advice would be to aim higher. My intuition is that, weirdly, the more prestigious the company, the less they care about having orthodox students with normal backgrounds and the more they care about having awesome recruits with varied and deep backgrounds, which it sounds like is the case here. Research experience should really help here.

I think consulting firms tend to want the types of expertise you have and would be a good fit. Also, especially if you play up the quantitative aspect, you might be a really good fit for the market research wing of a tech company (especially one which is mostly run by engineers and has a strong data-driven culture, like Google, or a tech start-up with aspirations of being bought by Google).
posted by en forme de poire at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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