What They Do


Anthropologists study the origin and the physical, social and cultural development and behavior of humans. They may study the way of life, remains, language or physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world. Some compare the customs, values and social patterns of different cultures. Anthropologists generally concentrate in sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistics or biological-physical anthropology.

Sociocultural anthropologists study the customs, cultures and social lives of groups in settings from nonindustrialized societies to modern urban centers.

Archaeologists engage in the systematic recovery and examination of material evidence, such as tools and pottery remaining from past human cultures, in order to determine the history, customs and living habits of earlier civilizations.

Linguistic anthropologists study the role of language in various cultures.

Bio-physical anthropologists study the evolution of the human body, look for the earliest evidences of human life and analyze how culture and biology influence one another. Most anthropologists specialize in one particular region of the world.


Economists study the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. They might analyze data to determine public demand for a specific mix of goods and services. Most economists are concerned with the practical applications of economic policy in a particular area, such as finance, labor, agriculture, transportation, energy or health. Others develop theories to explain economic phenomena such as unemployment or inflation.

Marketing research analysts study market conditions in localities, regions, the nation or the world to determine potential sales of a product or service. They analyze data on past sales and trends to develop forecasts and conduct extensive market surveys to test their conclusions.


Geographers analyze distributions of physical and cultural phenomena on local, regional, continental and global scales. As a rule, geographers specialize.

Economic geographers study the distribution of resources and economic activities.

Political geographers are concerned with the relationship of geography to political phenomena, while cultural geographers study the geography of cultural phenomena.

Physical geographers study the variations in climates, vegetation, soil and land forms, and their implications for human activity.

Urban and transportation geographers study cities and metropolitan areas, while regional geographers study the physical, economic, political and cultural characteristics of regions, ranging in size from congressional districts to entire continents.

Medical geographers study health care delivery systems, epidemiology and the effect of the environment on health. (Some occupational classification systems include geographers under physical scientists rather than social scientists.)


Historians research, analyze and interpret the past. They use many sources of information in their research, including government and institutional records, newspapers and other periodicals, photographs, interviews, films and unpublished manuscripts such as personal diaries and letters.

Historians usually specialize in a specific country or region; in a particular time period; or in a particular field, such as social, intellectual, political, or diplomatic history.

Biographers collect detailed information on individuals.

Genealogists trace family histories. Other historians help study and preserve archival materials, artifacts and historic buildings and sites.

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development and operation of political systems and public policy. They conduct research on a wide range of subjects such as relations between the United States and all other countries, the institutions and political life of all nations, the politics of small towns or a major metropolis, or the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Studying topics such as public opinion, political decision making, ideology, and public policy, they analyze the structure and operation of governments as well as various political entities.

Depending on the topic under study, a political scientist might conduct a public opinion survey, analyze election results, analyze public documents or interview public officials.


Psychologists, who constitute over half of all social scientists, study human behavior and counsel or advise individuals or groups. Their research also assists business advertisers, politicians, and others interested in influencing or motivating people. While clinical psychology is the largest specialty, psychologists specialize in many other fields such as counseling, experimental, social and industrial psychology.


Sociologists study human society and social behavior by examining the groups and social institutions that people form, as well as various social, religious, political, and business organizations. They also study the behavior and interaction of groups, trace their origin and growth, and analyze the influence of group activities on individual members.

They are concerned with the characteristics of social groups, organizations, and institutions; the ways individuals are affected by each other and by the groups to which they belong; and the effect of social traits such as sex, age or race on a person's daily life. The results of sociological research aid educators, lawmakers, administrators, and others interested in resolving social problems and formulating public policy.

Expanding opportunities exist for practicing sociologists, who apply sociological knowledge, theory and methods to effect interventions at the individual, group or community levels.

Practicing sociologists, including clinical sociologists, work in business, government, social service and education, performing evaluations, counseling, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and economic and community development.

Most sociologists work in one or more specialties, such as social organization, stratification, and mobility; racial and ethnic relations; education; family; social psychology; urban, rural, political, and comparative sociology; sex roles and relations; demography; gerontology; criminology; and sociological practice.

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop comprehensive plans and programs for the use of land. Planners prepare for situations that are likely to develop as a result of population growth or social and economic change.