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Social scientists studies have traditionally focused on the past and on early cultures, but today, although studying past civilizations is still an important aspect of this industry, focus has shifted and expanded to include business, governments, the environment, and other aspects of contemporary society. Social scientists study and analyze current societies and look for solutions to social, business, personal, governmental, and environmental problems. Early religious cultures, the development of religious belief, and its impact on society remain a major area of study for some social scientists.
Research is the foundation for all social sciences, therefore, social scientists spend much of their time doing research, interviewing, surveying, analyzing historical records, conducting laboratory experiments with human or animal subjects, giving tests and questionnaires, and preparing maps and computer data. Some research takes place in laboratories, where scientists determine the age of artifacts or conduct social and behavioral experiments on human and animal subjects, but research also includes reading historical documents and other printed material, conducting personal interviews, taking surveys, and gleaning information from computer databases. The research and studies completed by social scientists help identify societal problems and find solutions.
A variety of disciplines and careers concerned with society, its development, history, instituitions, and ideas fall into the category of the social sciences industry. Although the various disciplines in social sciences often overlap, there are defined career areas within the social sciences, including the broad field of anthropology. For example, physical anthropologists, cultural anthropologists, urban anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists, ethnobotanists, and ethnomusicologists are a few of the specialists that fall into the category of anthropology.
Geographers are another classification of social scientists. Specialists in this category of social sciences include physical geographers, economic geographers, political geographers, cultural geographers, urban geographers, and medical geographers.
Historians are social scientists whose work focuses on the past and, in some cases, on the preservation of archival materials, artifacts, and historic buildings and sites. Biographers and genealogists are also social scientists classified with historians. Other careers classified in the social sciences are political scientists and sociologists.
Employers of social scientists include colleges and universities, government agencies, social service agencies, research and testing services, and management consulting firms. Other employers include international organizations, associations, museums, and historical societies. Jobs are also available in the business sector. For example, advertisers hire social scientists to research the habits of certain groups of consumers; corporations involved in foreign business need translators and cultural advisers; and computer programmers need insight into the nature of human communication in order to create special software.