Family and Consumer Scientists

Family and consumer science is a broad field that employs people in diverse jobs and industries. Family and consumer scientists work in education, institution management, dietetics, research, social welfare, extension services, and business. Whatever the job, family and consumer scientists rely on their understanding of food and nutrition, child development, household management, and the many other elements involved in day-to-day living. For this article, the field has been divided into two areas: education and management/sales.

Education

Many family and consumer scientists teach in high schools and colleges. They instruct students on subjects such as foods, nutrition, textiles, clothing, child care and development, family relations, home furnishings and equipment, household economics, and home management. In addition, many metropolitan areas also offer adult education classes in skills such as tailoring, gourmet cooking, budgeting, and parenting. Many of these courses are taught by family and consumer scientists.

At the college level, family and consumer scientists teach courses that cover such subjects as the history of extension education, economics of aging, and nutrition education to prepare students for professional careers in the field. These professors also write articles and textbooks and conduct research.

Extension service family and consumer scientists are part of an educational system supported by the federal government, states, and counties to educate and advise families, both rural and urban, on family life, nutrition, child care, and other aspects of homemaking. These scientists offer help and advice via telephone and e-mail and may also travel to various communities to give presentations and assistance.

Health and welfare agencies hire family and consumer scientists to collaborate with social workers, nurses, and physicians. They consult with low-income families who need help with financial management concerns. They develop community programs in health and nutrition, money management, and child care.

Family and consumer scientists are in demand in developing countries to advise government ministries, help in organizing schools, assist in the development of community projects, and work with people in other ways. The Peace Corps has a great need for family and consumer scientists, as do many other agencies.

Management/Sales

The business world holds a wide range of opportunities for the family and consumer scientist. In general, most family and consumer scientists who work in business interpret consumers' needs to manufacturers, test and improve products and recipes, prepare booklets and digital publications on product uses, plan educational programs and materials, and facilitate communications between the consumer and the manufacturer. For example, a family and consumer scientist working in business might be hired by a food manufacturer to test and sample a variety of frozen pizzas made by other manufacturers and determine ways the company might improve their own frozen pizzas and become more competitive in the market.

Retail stores offer many jobs for the trained family and consumer scientist to help customers select home furnishings and equipment or to work in advertising, buying, fashion coordinating, and display. Many family and consumer scientists help consumers determine their needs and intentions when buying a product and then help them make the best choice.

Family and consumer scientists specializing in dietetics, nutrition, or institution management work in hospitals, hotels, restaurants, clubs, and schools planning nutritious, attractive meals for large numbers of people. They are concerned with ordering food and supervising its care, storage, and preparation; directing employees; handling budgets; and planning special diets, among other duties. The dietitian may also teach nutrition to student nurses, medical students, or dietetic interns. Community dietitians counsel groups or individuals on nutritional eating habits, nutrition on a budget, prevention of disease, and nutrition for older people and convalescents.

Family and consumer scientists who work in research create products, develop procedures, and establish facts that make life easier and better for families. Researchers are employed by colleges and universities, government agencies, agricultural experiment stations, industrial and commercial companies, and private agencies. For example, a food manufacturer might hire a family and consumer scientist to create a survey to determine people's opinions about frozen yogurt. After analyzing the survey results, the family and consumer scientist will explain the findings to the manufacturer and make recommendations about possible product changes or additions.

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