Become a Demographer: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 14, 2020

Should I Become a Demographer?

Demography involves the study of population. A demographer conducts statistical examinations of the composition, distribution and transition of the human population. Demographers might specialize in certain segments of the population, such as the elderly, families in terms of marriage and divorce, or employer/employee trends. They also monitor population patterns, such as causes and consequences of the rise and fall of fertility, mortality rates and migration.

Demographers might work in an office setting, examining collected population data, though they also might have to travel to collect data themselves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for similar occupations, like survey collectors or anthropologists, are above average compared to occupations across the country, at 18% and 19%, respectively.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some employers prefer a graduate degree
Degree Field Social sciences
Experience Experience recommended; internships, volunteering or part-time work
Key Skills Mathematics, research skills, communication skills, statistical software
Salary (2015) $54,941 per year (Median salary for survey researchers)

Sources: University of California at Berkeley, University of Southern Indiana, Oklahoma State University, (July 2015)

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students may choose a major in sociology, political science, anthropology or any other related subdiscipline in the social sciences that provides the coursework essential in the study of demography and prepares one for possible graduate-level study. Typical courses offered in such fields can include population trends, qualitative and quantitative research, statistics, global societies, social problems and cultural behavior. Such programs expose students to various methods of collecting and interpreting demographic data.

Students also learn to use relevant computer software and applications. An undergraduate minor in demography is an option at some universities. Many of the more in-depth degree programs in demography are only offered at the graduate level.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship or fellowship. Some colleges and universities have population study centers that may offer internships or fellowships for undergraduate students. Taking part in an internship or fellowship will give one the opportunity to conduct demographic research, which will be useful if one decides to pursue a graduate degree. It's also a way to gain experience in the field.

Step 2: Acquire Work Experience

Those formally trained in demography may land entry-level jobs in market research, epidemiology or assisting in research for various types of businesses. Demographers commonly perform fieldwork, such as administering surveys, conducting testing or interviewing subjects. Opportunities are also available in advertising firms, consulting companies and media organizations, since these institutions need information for their targeted demographic groups to customize ad campaigns and products and successfully influence the purchasing decision of consumers.

Step 3: Attend Graduate School

Graduate degree programs in demography offer specialized training that integrates a variety of subjects, including population analysis, economic demography, migration policies and public health. Individuals who earn a master's degree in demography may be able to secure employment in federal, state or local governmental agencies. Those who earn a doctoral degree in demography may be able to acquire positions in academia.

Apprenticeships may also be a part of graduate programs, giving students the opportunity to use a systematic approach to create data tables and do some calculations using demographic techniques. Ph.D. students will probably have to be competent in at least one foreign language and can expect to write a dissertation.

Step 4: Pursue Possibilities for Career Advancement

Demographers have a chance to expand their employment options and work for government agencies, social service providers, health care companies or hospitals, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. The analysis of population variation and trends influence how private companies launch new businesses or start housing projects and affects how governments establish social, health and environmental services. An individual with advanced training in the use of statistical methods and demographic research offered in a graduate program or acquired through work experience can discover that his or her skills are in demand with public and corporate entities.

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