Family and Consumer Science Researcher
Family and Consumer Science Researcher
Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$54,500 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Family and consumer science researchers plan and carry out studies in various areas related to family and consumer science. For example, they may do research on nutrition or child development or on the preparation and preservation of food, clothing, and furniture. Most family and consumer science researchers work for colleges and universities. Others are employed by hospitals, government agencies, private research groups, and product manufacturers.
In a research study, family and consumer science researchers try to gain new knowledge. First they must define the problem to be solved. They might ask, for example, what effects a certain food preservative has on the human body. Then they read all the available information on the subject. They develop a plan for finding the answers to their questions. They may choose a sample of families to study. Or they may decide to do experiments on laboratory animals. They choose or design the equipment that they need to conduct their research study. Then they collect new information. They interpret their findings and write them up in a report that may be published.
The kinds of research studies done by family and consumer science researchers vary widely, depending on their place of employment and area of specialization. Some, for example, may test a new fabric for a textile manufacturer. Then they try to find out how the public will like the fabric, how well it will wear, and whether it will wrinkle. Consumer specialists may do a research study on several brands of laundry detergent. They compare the cost, the effectiveness, and the safety of the detergents. They then suggest which detergents are good buys.
Family and consumer science researchers working for a government agency might study the buying and spending habits of poor families. They might find out how these families feel about keeping a budget. They might suggest ways that poor families could be taught to spend their money wisely. Family and consumer science researchers in a university may study a problem dealing with the development of young children. They may work with psychologists or other specialists to add to our knowledge about child development.
The work of family and consumer science researchers is both varied and important. It forms the basis of advances in family and consumer science and in related areas of knowledge.
Education and Training Requirements
For those wishing to become a family and consumer science researcher, taking a college preparatory program in high school will be helpful. Interested individuals will need courses in science and communications, as well as in family and consumer science. In college, students will probably want to major in family and consumer science. Students can take family and consumer science courses, such as nutrition, that emphasize research. Courses in other fields, such as chemistry, bacteriology, psychology, and statistics, may also be useful. Any summer or part-time job that involves research would be valuable experience. Candidates will need at least a bachelor's degree to become a family and consumer science researcher. Many jobs require that individuals have an advanced degree. It takes about a year to earn a master's degree and from two to five additional years of study to obtain a doctoral degree.
Getting the Job
Check with college placement offices for job openings for family and consumer science researchers. Prospective workers can also look at the classifieds in newspapers, Internet job banks, trade magazines, and professional publications. Or they can apply directly to companies or organizations of interest. A librarian can be helpful in finding magazines and directories that list the names and addresses of the people to contact. Private or state employment agencies may be helpful in finding a job. If looking for work with a government agency, ask the civil service office for information on getting a job.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Advancement depends on education, experience, skill, and the type of research done. Family and consumer science researchers can become the heads of departments or research teams. They may specialize in one or more areas of research, such as new product development or family living. They can become directors or executives in government agencies.
Both government and industry are aware of the value of research done by family and consumer scientists. There will most likely be a great deal of competition for entry-level jobs. The best jobs will go to those with experience or advanced degrees.
Family and consumer science researchers generally work in pleasant surroundings. They may have private offices. Much of their time is spent in laboratories, libraries, or test kitchens. They may also need to go out and interview people as part of a research study. They must be able to work well as part of a research team and be able to deal with a wide variety of people. They should also be creative and patient. Family and consumer science researchers generally work forty hours per week.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences
400 N. Columbus St., Ste. 202
Alexandria, VA 22314-2264
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary depending on education, experience, and the specific business, agency, or institution. Experienced family and consumer science researchers earn a median annual salary of $54,500. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.