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Planning Officer


Education: Paula earned a PhD in sociology with specialization in population and demography, urban sociology, and economic sociology.

Current position: Paula has worked for five years in the State Department of Planning and Development and has now risen to Assistant Director in the Office of Long-Range Forecasting. Her position involves considerable sociological knowledge and skill, especially in projecting population shifts into and out of the state's major urban areas, especially the inner cities.

Responsibilities: Paula not only commissions research on her own, but she keeps up with the growing research literature. While she does relatively little research herself, Paula's work is particularly important since she keeps informed about relevant studies on the socio-economic problems of inner city neighborhoods and prepares frequent reports and analyses based on new findings. She serves as a bridge to outside research experts working on contracts with the department. In addition, Paula has taken on administrative responsibility for a growing staff that works under her supervision. Her work directly affects how much funding the state provides to urban governments.

Benefits: In addition to making a good living, Paula finds satisfaction in contributing insights to critical decisions concerning the state's future urban growth and its strategies for cooperating with local governments.

This type of career involves working closely with producers as well as consumers of research, ultimately as a supervisor, administrator, or staff specialist. As with any occupation, it is unlikely that younger persons will be hired directly into such high level positions. Typically, they work their way up from lower-level staff positions. It is not uncommon for recent sociology graduates to be hired as staff members in a government agency and then follow a career which involves increased policy influence and administrative responsibility. Competent administration often involves good sociological principles, although few administrative positions formally require sociological training.

Other Opportunities in Government. In government settings, many sociologists conduct research and evaluation projects, others manage programs, and some are engaged in policy analysis or problem solving for their agency. Although specific areas of expertise vary, sociologists command an arsenal of skills, knowledge, and experience that can be put to good use at all levels of a complex government. They are employed in such Federal agencies as the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Aging, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Bureau of the Census, the Department of Agriculture, the General Accounting Office, the National Science Foundation, Housing and Urban Development, the Peace Corps, or the Centers for Disease Control--among many others. Some work at non- governmental organizations such as The World Bank, the National Academy of Sciences, the Social Science Research Council, Children's Defense Fund, Common Cause, and a wide range of professional and public interest associations. At the state level, many are engaged in urban planning, health planning, criminal justice, education, and social service administration.

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