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Demographer


Description

Since Thomas Malthus' population predictions to Paul Erlich's forecast of the population bomb, people have been interested in the effects of population. Future trends in population size, age structure, births, deaths and other demographic variables are of interest to a wide range of analysts, specifically demographers. Demography is the study of the size, distribution and composition of a population and its components of change, which includes fertility, mortality and migration.

Demographers study populations to determine the causes and consequences of changes in population size, distribution and structure. They plan and conduct research designed to study the characteristics of human populations, such as growth and structure. Population studies attempt to explain and ultimately predict population processes by examining historical, economic, social, psychological, and biomedical determinants and consequences of these processes.

In government and planning organizations, demographic statistics and projections are used to plan for and respond to population changes in an informed and reasonable manner. Changing demographics have far reaching implications in many areas (e.g. education, health and social programs). Therefore, identifying, tracking and predicting population trends is vital to planners involved in activities such as drafting immigration policy, planning city services or developing public health programs.

Accurate demographic data can save millions of dollars in the cost of testing a new product. Therefore, demographers in business settings often take on a market analysis role, conducting research projects, writing technical reports and giving presentations to management and clients.

A demographer analyzes the size, nature and movement of human population, and may specialize in one area such as health, housing, education, agriculture or economics. Unlike other disciplines, demography is a rapidly expanding area with numerous and varied employment opportunities, due to our expanding population growth.

Many citizens of African nations, for example, are reproducing at rapid rates, thereby increasing our population at speedy rates. However demographers take note of many other factors, including the rate of infant and child deaths before they reach the age of five. Other countries with expanding populations, such as China, have enacted strict laws about the number of children families can have in order to control the population growth.
 
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  Average Earnings  
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Median Salary:
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  Interests and Skills  
Demographers have an interest in population and societal trends. They are objective, analytical and creative, and have excellent communication skills. They have the ability to translate social issues and questions into numbers, and draw insights and conclusions from them. Successful demographers enjoy synthesizing data, applying statistical theories and methods, and advising others regarding statistical methodology.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Collect and analyze statistics concerning population data: births, deaths, marital status and migration
  • Describe and analyze other population characteristics such as age, sex, race, ancestry, school attendance, education level, employment, occupation, income and household size and composition
  • Prepare population forecasts
  • Examine the effect population change has on society and social policy
  • Forecast the demand for public services
  • Study how social and economic changes affect family patterns
  • May analyze birth, death, divorce, marriage and age group figures
  • May forecast labor force, migration and ethnic population trends
  • May help businesses predict product and service needs for potential clients
  • Analyze demographic data for company's to improve their understanding of who its customers are, how its markets are changing in size, location and characteristics, how products or services may have to change to respond to changing customer and client needs, and where future opportunities might lie
  • Demographers generally work standard hours in an office environment, but may have to work longer hours to meet project deadlines. Some travel may be required to collect data or conduct surveys.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Demographers work for federal government departments, state and large municipal governments performing research, policy and planning branches, universities, international organizations in areas such as development aid and population planning (the United Nations, East-West Population Institute), businesses and consulting firms, including market research firms and actuarial firms, and school boards, hospitals and social agencies.
  • Those who work in the private sector will often perform other duties that are not strictly demographic in nature. University professors may teach courses outside the field of population as well as do population-related research. Some demographers operate their own consulting businesses.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement as a demographer often requires a master's or doctoral degree. Demographers can advance to supervisory and management positions and lead research projects. They may also move their studies elsewhere within the sociology, mathematics, economics or statistical fields.
 

  Educational Paths  
Most demographers have a university degree in sociology, economics, political science, mathematics or statistics, and experience in applying statistical theories and techniques. Traditionally, a master's degree in demography, or in sociology with a background in statistics or mathematics is the preferred qualification. However, graduates of marketing and advertising programs have also begun to move into the field. The influence of computers in demographics has also created job opportunities for computer science majors. Experience with geographic information systems (GIS) programs or fluency in a second language can be a definite asset.
 

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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