Demographers are social scientists who study the growth, density and trends of human populations. Their work goes beyond just determining the number of people in a certain region. They report detailed statistical information on various aspects of a population, such as death and birth rates, and identify the causes and consequences of population patterns. Demographers' services are needed in a range of settings, including federal and state government departments, social service agencies, market research organizations and advertising agencies.
Using the Skills
To thrive in the job, demographers need strong technical research skills. When studying the structure of a certain population, they must use statistical research programs, spatial analysis software and other advanced technologies. Excellent data collection, analysis and management skills are essential, because the work largely involves dealing with lots of demographic data. These professionals also have a duty to craft reports on their research findings and present them to clients or employers. So they must be competent communicators with good presentation skills.
Studying Human Populations
Demographers study several aspects of a population. When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants to determine whether a certain community needs more hospitals, for instance, the demographers at the Office of Population Affairs may conduct studies to learn the community’s average death rate. To develop an effective campaign strategy, political parties rely on demographers to map the voting-age population in various states. When evaluating where to best market a new luxury car, automobile manufacturers call on demographers to conduct income surveys and determine the consumption potential of various market segments.
Forecasting Population Trends
Policymakers, lawmakers and planners need to make sound plans for the future. Demographers contribute to this process by making reliable population projections. For example, they can use findings from their studies to forecast the number of unauthorized immigrants who will be living in the U.S. in the next 30 years. The federal government can use such a projection to make appropriate amendments to existing immigration laws or develop effective policies. Demographers also explain population patterns, such as the causes of increasing or decreasing immigration levels.
Becoming a Demographer
Although aspiring demographers can enter the profession through a bachelor’s degree in sociology, political science, economics or statistics, a master’s degree in demography is the preferred credential among many employers. Several universities offer certificate programs to individuals with at least a master’s degree in demography. Combining this certificate with a doctoral degree and securing membership in the Population Association of America can improve competence and open career advancement doors. For example, demographers with such credentials can be hired as policy analysis managers in government agencies. Colleges and universities also routinely hire demography professors to instruct the next generation of demographers.
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