Social Scientist: Employment Info and Career Requirements

Mar 08, 2019

Social scientists conduct studies and interpret research data about human society. Continue reading to learn more about the educational requirements, skill set, career prospects and salary potential for social scientists.

Career Definition of a Social Scientist

Social science covers a broad spectrum of career options. Depending on their particular fields of study, social scientists include anthropologists, archaeologists, political scientists and sociologists, among other professionals. A social scientist conducts research within his or her field and makes recommendations about how research findings can be used to improve society through a variety of measures. Work in the social science professions might involve fieldwork, as well as data synthesis and analysis in an office setting. Social scientists might also research and teach at a college or university.

Educational Requirements Master's or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in related fields; bachelor's sometimes sufficient for entry-level positions
Job Skills Strong analytical skills, good organizational skills and attention to detail, effective communication skills and confidence using assorted computer and information technologies
Median Salary (2017)* $79,650 (sociologists); $62,280 (archaeologists and anthropologists); $59,120 (historians); $115,110 (political scientists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* Little or no change (sociologists); 4% (archaeologists and anthropologists); 6% (historians); 3% (political scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Social scientists conducting and interpreting applied research typically have a master's or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in psychology, history, anthropology or sociology, among other subject areas. Teaching and researching at a college or university usually requires a Ph.D. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree can satisfy requirements for entry-level assistant positions. In addition to gaining expertise in their particular field of study, aspiring social scientists study technical and mathematical fields that help them perform their work, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the use of statistical software programs.

Skills Required

Careers in the social science professions require a natural curiosity about the world and a systematic attention to detail that can be useful in collecting and organizing research data. In order to effectively report their own and interpret the findings of others, successful social scientists have excellent written and oral communication skills. Experience and proficiency in the use of different types of computer and information technologies associated with the social science professions are also important for success.

Career and Salary Outlook

Career and salary prospects for social scientists vary according to the field. The BLS projected that jobs for sociologists nationwide would show little change from 2016 to 2026. Employment for anthropologists and archaeologists is projected to rise by 4%, with a rise of 6% for jobs for historians. By comparison, employment opportunities for political scientists were projected to increase by 3% during the same period.

Among the social science fields, political scientists were reported in May 2017 to have earned the highest median salary at $115,110. Sociologists earned a yearly median of $79,650, anthropologists and archaeologists earned a median annual wage of $62,280 and historians made a median of $59,120 in May 2017, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:


In general, mathematicians use advanced algebraic, geometrical or other related concepts to invalidate or validate mathematical theories, evaluate information and find solutions to real-life challenges. They are typically employed by research and development companies, academic services, the federal government or manufacturers. Entry-level positions with the federal government require a 4-year degree in math; private industries prefer candidates who hold graduate degrees. As reported by the BLS, a 30%, or much-faster-than-average, growth in jobs nationwide is expected for mathematicians between 2016 and 2026. The BLS also reports that mathematicians who were employed in their field in May 2017 received a median yearly salary of $103,010.


Statisticians use numerical figures and procedures to collect, evaluate and report on information; they also use their findings to come up with real-life solutions to engineering, industry-related or science issues. Although completion of a master's degree program in math, statistics or survey techniques is typically required to work in the field, graduates with bachelor's degrees in statistics may qualify for some entry-level positions. According to the BLS, statisticians can look forward to a 34%, or much-faster-than-average, increase in jobs nationwide between 2016 and 2026. In May 2017, statisticians were paid a median annual wage of $84,060.

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