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Home Economist


Description

What does it take to be a good parent these days? How about planning meals and buying clothing for your children? Properly managing money is no easy task indeed. With bills, food, rent, entertainment and a million other expenses, money can easily disappear if we are not paying attention. These are a few areas that intersect with the professional skills of a home economist -- an expert in home and life management. Home economists conduct research and advise consumers on the selection and proper use of food products, textiles and other consumer goods.

The home economist's role is very important because they deal with everyday life and the stress involved and teach people how to make healthy, economical decisions about their own lives and the lives of their family. For example, they may help a family come up with a monthly budget plan, or maybe teach adolescents how to choose healthier food items at lunch. People are always searching for ways to make life more enjoyable and manageable.

Home economics, also called human ecology, encompasses all aspects of daily living, including human development and relationships, consumerism, financial and resource management, housing and shelter, clothing and textiles and esthetics. Home economists research all of these areas to help people improve or enhance their lives. Although these issues may seem rather simple or logical at first glance, living a healthy lifestyle (in every aspect) requires thought and insight into wellness and economics.

Home economists often specialize in a myriad of home economy related areas, such as clothing and textiles, consumer science (looking at consumer behavior and habits), financial and resource management (teaching people how to manage personal resources), food and nutrition, housing, and most importantly, human development and family studies, including the dynamics of human growth, development and relationships through all life stages.

In terms of a job title or description, some home economists may specialize as a home economics teacher, a community health specialist or a consumer scientist/researcher. Home economics teachers teach students the tools needed to understand and develop solutions to a number of aspects in their personal, family, community and work roles. Community health home economists perform a range of activities in the public sector such as providing information services on things like family relationships, financial management, food and nutrition, and household management. Consumer scientists research people's spending and buying habits, behaviors and social trends. They also work as public educators informing consumers about products and services.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Successful home economists must be excellent communicators and educators. Staying on top of the latest trends in nutrition, home products, environmental issues and other related topics will help with all aspects of the job. They are considerate of people and social justice, be patient and socially and culturally aware.

Since home economists should practice what they preach, they should be in good health in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. They need top notch verbal and written communication skills with an aptitude for design and creativity. They are also good problem solvers and enjoy taking on new challenges.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Educate the community about aspects of everyday living such as family and interpersonal relationships, food and nutrition, budget planning, meal preparation, energy conservation and leading balanced lifestyles
  • Teach independent living skills to school students, disabled or disadvantaged people through demonstrations, discussion and home visits
  • Advise homemakers in selection and use of household equipment, food and clothing
  • Test recipes, equipment and new household products
  • Design and plan nutritious meals and assist people to prepare them
  • May engage in research in government, private industry and colleges and universities to explore family relations or child development
  • Assist people to take control of their health, develop healthy behaviors and make informed consumer decisions
  • Develop and design new products for homes and test the serviceability of the materials
  • Discover facts on food nutrition
  • May specialize in specific area of home economics
  • A typical day for a home economist will obviously depend on where they work. For example, those working for the government or in a large company will have standard 40-hour workweeks. Home economists that are self-employed will have more flexible schedules and often work part-time. They either work indoors in offices or may travel to various locations to meet with clients or students.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Home economists are employed by government departments and agencies, consulting firms, schools, home care agencies, nursing homes, community service centers, hospitals, private businesses, advertising agencies, professional associations and non-government organizations. They may also work for food service companies, acting as advisors or consultants in health and marketing, or work with a chef in a restaurant developing healthy and delicious menu items.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for home economists? Since they have such a broad knowledge and training base, they could easily find jobs in a number of industries. They can move into marketing, finance, food preparation and education, hospitality and tourism, human resources, public relations or government work. They may also branch out and open up their own consulting firm, which will offer flexibility and more control of one's schedule and focus of work. Finally, some become writers, specializing in home, food and family articles.
 

  Educational Paths  
All home economists have at least a bachelor's degree in a social science (home economics, human ecology, nutritional sciences. These days, many home economists also have a master's degree as well. It is also recommended that they continue to upgrade their knowledge by taking courses in business, nutrition, cooking, journalism, public relations and health.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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