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Sociologists and Political Scientists - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Many sociologists and political scientists choose to teach in their field, often while pursuing their own research. These workers are usually classified as postsecondary teachers. The minimum requirement for most positions in colleges and universities is a Ph.D. degree. Graduates with a master's degree in sociology or political science may qualify for teaching positions in community colleges.

Sociologists and political scientists held about 9,000 jobs in 2008, of which 4,900 were held by sociologists. Most sociologists worked as researchers, administrators, and counselors for a wide range of employers. The industries that employed the largest number of sociologists in 2008 were scientific research and development services, social advocacy organizations, and State and local government, excluding education and hospitals.

Many sociologistsóabout 37 percentóteach in colleges and universities and in secondary and elementary schools.

Political scientists held about 4,100 jobs in 2008. About 63 percent worked for the Federal Government. Most of the remainder worked in scientific research and development services and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Job Outlook
Employment growth of sociologists and political scientists is projected to grow much faster than the average. Job opportunities should be best for jobseekers with a masterís or PhD degree in a social science and with strong quantitative skills.

Job Growth
Overall employment of sociologists and political scientists is expected to grow 21 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Sociologists will experience much faster than average job growth because the incorporation of sociology into research in other fields continues to increase. Sociologists possess broad training and education in analytical, methodological, conceptual, and quantitative and qualitative analysis and research, so their skills can be applied to many different occupations. As a result, many workers with sociology backgrounds will find work in niche areas with specialized titles, such as market analyst, research assistant, writer, and policy analyst. Some sociologists may find work conducting policy research for consulting firms, and their knowledge of society and social behavior may be used as well by a variety of companies in product development, marketing, and advertising. Demand for sociologists also will stem from growth in the number of social, political, and business associations and organizations, including many nonprofit organizations, to conduct various evaluations and statistical work.

Employment of political scientists is projected to grow faster than average, reflecting the growing importance of public policy and research. Demand for political science research is growing because of increasing interest in politics, foreign affairs, and public policy, including social and environmental policy issues, healthcare, and immigration. Political scientists will use their knowledge of political institutions to further the interests of nonprofit, political lobbying, and social and civic organizations. Job growth also may be driven by the budget constraints of public resources. As a growing population exerts excess demand on certain public services, political scientists will be needed to analyze the effects and efficiencies of those services, as well as to offer solutions.

In addition to opportunities arising from employment growth, a growing number of job openings will come from the need to replace those who retire, enter teaching or other occupations, or leave their social science occupation for other reasons.

People seeking sociologist and political scientist positions may face competition for jobs, and those with higher educational attainment will have the best prospects. Many jobs in policy, research, or marketing, for which bachelorís degree holders qualify, are not advertised exclusively as sociologist or political scientist positions. Because of the wide range of skills and knowledge possessed by these workers, many compete for jobs with other workers, such as anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, historians, market and survey researchers, psychologists, engineers, and statisticians.

Some people with a Ph.D. degree in sociology will find opportunities as university faculty rather than as applied sociologists. Although there will be competition for tenured positions, the number of faculty expected to retire over the decade and the increasing number of part-time or short-term faculty positions will lead to better opportunities in colleges and universities than in the past. The growing importance and popularity of social science subjects in secondary schools also is strengthening the demand for social science teachers at that level.

People who have a masterís or Ph.D. degree in political science, who are skilled in quantitative and qualitative techniques, and who also have specialized skills should have the best opportunities. Some will find jobs in the Federal Government as the expected number of retirements increases.

Median annual wages of sociologists in May 2008 were $68,570. The middle 50 percent earned between $51,110 and $92,220. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $122,130. Median annual wages of sociologists in scientific research and development services were $72,170.

Median annual wages of political scientists in May 2008 were $104,130. The middle 50 percent earned between $74,040 and $124,490. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $146,880.

In March 2009, the Federal Governmentís average salary was $100,824 for sociologists. Beginning salaries were higher in selected areas of the country where the prevailing local pay level was higher.

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