Careers in Cultural Studies
The broad field of cultural studies, which is the understanding of individual cultures and how people from different cultures interact, includes careers in fields such as anthropology, sociology, geography and history. Among the wide variety of career fields in cultural studies are professor, anthropologist, museum curator and geographer. Here they are, at a glance:
|Cultural Studies Professor||Anthropologist||Curator||Geographer|
|Career Overview||Cultural studies professors provide classroom instruction and research for colleges or universities||Anthropologists conduct research, write reports and present findings to advise organizations or for academic publication||Museum curators conduct research, acquire collections, manage exhibits and promotional tours||Geographers conduct field observations, collect data and use statistical analysis to create maps and other research material|
|Education Requirements||Master's or doctoral degree||Master's or doctoral degree||Bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree||Bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree|
|Program Length||2-3 years beyond bachelor's for the master's, with an additional 3-4 years for the PhD||2 years beyond bachelor's for the master's, with an additional 3-4 years for the PhD||4 years and up||4 years and up|
|Certification and Licensure||none||none||none||Geographic Information Systems Professional certification available (not required)|
|Experience Requirement||Teaching experience required, amount varies by job||Some experience required, field experience or internships may count as experience||3 years or more of museum experience||3 years of experience in GIS systems and digital cartography|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||15% (for all cultural studies postsecondary teachers)*||4% (for all anthropologists and archeologists)*||8%*||-2%*|
|Mean Salary (May 2014)||Roughly $78,000*||Roughly $61,000*||Roughly $56,000*||Roughly $75,000*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Postsecondary teachers or professors in cultural studies can often find positions in growing specialized academic fields, such as African American, Native American, Latino or Asian Studies. In addition to classroom instruction, you may be responsible for conducting or assisting in continuing research projects and publishing research results.
The vast majority of positions, particularly in 4-year colleges or universities, require a doctoral (PhD) degree. According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) 2010 data, 77% of postsecondary cultural studies teachers earned a doctoral degree, while 21% earned a master's degree. Professionals with only a master's degree generally find employment at the junior college or community college level.
Here are some job postings for teaching positions from November, 2012:
- A university in Washington seeks a non-tenure track professional for the American Cultural Studies Program. A bachelor's or master's degree is required; a terminal degree is preferred with extensive university teaching experience.
- A private college in Massachusetts seeks an African studies professor, specializing in areas such as religion, urban anthropology or critical development studies. A doctoral degree is required with teaching experience.
- A private college and research institute in California seeks an assistant professor of Native American studies for a joint-tenure or tenure-track position. Specialized experience in Southwest or California Indian tribes is preferred. Extensive scholarly publication and undergraduate teaching experience are required.
The goal of many aspiring college professors is to obtain a tenured position at a 4-year college or university. These positions generally require starting with a 'tenure-track' position and gaining at least seven years of teaching experience with an appropriate amount of published research. While projected job growth for postsecondary teachers remains average among all occupations, tenure-track positions are declining, making them extremely competitive. A PhD in a specialized field with an exceptional record of research published in academic journals may help you stand out among the competition.
Anthropologists plan research projects concerning human populations. They collect data and other information for written reports and oral presentations. Anthropologists use their findings to advise organizations or publish written reports. The federal government and global business organizations use the research of anthropologists for security and business development.
According to O*NET's 2010 data, 57% of anthropologists earn a master's degree, while 43% earn a doctoral or professional degree. Approximately one-quarter of all professionals are employed in consulting positions for research and development firms, and another 25% are employed by the federal government, according to BLS data.
Here are some sample job postings for anthropologists from November 2012:
- A local government in rural Alaska seeks a social anthropologist to develop partnerships with native populations for a subsistence area preservation project. The job entails map updating and land-use zoning. Requirements include a 4-year degree in anthropology or social sciences field or commensurate professional experience. A master's degree is preferred.
- A Nevada development consultant seeks an archeological monitor to inspect construction and evaluate findings for archeological excavation. A master's degree and four years of regional experience are preferred.
- A military contractor seeks a social scientist/anthropologist to conduct ethnographic research, develop methodologies, analyze instrumentation, interview and survey protocols. A master's degree is required plus one year of professional experience with a secret security clearance. A doctoral degree is preferred.
According to the BLS, publishing research is a main concern of anthropologists for career development. Also, because many research opportunities take place overseas, it may be important to gain foreign language skills. Specific types of research may involve highly technical statistical analysis and projections, which may require training in statistical modeling software and technical instrumentation.
Museum curators acquire collections for archives and public museums by conducting appropriate research, managing artifacts and designing exhibits. They may be required to develop public tours to promote their institutions. Curators generally work full-time hours at a museum location with some travel required. They may also manage a staff of museum technicians and other employees.
A master's degree is the most commonly held degree among museum curators, obtained by 44% of museum curators in 2010, based on O*NET data. Large institutions may require a PhD in a cultural studies field, while smaller institutions may require only a bachelor's degree.
Here are some sample job postings for museum curators from November, 2012:
- A Utah museum seeks a historical collections curator responsible for acquiring collections, operations management and developing educational programs.
- A federal archival institution in Washington, D.C., seeks a curator for a Latin American portraiture exhibition. Spanish fluency and research experience are required.
- A small museum in Oklahoma seeks a curator. A bachelor's degree and three years of professional experience are required.
According to job ads reviewed in November 2012, gaining experience in archive collection and artifact acquisition may be of greater importance than your education level for many museum positions. Specialized training in regional art, industrial artifacts, military equipment or other topics may provide you with an advantage for certain positions.
Geographers create maps and collect data concerning human populations and their environment. They conduct field research and utilize statistical modeling to use in consultation projects for business, government or military projects. Geographers expand their focus from culture to environmental sustainability, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology.
A career in geography typically entails training in GIS technology. According to 2010 O*NET data, 48% of geographers earned a master's degree, 36% earned a bachelor's degree and 16% earned a doctoral degree.
Here are some sample job postings for geographers from November, 2012:
- A research and development firm in Minnesota seeks a senior GIS analyst for product development and sales support. A bachelor's degree and graduate-level education are required with five years or more of professional experience.
- A technical firm in Missouri and Northern Virginia seeks a regional analyst/human geographer. A security clearance is required.
- A municipal government in New York seeks a GIS coordinator to manage the city's enterprise GIS program, develop training programs and oversee all geodatabases for the city government. A master's degree in geography or a related field with three years of professional experience is required, or a bachelor's degree with at least five years of experience.
Professional certification is available through the GIS Institute. To obtain the Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) credential, you must earn a bachelor's degree with GIS training, gain a minimum of four years of professional experience and participate in conferences or publications. Although they comprise a relatively small profession, geographers should experience an above-average job growth over the 2010-2020 decade, according to BLS predictions, with the federal executive branch being their largest employer. Many of these positions will require experience in sustainability research or may require a security clearance.