What are some non-academic jobs in the social sciences?
February 17, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Non-academic careers/jobs in the social sciences?

I am currently pursuing a master's degree. It is an interdisciplinary degree program, but my particular research interests most closely align with sociology, if placing them within a disciplinary boundary will help you in providing me with answers.

I do not foresee myself becoming an academic (even though I may eventually pursue a doctorate in social sciences (professional program, rather than PhD)), but I don't want to completely abandon my research interests when I graduate.

What are some non-academic careers in the social sciences? I am working right now, but not in my field. Due to the nature of my degree program, I am able to work full-time while pursuing my education and could possibly even transition into a field that is more related to my degree if the opportunity presents itself.

My question, then, has two parts:
  1. What are some non-academic careers in the social sciences?
  2. How might I begin transitioning into such careers while my master's degree is still a work in progress?
Note that my current job is pretty stable and I am fairly happy with it; transitioning into something else is not necessarily an immediate priority, so feel free to suggest long-term strategies as well as shorter term ones.
posted by asnider to Work & Money (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I spent 10+ years as a government contractor editing and producing grant-funded research reports in the social sciences. Loved it.
posted by headnsouth at 12:08 PM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Also: I'm not sure if this matters, but I live in Canada and would prefer not to relocate to another country.
posted by asnider at 12:25 PM on February 17, 2012

Qualitative audience research for marketing firms and agencies might work. You can do ethnographies and focus groups, among other things. However, your social science background may make some of that work seem distasteful, given its real-world application.
posted by MsMartian at 12:38 PM on February 17, 2012

I work in PR and media relations, and I was going to recommend that for our next hire we look for someone with a social science background rather than a communications background because we need people who can write AND understand and present data.
posted by forkisbetter at 12:54 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: I did an MA in the social sciences, also in Canada. My former classmates are working a variety of jobs in the arts/heritage sectors in nonprofits and government (municipal, provincial, federal), museums and historic sites, archives, university administration, health care, and the list goes on. I work in the private sector in a job that was completely unrelated to my MA that is something I never pictured myself doing, but I love it and am paid well.

As for what you can do to land a job when you graduate, it's the same as every other field. Figure out what kind of job you want. Network, network, network. Go to related events and conferences and get your name and face out there. Volunteer at organizations you'd like to work for if that's possible. When I was finishing my grad program, I joined one of the local heritage advisory committees, where I met people I would see again and again when I went to work in the heritage sector. Getting my foot in the door at my former nonprofit job happened because I knew somebody on the board of directors.

Anyway, it sounds like you have your head on straight and have the distinct advantage of already having a job. I also get the impression from the way you wrote your post that you have a good balance going between work and school. Good luck! The fact that you're doing this now shows that you're already ahead of the game.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:34 PM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Applied social science research is needed not only in business (marketing research) but in government and non-profit. For example, health services research uses many techniques from social science to examine healthcare needs, access, delivery, and quality. Evaluation research for social services is a big need too.

For jobs - find who is winning government contracts for this sort of research, or who is writing reports on these issues, and ask about working with them - maybe turn it into a project or thesis. If they are not interested, they can point you to other folks who may be.
posted by neutralmojo at 6:23 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

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