The social science fields incorporate a stunningly broad spectrum of career paths – all off them ultimately united by the goal of understanding human societies. But whether you're interested in caring for at-risk youth, excavating archaeological sites, promoting better gender relations, performing anthropological studies of distant tribes, teaching english as a second language, providing psychological therapy, or serving on the staff of a spiritual organization, you'll need more than just that goal if you aim to build a stable long-term career. You'll also need some solid training, the support of a network of colleagues, and some spots where you can keep an eye out for new jobs.
Read on to find out how to assemble your own toolbox of social-science career resources – and how to put the tools you find to work.
Widen your social web
Since you're interested in learning more about other people, what better place to start than the social-networking websites you already use to keep in touch with your friends? Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn are all home to a wide variety of social-science communities – many of them even specializing in particular subfields. So start by subscribing to a few and seeing who you connect with.
The Facebook communities "SOCIOlinguistics" and "Archaeology News," the Google Plus groups "Linguistics" and "Anthropology," and the LinkedIn groups "Network of Social Science Researchers" and "Psychologists, Coach, Psychotherapists and Counselors" all host active discussions including hundreds or even thousands of members. To find groups that cater your your own area of the social-science field, just start typing (for example) "cultural anthropology" or "gender studies" into one of these websites' search boxes, click one or more of the drop-down suggestions that appear, and follow the group recommendation links from there.
Evaluating the usefulness of a group you've found only takes a few seconds and a few commonsensical checks: How recent are the most recent posts – and how frequent are they? Do a variety of members participate in comment threads, or just the same few? Do the threads peter out quickly, or do they persist for at least a few days? All these factors can tip you off to the truth – but one thing that should never deter you is the fact that a group is marked "closed" or "private." Just send the admins a join request and see how they respond. The worst they can do is say "no" – and if they accept your request, you may wind up gaining access to a community of experts you'd never have contacted on your own.
Access some associations
Although you may already have joined a social-sciences club at your school, a professional association or society can put you in touch with many more resources – including professional connections – in your social-science field of choice. Although most associations expect membership fees in return for the full range of exclusive benefits they offer (such as insurance and travel discounts), many also provide helpful information for free on their websites – including current news from the fields they represent, as well as tips on upcoming conferences and other professional gatherings.
To cite just a few examples, the American Anthropological Association offers health benefits and job postings to members, and also offers info on anthropological internships to anyone who's interested; the Archaeological Institute of America provides free archaeological news updates; the American Institute for Economic Research gives out free economic news reports and analyses; the National Women's Studies Association provides education and job resources for anyone specializing in women's studies; the American Translators Association offers official certification for translators; and the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysts provides training, resources and referrals for psychology professionals.
But this list just barely scratches the surface. You can easily track down associations that cater to professionals in your own field by searching Google for terms like (for example) "addiction professionals' association" or "social services society" – swapping in your own specialty and geographical region as needed. Even if you don't find an association you're interested in joining right now, it's still worthwhile to bookmark the websites of organizations that look as if they might come in handy down the road. You never know when you might need, say, recertification or discounted insurance – and a few keystrokes now may save you a lot of time later.
Scan specialized job boards
Broad-based online bulletin boards like Craigslist may offer the largest number of job postings overall – but if you want to get a bead on social-science openings in particular, you're better off going where the specialized postings are. Your exact target may vary depending on your field or area of work – academic job postings, for example, may appear in different places than clinical ones – but the good news is that once you've found a few job boards that cater to your specialty, you'll be positioned to pounce on promising opportunities as soon as they pop up.
If you're interested in academic social-science work, H-Net.org's job guide is a great place to start. If you're an archaeology aficionado, check out the job postings on ArchaeologyFieldwork.com. Postings in the economics field proliferate on Econ-Jobs.com and EuroEconomistJobs.com. Jobs teaching English as a second language all over the world are easy to track down on ESLCafe.com and ESLEmployment.com. Psychology-related job postings are easy to find on the American Psychological Association's PsycCareers site. Social work openings abound on Socialservice.com and SocialWorkJobBank.com.
If you want to dig deeper, start with a Google search for terms like "anthropology fieldwork job postings" or "disability social work jobs and careers" – just swap in your own specialty as needed. Many specialized job boards will even help you upload your resume and set up email alerts for job postings that fit your custom criteria. And as with associations, it can save you time to bookmark job websites you're likely to find handy when you're planning your next career move, even if you don't need a new job right now.
With resources like these at your disposal, you'll have a solid launchpad for your career in the social sciences. Your fascination with humankind provides the fuel, it's true – but you'll also need some professional connections and up-to-date info on your field in order to stay ahead of the curve. So get on Google and start searching, using the tips provided here. Your next big social-science career move could be just a few mouse clicks away.
H-Net.org — News updates, discussion groups, and job postings related to a variety of specialties within the humanities and social sciences (mainly in the academic arena).
TESOL.org — An organization offering education and certification resources for teachers of English to speakers of other languages.
PsycCareers — A career resource center – including job postings – for anyone interested in the psychological and psychiatric fields.
Social Work Job Bank — Social work positions at all levels, in a variety of organizations and locations.
Also visit our Career Research Center to learn more about jobs, salaries, and employment growth in various counseling and social services.