1 Category: AP Courses
2 Field: History & Social Science
3 Course: AP Human Geography
AP Human Geography
Explore how humans have understood, used, and changed the surface of Earth. You’ll use the tools and thinking processes of geographers to examine patterns of human population, migration, and land use.
Skills You'll Learn
Students in African American studies look at the history, politics, culture, and economics of North American people of African descent.
From the slave economy to the civil rights movement, and from the blues to hip-hop, African Americans have had a huge role in shaping American society and culture. If you major in African American studies, you'll learn about their achievements.
You'll also examine the hardships African Americans faced during their history. Further, you'll dive into the difficult issues, such as unequal educational opportunities, they deal with today.
Scholars in African American studies play a key role in the development of modern academics. By focusing on people and viewpoints that have been ignored in other fields, they lead they way in integrating minority experiences into all academic subjects.
Anthropology is the study of humans and other primates (such as chimps). As an anthropology major, you'll study how groups live with each other and how their bodies and cultures have changed over time.
How are people alike? How are they different? How have these differences come to be? As an anthropology major, you’ll explore all kinds of mysteries about people and primates.
You might, for example, look at how one group of people communicates without the help of modern technology -- or you might study the effects of cell phones on another society. You might study how ancient societies protected their people against disease -- or how public-health policy affects modern city dwellers. As an undergrad, you might specialize, focusing on culture, biology, archaeology, or language.
Area studies majors study the histories, politics, economics, and cultures of various areas of the world. They usually focus on a specific area, but sometimes compare two or more areas.
If the magical realist novels of Latin America capture your imagination, you might major in comparative literature or Spanish. Or if it’s the history of colonialism in African countries that fires your brain, you might major in history. But if you want to know Latin America or Africa inside out, then major in area studies. You’ll not only study everything from an area’s history to its present-day economy and art, you’ll also bring greater understanding to specific topics, from magical realism to colonialism.
While only a few schools have departments called area studies, many more have programs dedicated to specific regions. Some schools offer programs in comparative area studies. At others, you’ll have to design your own area studies major.
Students of art history, criticism, and conservation learn about the history of art, the interpretation of works of art, and the care and conservation (protection) of artworks.
It doesn't matter whether you're standing in front of a prehistoric cave painting or inside a present-day art installation that uses interactive video and sound. As a student of art history, you'll look at how the artist has used color, line, form, space, light, and shadow to communicate an idea or emotion. Your classes will cover such topics as the theory of art, the study of specific periods and styles of art, research methods, and conservation techniques.
Archaeology, anthropology, literary criticism, philosophy, and history will all play a role in your studies. You'll learn to use the tools of these fields to see art alongside the history and culture of the artist.
Students of city, community, and regional planning learn to create livable and environmentally healthy communities.
You may have heard of the term urban sprawl. Urban sprawl refers to the uncontrolled growth of cities and suburbs. The typical results: traffic congestion, a lack of green or open spaces, poorly designed or nonexistent public transportation, and unhappy residents. City, community, and regional planners address urban sprawl and other problems that communities face, such as pollution.
Planning majors learn about the principles of architectural design and how to use them to create communities in which people are proud to work and live. They explore such topics as affordable housing, public transportation, land use and zoning, economics, and environmentally friendly buildings.
Civil engineering majors learn how to use math and science to design big construction projects. Topics covered include the calculation of how much weight a structure will hold and the environmental issues that surround construction.
The first Homo sapiens who put a bunch of sticks together to get a roof over their heads were, in a way, civil engineers. Today’s civil engineers have more responsibility than ever. They build skyscrapers that reach thousands of feet in the air. They hang suspension bridges that support tons of cars and trucks each day. They create water systems that support millions of city dwellers. If you study civil engineering, you’ll learn what you need to know to work on the projects that make modern life possible.
Students of communication sciences and disorders study the science behind communication problems and their development. They also learn how to treat children and adults and use what they learn to come up with new strategies and technologies for diagnosis and rehabilitation.
Imagine a birthday party for a three-year-old child. The room is full of chatter: children asking for more ice cream or complaining that another child took their toy. But one child, who appears to be as healthy as his peers, is silent. He is not playing with others, and his face shows an absence of emotion.
If you study communication sciences and disorders, you’ll learn the cause of this child’s behavior. You’ll also learn how to help him interact with others and break his silence.
Students of environmental studies use what they learn in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities to understand environmental problems. They look at how we interact with the natural world and come up with ideas for how we can prevent its destruction.
We use cars to get to work, run errands, and visit friends. Most of these cars run on gas, but the oil we use to make gas is running out. What’s more, drilling for oil destroys natural areas, and burning gas creates pollution. Other ways to power cars, such as electricity, ethanol, and biodiesel, already exist. So why isn't everyone using these energy sources?
To answer this and other important environmental questions, you’ll need to draw on the ideas of many fields, such as science, economics, and politics. If you major in environmental studies, you’ll learn how.
Ethnic studies majors examine race and ethnicity, focusing on a comparative and interdisciplinary study of the history and culture of minorities in the United States.
What do we mean when we say race? What about ethnicity? How has the immigrant experience changed in the last hundred years? How does a history that includes the enslavement, displacement, and exclusion of people of color shape the United States today? And how can we begin to overcome this legacy? These are some of the many questions you'll explore as an ethnic studies major.
You'll study ethnic groups from every angle to arrive at a greater understanding of our diverse world. To do so, you'll take classes in disciplines that range from history, political science, economics, and sociology to literature, music, and art history.
Geography majors study how space on the earth’s surface is placed and used. Students who concentrate on physical geography focus on the land itself, studying such topics as climate, soil, and water. Cultural, or human, geography explores the relationship between people and the land.
If you think geography is all about staring at maps and memorizing state capitols, you couldn’t be more wrong. As a geography major, you’ll study a wide variety of subjects: deserts in the making, the causes of racially segregated housing, the paths of tornados, and the way international trade agreements affect business in a small town.
As one senior geography major put it, “What we study is how the world works. Is there anything more important or more engaging than that?”
Geology students look at the earth and the forces acting upon it, including the solids, liquids, and gasses that make it up. Study includes such topics as historical geology, rock and soil chemistry, and the use of minerals in industry.
If you study geology, you’ll learn about the Earth's treasures, such as fossils and gems, as well as its dangers, such as volcanoes and earthquakes.
Hospitality majors learn to run hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and other businesses that serve business travelers and vacationers.
As a train traveler headed out West in 1875, you would have had trouble finding a decent meal or a place to rest your head. But Fred Harvey changed all that. He started a chain of restaurants and hotels where clean and polite waitresses served tired travelers everything from oysters to duck and olives to ice cream.
You might say that Harvey tamed the Wild West, making it more hospitable (welcoming and pleasant) to travelers. If you study hospitality management, you'll prepare to follow in his footsteps.
Linguistics deals with the structure of language (including syntax, phonetics, and grammar), the relationships between languages, and the way languages change over time.
The sentence that you are reading right now has a structure that can be taken apart and analyzed, just like sentences written in other languages have structures unique to them. Yet, since all humans are, after all, human, every language also contains universal linguistic elements.
Linguistics majors study how languages like Spanish, French, Korean, Hopi -- and even computer programming languages -- function and how people learn to speak and write in those languages.
Mass communications majors undertake a thorough investigation of mass media, from its institutions, history, and laws to the ways in which it transforms our culture.
Which do you trust more -- the news you see on the tube or the news you read on the Internet? How have TV, newspapers, and other forms of mass media shaped your life? What influence do advertisers have on the choice of music played on the radio?
As a mass communications major, you’ll examine questions like these. You’ll analyze different forms of media, study the impact media has on our culture, and learn about media history and laws. You may also have a chance to test the waters by creating media projects of your own.
Students in this major learn to plan, develop, manage, and choose between programs that protect natural areas and natural resources, such as trees and water.
As suburbs expand, they often hit the border of natural areas. And if a wildfire breaks out, disaster may follow. How can we preserve nature and protect people? Setting controlled fires to clear out dead brush and prevent bigger fires is one solution. Others feel that cutting down some trees and thinning forests is the way to go. Planning communities more carefully is another solution. Which policy would you choose?
In this major, you'll use what you learn in the life, physical, and social sciences to come up with policies that both preserve the environment and help people.
Political science and government majors study the systems people set up to organize their societies, from neighborhoods to nations.
Politics affects the air we breathe, the schools we attend, the jobs we do, the communities we live in, and the taxes we pay. If you choose this major, you’ll learn the principles at work behind the decisions that affect every aspect of our lives.
Whether they're conservative or liberal, cynical or idealistic, one common characteristic among political science and government majors is their addiction to politics. If active engagement in the political system is for you, a political science major is a great way to get started.
Majors in public administration study how administrators enact policy at the local, state, and federal levels.
Whether developing education programs for inner-city youth or working with residents to create a crime-fighting neighborhood watch, public administrators breathe life into public policies.
If you major in public administration, you’ll learn how they do it. You’ll build the skills it takes to bring together diverse groups -- from neighborhood associations to private businesses -- and change communities for the better.
Social work majors learn to practice social work in various settings such as hospitals, child welfare agencies, and the criminal justice system.
Social worker Whitney M. Young, Jr. was a key civil rights activist of the 1960s. Yet most people have never heard of him. That's because while others were protesting in the streets, Young spent much of his time meeting with top businesspeople. Young was skilled at encouraging wealthy white Americans to give money to the movement.
As a social work major, you’ll learn that there are many ways to go about making the world a better place. Some social workers counsel people and help them get services such as subsidized housing and food stamps. Others, like Young, guide social movements, research social issues, or design and set up policy programs such as Social Security.
Sociology majors learn how to study people and the roles they play in society, both as individuals and in groups. Course work covers such topics as families, TV and other mass media, and criminology.
Picture your high school cafeteria for a moment. It’s not just one giant group of students hanging out together, is it? There are probably more than a few cliques.
Have you ever wondered how these cliques form? Or why some kids are more popular than others? Or why people act one way at home and a completely different way at school? If you want to explore questions like these, consider majoring in sociology.
Urban studies majors use the tools of sociology, economics, and other social sciences to study city life, government, and services. If you choose this major you’ll learn how city dwellers live and behave. You’ll also study the problems they face.
Cities are loud, crowded, concrete jungles, right? But they’re also places full of energy, where great thinkers, artists, and leaders come together and give birth to new and exciting creative movements and ideas.
Urban studies majors learn what makes city culture unique and how urban areas respond to problems and events. You’ll ask yourself many questions as an urban studies major. For example: How do different neighborhoods develop their own identities? How do the buildings and the layout of a city affect its people? What happens when the need for growth clashes with the need to preserve history? How does living close together affect the way city dwellers interact?
Advertising, marketing, and public relations managers use market research and employ various strategies to develop, promote, and sell their clients' products and services.
There’s a game plan behind every product that is sold -- even if that product is a person. Advertising, marketing, and public relations managers are the brains behind those strategies.
Marketing managers draw on market research to target the right audience; advertising managers are in charge of creating and placing ads; and public relations managers use subtler methods to get the word out. Of course, the roles of these professionals overlap, and their goal is the same: to earn bigger profits. With tools such as advertisements, brochures, and websites, they can make the difference between a success and a flop.
Announcers talk on radio or TV programs that inform and entertain. Some announcers also provide information to the audience at sporting or performing arts events.
Think of your favorite radio station or local news program and you can probably name a DJ or news reporter. These announcers are the faces and voices of broadcasting. Announcers on radio and TV read the news and weather reports, open and close programs, announce song titles and artists, introduce or read commercials, and interview guests.
Anthropologists study people and primates (such as chimps), researching their cultural, physical, and social development over time. Archaeologists investigate history by finding and studying the remains and objects a society leaves behind.
Why did new English words start popping up among the British colonists in North America? How were class distinctions in the New World different from those in the Old World? What can we learn about our ancestors from ancient skeletons and pottery fragments?
If you’re fascinated by questions like these, consider a career as an anthropologist or archaeologist. While some of these professionals are involved in research for its own sake, others use their skills in the world of business or government.
Architects design buildings and oversee their construction.
Before any building is constructed, it exists in the mind’s eye of an architect. Architects design buildings in which people work, worship, play, and conduct the countless other activities of their lives.
Consider the building you’re in right now. Where are the windows placed? What materials were used to construct the building? How does the structure sit on the site it occupies? What style of architecture is used? And how do people use the building? The building’s architect once considered all these same questions.
Archivists care for permanent records and historically valuable documents. They may also participate in research activities based on archival materials.
Archivists may take care of papers, letters, diaries, clippings, legal documents, maps, films, videos, sound recordings, and other records. These professionals combine technical expertise in the preservation of documents with knowledge of information-management systems.
The tasks of archivists vary according to the type of collection they work with, be it historic manuscripts or living plants and animals. At a cultural-history museum, an archivist might research and document the return of artifacts to American Indian tribes. At a zoo, an archivist might keep records on the veterinary care of animals.
Biological scientists study living organisms like animals, plants, and microbes. They also examine their relationships to the environment and other living things.
We have always been interested in the living world around us. To survive, we had to understand which animals and plants were dangerous to us and which were good to eat.
Today’s biologists still study living organisms, but they do so using the modern methods of science. These scientists of life look not only at plants and animals but also at microbes, microscopic organisms invisible to the naked eye. Biologists work in such fields as biochemistry, aquatic biology, botany, microbiology, zoology, and ecology.
Chefs plan menus and create meals in a variety of settings, from cafeterias to upscale restaurants. There are many levels of chefs, from prep chefs to executive.
If your vision of a chef is someone in a puffy white hat who races around the kitchen making sure each order is filled, you’re only partly right. True, a chef’s job revolves around creating meals that taste and look great. But there are all kinds of chefs: while cuisine, sous (assistant), and pastry chefs take care of the cooking, executive chefs spend most of their time planning menus and supervising others.
The hours are long, and the stress runs high, but if the idea of choosing between paprika and red pepper flakes makes your pulse race, this career may be just your cup of tea.
Child care workers care for infants and children in their own homes, in the children's homes, in day care centers, or in preschool programs. They attend to infants' and children's basic needs and organize activities for them to participate in.
At the most basic level, child care workers look after children while parents are at work. They take care of kids' needs for things like food, play, and safety.
While the pay in this field isn’t high, the work offers many other rewards. Child care workers can have a profound and lifelong impact on children, helping them learn how to handle feelings, express themselves, cooperate, and much more. Many children love their child care workers with an intensity usually reserved for family members. And they remember these key adults with respect and appreciation for the rest of their lives.
Child, family, and school social workers help children and families cope with social and psychological problems that may arise at school, at home, at work, or in the larger community.
In an ideal world, every family would be stable and supportive. Every child would be happy at home and at school.
Yet in reality, many children and families face daunting challenges. For example, single parents struggle to raise kids while working. Children are exposed to violence. Teens may become parents before they're ready. Child, family, and school social workers help kids and families get back on track so they can lead healthy, happy lives.
Civil engineers design, plan, and run large building projects, such as bridges, buildings, roads, dams, and water-supply systems.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing. And it does make people wonder: How did the Egyptians, working over forty-five hundred years ago, ever manage to build it? With a base that spreads over 13.1 acres and a height of 481 feet, it would be quite a project even today. Yet the Egyptians engineered ways to meet the huge challenges they faced. And they did it all without power tools, computers, trucks, or even pulleys.
Today’s civil engineers have it a lot easier, but their projects are no less fascinating. They help construct the wonders of the modern world.
Clinical psychologists help people with mental or emotional problems adjust to life. Some help people cope with physical illnesses or injuries. Others help people facing crises such as divorce or the loss of a loved one.
Have you ever heard the term "stream of consciousness"? We use it to describe words that flow nonstop, following a person's thoughts as they move freely from one topic to the next. The term was created by William James, who is considered one of the fathers of psychology.
With gentle guidance from skilled clinical psychologists, people can ride their stream of consciousness to surprising memories and insights. These memories and insights often play a key role in healing.
Community organizers and activists work on the local level to create positive social change. They help communities come together to solve problems.
Cesar Chavez (1927–1993) was only a child when his parents lost their farm and had to become migrant workers, moving from farm to farm. By the time he left school after eighth grade to work full-time, he'd already attended thirty different schools.
In 1962, with activist Dolores Huerta, Chavez created the United Farm Workers, a union dedicated to defending the rights of farm workers. He led many successful strikes and boycotts, inspiring millions to join his cause. Fifty thousand people attended his funeral.
Computer scientists come up with new ways of improving computers. They often work on a more abstract level than other computer professionals.
Imagine a time when computers didn’t impact our daily lives. Now imagine new ways that computers will influence our lives in the future. How can they make your life easier, safer, healthier, and richer? Computer scientists are searching for the answers.
Computer scientists are thinkers, designers, architects, and innovators. In a world where success is measured by speed, efficiency, and access, computer scientists are inventing new languages, tools, and methods so that computers will continue to enhance our lives in new ways.
Conservation scientists manage natural resources, such as rangeland and water. They develop programs that both make resources productive and protect them.
How do you manage a ranch so that it supports the most cattle while maintaining the land so wildlife can live there? Solving this type of issue is the job of a range manager. A soil conservationist, on the other hand, might figure out how to restore farmland where the soil has been worn away. A water conservationist may look at how to assure a clean water supply for a growing town.
All of these scientists make complex decisions to come up with plans that balance economic goals with environmental impact -- and meet government regulations.
Conservators care for and repair art objects and artifacts.
Conservators strive to protect precious objects -- everything from medieval tapestries, Chinese porcelain, and Mexican murals to classic comic books -- and to restore them to their former glory.
Conservators know a lot about art history and chemistry. They also work with a wide range of professionals, including archaeologists, art dealers, interior designers, architectural preservationists, and even nuclear physicists.
Construction and building inspectors examine new and old structures to make sure that they are built soundly and follow building codes and other laws.
As a construction or building inspector, you’ll carry a lot of responsibility. You will inspect the construction sites of homes, office buildings, bridges, and other structures to decide if the builders are following the building code and if the structure is safe. Specialists called home inspectors look closely at homes that people hope to buy. Their verdict on a home’s foundation, electrical system, or overall safety can make or break a sale.
You have to know a lot about construction materials and methods, electrical and mechanical systems, and building code to work as an inspector. And you won’t learn everything at school; you’ll need several years’ experience in construction before you begin this career.
Construction managers plan and coordinate construction projects, including residential, commercial, and civil (or public works) building.
Large construction projects may take years or even decades to complete -- think of a high-rise office building or a subway system. On projects this complicated, teams of construction managers handle different steps. One team might be responsible for estimating costs. Another team might schedule the activities of the various subcontractors. And yet another team might work on-site supervising the construction work in progress.
On smaller projects, one team may tackle several, or even all, of these functions. Regardless of the size of a job, it takes a group of dedicated construction managers to keep the project running on schedule and within budget.
Curators run the educational, research, and public service activities of museums, zoos, and other institutions.
Curators do much more than handle artwork or artifacts and design museum and zoo exhibits. The job of managing a collection is broad-based. It involves working with people as much as, if not more than, the pieces in the collection.
Curators work with museum educators, zookeepers, publicists, and publishers to produce exhibits complete with special events and publications. And they work closely with other curators, museum directors, and board members to grow the museum, gallery, or zoo collection -- whether dealing with artwork, plants, or living animals.
Drafters create technical drawings and plans that are used in construction, architecture, and engineering. Their drawings show details and dimensions, explain procedures, and list materials.
You’ve probably heard of Leonardo da Vinci as the artist who painted the Mona Lisa. But did you know that he was also a highly skilled draftsman? An engineer, scientist, and architect, da Vinci produced many more drafts of his scientific ideas than actual paintings. His notebooks contain designs for mechanical weapons, diving suits, seacraft, and a flying machine.
Today’s drafters have it a lot easier than da Vinci did in the fifteenth century. Computers allow drafters to change their drawings, make copies, and fill in details in seconds. They can make 3-D models and preview the whole construction process. That’s a big help when you’re making plans for everything from bridges and skyscrapers to toys and toasters.
Economists study the buying and selling of products and services, and analyze the factors that influence these transactions.
Today’s global economy bears little resemblance to the simple local barter-and-trade systems of yesterday. It is a vast and intricate system in which a hurricane that affects oil production in the Gulf of Mexico can send ripples through the economies of every nation on earth.
Economists seek to understand this system and use their knowledge to make predictions and decisions.
Editors review writers' work and make suggestions or changes to make the text stronger.
Behind every great writer is a fabulous editor. Magazines, newspapers, and websites, just to name a few publications, all employ editors to guide and encourage writers. Editors work in all kinds of settings, from busy newsrooms to corporate offices, to ensure that organizations get their messages to the public.
The titles and duties of editors vary a great deal, depending on where they work and exactly what they do. For example, developmental editors work with authors on novels and other long pieces to make sure the text is clear and meets the publisher's expectations. At newspapers, assignment editors match reporters to stories while executive editors make decisions about what news to cover and how to approach it.
Elementary, middle, and high school teachers work in public or private schools, preparing children for the work world or college. They also try to inspire a lifelong love of learning in their students.
If you want to become a teacher, it's probably because of your experiences in the classroom. Maybe you find inspiration in great teachers or simply your own love of learning. With a career in school teaching, you'll be able to share that love and pass along the skills and knowledge kids need to get a start in life.
Engineering managers oversee engineers, scientists, and technicians who design and develop machinery, products, and systems. Science managers direct the research and development projects of life and physical scientists.
Whether checking the work done by an engineer or directing a team of medical scientists on a biomedical project, engineering and science managers work on two levels at once.
Understanding complex science and math concepts is only the beginning. They also need to know how to translate those concepts to customers. And they use management skills to help the engineers and scientists they work with meet deadlines and complete projects.
Environmental educators develop and teach programs about nature for people of all ages.
Are you passionate about nature and eager to pass that love on to others? Environmental educators, also known as naturalists and interpreters, teach students about natural resources.
Environmental educators might do their teaching outside, while hiking, canoeing, or sitting around a campfire, for example. They often work for the government, schools, and nonprofit organizations in camps, parks, nature centers, environmental programs, and museums. Being in beautiful settings and participating in outdoor activities are two of the bonuses of this job. However, most opportunities are part-time, short-term, and low paying.
Environmental engineers use math and science to address environmental challenges such as hazardous waste and pollution. They also study the impact on the environment of proposed construction projects.
Back in 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt stressed the importance of treating our natural resources well. He said that we must pass them on to the next generation improved -- not impaired.
Environmental engineers work toward that goal. They help cities and construction companies find ways to build that don’t damage the environment. They help to clean up environmental problems from the past. They work with factories so they pollute less. Environmental engineers do their part to make sure that the earth will be in good condition for those who live here tomorrow.
Exhibit designers and museum technicians plan, design, and put together exhibits and displays in museums, galleries, zoos, and other cultural institutions.
Visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. There you can step onto a 1950s-era bus and hear the driver tell you to move to the back. A statue of Rosa Parks sits at the front with her head held high. In the Maritime Museum in Barcelona, Spain, you can climb aboard a full-scale reproduction of a sixteenth-century ship and watch projected images of the crew at their oars.
In a retrospective traveling from one museum to another, you can view the work of a single artist. As you pass before her paintings, you watch her mature through the decades and read about her influences. In zoos all over the world, you can view animals ranging from primates to panthers in exhibits re-creating their natural habitats.
Fine artists create visual art, usually specializing in a specific type, such as painting or sculpture. Their goals may be many: to create something of beauty, to trigger emotion, and to make people think.
Imagine a world without art -- no paintings, no sketches, no statues in the parks. A world without art would be pretty empty, dull, and cold. So even though people may try to tell you otherwise, and even though you probably won’t make your living at it, art does matter.
But even if you do become one of the lucky few who can pay the bills with art, you’ll need to let go of any romantic visions you have of working day and night to create a masterpiece. Trade them for the more realistic picture of a small businessperson balancing creative work with bookkeeping and marketing efforts.
Foreign Service officers promote American political and business interests, provide information and advice about their host countries to U.S. policymakers, arrange cultural exchanges, and help Americans traveling abroad.
In September 2004, five Americans took jobs teaching English at Islamic schools in
Foreign Service officers, also called diplomats, work at over 265 locations around the world. They help build bridges between the
Forensic scientists, sometimes called crime laboratory analysts, provide scientific information and expert opinions to judges, juries, and lawyers.
Forensic science is more complex than TV might lead you to believe. In 1991, a postal worker in
Years later, other forensic scientists conducted DNA testing of saliva found on the victim's clothing. The testing revealed that the postal worker was innocent and identified the true murderer. Forensic science helped condemn an innocent man -- and then it redeemed him. It is a field constantly growing and changing.
Foresters develop, manage, use, and protect woodlands and other natural resources, such as water. Forestry technicians help foresters, mostly doing hands-on work outdoors, such as fighting fires or caring for trees in a nursery.
How do you manage a forest so that people can enjoy it for recreation while the needs of the wildlife in the area are also met? How do you protect a forest's water supply while ensuring that it produces a good harvest of trees for a timber company? Foresters often have to make tough decisions to come up with plans that balance economic goals with environmental impact -- all while meeting government regulations.
Geographers analyze the use of space on the earth's surface and the effects of that use. They specialize in many areas, including economic geography, cultural geography, and physical geography.
The next time you take a trip, volunteer as navigator and try using a map to figure out the best way to get there from here. The next time you walk by a construction site, ask yourself questions like these: Why is this spot right for this building? Are there physical factors, such as the presence of a hill? How about economic and political reasons, such as a lack of low-income housing in the area?
If you're interested in such questions and activities, you might enjoy working as a geographer. Geographers tackle a wide variety of tasks, from research to mapmaking to advising cities on how best to use land. As a geographer, your work will reach beyond the land to include the people who use it.
Surveyors use measurements to determine land, air, and water boundaries. Surveying technicians help them by making measurements out in the field. Cartographers make maps using physical, social, and historical information. Photogrammetrists use aerial photos to fill in details on maps.
How high is Mount Everest? To find out, you need only turn to the nearest encyclopedia or computer. But the answer wasn’t always so easy to come by. It wasn’t until 1852, during the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, that the mountain was recognized as the world’s highest peak. As you can guess from the survey’s name, math played a key role in the work of the surveyors.
Geographic specialists (including surveyors, cartographers, surveying technicians, and photogrammetrists) use math as well as computers, aerial photography, and even satellites to measure and map the globe. They also help construction teams and property owners find the best places to build.
Geoscientists study the earth's structure and composition. They study its history and evolution, rocks, internal structure and core, oceans, and resources like gas and oil.
Rarely do we consider the earth as something active -- we usually think of it as a solid piece of rock. But in fact, it’s a dynamic system with a lot going on. That’s easy to see when there’s an earthquake or a volcanic eruption. Geoscientists study our constantly changing planet. They pay special attention to the earth’s physics and the chemical relationship between the core, crust, and atmosphere.
Geoscientists specialize in specific areas. Oceanographers, for instance, study the geology, biology, and chemistry of the oceans. Hydrologists study the way water circulates both on the earth’s surface and underground. Seismologists study earthquakes and earthquake faults.
Government executives and legislators work at the federal, state, and local levels to direct government activities and pass laws. These officials include the president and vice president of the United States, members of Congress, governors, and city council members.
Public officials tackle tough problems from homelessness to terrorism. They respond to various groups who each argue that their issue, whether it's lower taxes or a better recycling program, demands top priority.
Given all that public officials face, it's hard to imagine the perfect way to prepare for the job. Maybe that's why there isn't one. While most have been to law school, their backgrounds vary and depend in part on their interests. As one elected official said, "You can't run for office just because you want to be an elected official. You need to decide what your interests are and follow them. If they lead you to elected office, great."
Government lawyers work for state attorneys general, public defenders, district attorneys, and the courts. At the federal level, they investigate cases for the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies.
One type of government lawyer, the public defender, works on behalf of underprivileged people convicted of crimes.
Will Maas, a lawyer with the Office of the Public Defender in San Francisco, is a shining example. This Vietnam vet, once profiled by PBS, feels driven to defend his clients as a way to heal from having killed during the war. Maas sums up his hard-earned compassion for humanity in this way: "All of us have been mad enough to murder."
Health educators study the latest health information and design programs to encourage healthier behavior and practices in their communities.
Did you know that one in every three children in the United States is overweight or close to it? Why? The reason has a lot to do with overeating and lack of exercise. If you become a health educator, you may help unhealthy children grow into healthy adults.
As a health educator, you’ll promote and improve the health of your community. Whether you work in schools, senior centers, or public health institutions, you’ll find creative ways to educate people about healthy lifestyles.
Historians collect and interpret material from the past.
Historians look for the clues that tell us about the past. More important, they help us make sense out of it all. They may start by telling us the facts of everything from the travels of Lewis and Clark to the first moon landing, but they don’t stop there.
Historians go on to answer questions about the importance of these events, their causes, and their effects. They make connections between the world as it was and the world as it is.
Human-service assistant is a general term covering a large number of job titles, including mental health aide, life-skill counselor, and gerontology aide.
Think of all the people who need special help: the elderly, homeless families, pregnant teens, people with addiction problems. The list goes on. And some of these groups are growing.
Agencies need to provide for all of these people, yet they face tight budgets. Human-service assistants -- who receive less training and therefore less pay than social workers -- are stepping in and doing more of the work that used to be done by social workers. The responsibilities of human-service assistants vary greatly. They range from helping people with the chores of daily life to coaching disabled adults as they adjust to new jobs.
Interpreters help individuals or groups communicate with each other by orally translating from one language to another.
From courtrooms to boardrooms, interpreters help people who speak different languages understand each other. They work in a range of situations, from business meetings to criminal trials to medical emergencies. Those who know American Sign Language interpret spoken language to sign language and vice versa. Since interpreters work on the spot and can’t go back to correct any mistakes they make, they need intense concentration.
Judges apply the law and oversee the legal process in courts according to local, state, and federal laws. They preside over cases concerning everything from traffic offenses to the rights of huge corporations.
Learned Hand (1872–1961) has been called the greatest American judge never to sit on the Supreme Court. Hand served as a federal district judge in Manhattan and as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
He was known for taking cases that other judges found too complicated. He was also renowned for being open-minded and fair. In his most famous speech, he defined the spirit of liberty as "the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." Hand's legal opinions are still quoted today.
Librarians help people find information in sources such as books, magazines, and the Internet. They collect, catalog, and organize information. Increasingly, they use computers to do these tasks.
In our era of the "information explosion," it seems that just about anything you want to know is a mouse click away. But do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the data on the Internet? Have you ever worried about whether the source you found for your research paper is accurate?
If so, go to the pros -- or consider becoming one. Today's librarians are experts in using technology to help others find all types of information.
Lodging managers oversee the day-to-day workings of hotels and motels. They supervise such departments as front-desk operations, housekeeping, and food services.
People on vacation enjoy being pampered. They want extra pillows, plush towels, and delicious chocolates to appear like magic. Others travel for business. They need basic office services, such as Internet access, fax machines, and conference rooms, so they can get their work done efficiently.
Lodging managers work hard to make sure their hotels provide the experience their guests expect -- so those guests will return year after year.
Medical and public health social workers help people cope with serious illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and AIDS.
Our society hates to think about illness and death. We want to imagine that we'll live forever -- young and pain-free.
Medical and public health social workers are among those rare beings willing to look illness and death in the face. Sure, they do all they can to help people get well -- but when illness is terminal (deadly), they turn their attention to helping their clients die peacefully.
Medical scientists conduct research on diseases, and on the viruses and bacteria that cause them, to develop vaccines and medications.
The world’s population has grown exponentially -- from small scatterings of people to giant cities with millions of residents living side by side.
While living in large groups has its advantages, one disadvantage is that it allows diseases to spread more easily. And now, with the entire world connected by airplanes, contagious illnesses can spread across the ocean from one continent to another. Medical scientists do the research needed in the fight against disease.
Meeting and convention planners organize events for businesses and other organizations, making sure they run smoothly and meet goals.
Travel far and wide. Meet fascinating people from all over. As a meeting and convention planner, you might lead an exciting life, but there is a price to pay. You'll shoulder a lot of responsibility and work under extreme pressure.
Some of that pressure comes from juggling the countless details involved in planning an event: Have enough hotel rooms been reserved? Did the brochure make it to the printer on time? Are vegetarian lunch options included? But it's also about the big picture: What does your organization want to accomplish at the event? Will the speakers and activities you've lined up help you meet those goals?
Mental health and substance abuse social workers assess (evaluate) and treat people with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems.
Ben, a high school junior, has been referred to a social worker. He's been suspended from the swim team, he's barely passing his courses, and he downs a six-pack of beer daily.
Ben doesn't think he has a substance problem. The social worker decides to spend a few sessions asking him about his inner struggles and difficulties at home. She hopes this will lead him to notice that he's using beer to avoid his troubles. If that approach doesn't work, she'll confront Ben about his drinking and recommend that he attend a twelve-step program while continuing to see her.
Meteorologists are scientists who study the atmosphere. They examine its effects on the environment, predict the weather, or investigate climate trends.
We see them in action every evening as they forecast the future -- or at least tell us how likely it is to rain. They’re meteorologists.
But most people in this profession do not work in front of a camera. The biggest employer of meteorologists is, in fact, a government agency, the National Weather Service. And there are also plenty of businesses that hire meteorologists to help them make decisions based on the weather. Those who don’t forecast the weather conduct research, studying the atmosphere, climatic changes, or environmental problems.
Mining and geological engineers help find deposits of coal, metals, and minerals. They also design mines and mining equipment for bringing these materials to the earth. And they solve safety and environmental problems related to mining.
A lot has changed since the nineteenth century when the forty-niners panned for gold in California. Mining and geological engineers now use satellite photography and variations in the earth’s magnetic field to find new deposits of minerals. They use machines that can remove 10.8 metric tons of coal per minute.
But it’s not just about the tools. Today’s mining pros are also finding ways to mine that are safer for both mine workers and the environment.
News analysts, reporters, and correspondents gather information and prepare stories for broadcast (TV and radio), print (newspapers and magazines), and online media.
If you’re a news junkie -- or just someone with insatiable curiosity -- a media job may be your calling. But be ready to fly by the seat of your pants, because some days you’ll feel like you’re part of a three-ring circus.
News analysts, also called newscasters, interpret news from outside sources and broadcast it on radio or TV. Reporters gather the facts themselves, writing stories for print or broadcast. Correspondents serve a similar function, but are stationed in specific cities. Whatever your role, you’ll sweat bullets to gather the facts and deliver on deadline. But if you love the thrill of the chase and have strong communication skills, you may be made for this line of work.
Occupational therapists help people who have learning disabilities, physical handicaps, illnesses, and other conditions master everyday tasks, from shopping for groceries to walking with crutches.
It takes enormous patience to work with the physically handicapped, the mentally ill, or anyone struggling with the tasks of daily life. But as an occupational therapist (OT), you can find great satisfaction in helping them live more independently.
Whether you’re teaching a stroke survivor to use a walker, modifying school equipment for a disabled child, or helping the victim of a car accident to get behind the wheel again, one thing is certain: you’ll make a difference.
Park rangers carry out plans to manage natural resources, enforce rules, and educate the public to ensure the protection of natural resources and cultural and historical monuments.
Park rangers protect natural resources and historical and cultural monuments. They work in places across the country, from Alcatraz and the Grand Canyon to the Everglades and the Statue of Liberty. Most do everything from supervising park staff to teaching the public to value the site’s resources.
After getting experience in the field, a ranger might specialize. With a focus on conserving natural resources, for example, a ranger might replant native grasses on a prairie or test water samples to find the source of pollution. Whatever their duties, rangers need to be able to communicate well with the public.
Petroleum engineers search for oil and gas. They design ways to remove as much as possible from the earth and to turn it into fuel we can use.
The United States gets about 63 percent of its energy from oil and natural gas. That means that there’s a constant race to find new sources of petroleum and natural gas, get them out of the earth, and process them.
Today’s petroleum engineers are using the latest high-tech equipment to do just that. They keep homes heated, cars running, and stoves burning.
Political scientists study the way people organize their societies, whether neighborhoods, nations, or the world community.
How does the government decide how much pollution industry can release into the air and water? What’s the best way for local mayors to convince voters to reelect them? Why do some people vote and not others? How does democracy differ in countries across the globe?
Political scientists study political systems from every angle, looking into their birth, growth, and operation. While most strive to discover the trends that shape our identity, their interests and jobs vary greatly. For example, some survey the public about their political opinions; others use math to analyze election results.
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide range of academic and career-oriented subjects beyond the high school level. Such teachers include college and university professors, career and technical education instructors, and graduate teaching assistants.
A professor stands in a darkened auditorium before 150 scribbling students and projects images of paintings on a screen, commenting on each. In a small room on the other side of campus, a graduate student writes an equation on a chalkboard, asking for questions. Across town, a teacher surrounded by a gaggle of adults lifts the hood of a car to describe the engine. These scenes may differ, but the instructors share the same career: they're all postsecondary teachers.
Preserve managers oversee the care of land set aside to protect natural resources. They also represent preserve owners to the public.
Preserve managers care for land that’s been set aside to protect natural resources, such as trees and animals. They use a wide range of skills, from a grasp of science to a talent for communication.
In this field, you'll oversee people who gather data on plants and animals and restore the land and water on your preserve. You'll write reports on research findings. And you'll deal with administrative duties, such as supervising staff, and write brochures and other materials for the public. You'll also get your hands dirty, repairing equipment, maintaining trails, and removing plants that aren't native to the area.
Private-practice lawyers work in law firms or are self-employed. Transactional lawyers work to avoid legal problems, for example, by writing contracts. Litigators, or trial lawyers, deal with problems, such as broken contracts, once they've occurred.
"Lizzie Borden took an axe / And gave her mother forty whacks. / When she saw what she had done, / She gave her father forty-one." Although this ditty sounds certain, Borden’s defense attorney was good enough to prove reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors in the famous 1893 trial introduced evidence that included powerful details. For example, Borden burned the dress she wore the day of the deed, and prosecutors argued that she did so because it was stained with blood. But the defense team -- using for the most part the prosecution's own witnesses -- shot down every attempt to pin the dastardly deed on Borden. In the end, she walked free.
Probation officers supervise convicted criminals who have been given probation (the chance to live in the community) instead of or in addition to a prison or jail sentence. Correctional treatment specialists work in jails or prisons, helping inmates prepare for life after they're released.
According to Gallup polls in recent years, there's a growing perception in the United States that criminal activity is rising. That's despite government reports that violent and property crime rates have remained low. However, one fact most of us know is that a larger percentage of people in the United States are being locked up than ever before.
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists play a vital role in helping decide who stays behind bars and who goes free.
Program directors choose the content of radio and television shows to meet their audience's needs.
Teenagers generally don’t watch the same television shows as Wall Street executives, and most kids don’t listen to the same radio stations as their parents. No one knows this better than program directors, whose job it is to analyze the media market and plan their programs accordingly. By knowing their audiences inside and out, program directors decide which songs to play or which television shows to air -- and when to do it. An MTV reality show does better at 9 p.m. than at 9 a.m., for example.
Public interest advocates work to affect government policies and raise public awareness concerning issues that they believe are in the public interest.
How do voters decide what to vote for? How do legislators decide what to sign into law?
If you choose to become a public interest advocate, you'll get to affect both groups. You'll work for an organization that represents a cause you believe in, such as abortion rights or gun control. You'll research your issue. Then, armed with facts, you'll work to get voters and legislators to support your position.
Public interest lawyers bring lawsuits that work to get positive results for a large class, or group, of people. They work for organizations such as Environmental Defense and the National Center for Youth Law.
American schools, like much of society, used to be segregated. Children of color couldn't attend schools for whites. And schools for kids of color usually had fewer resources than white schools.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized some legal cases to challenge this policy. These cases were eventually combined into one case, Brown v. Board of Education. On May 17, 1954, the NAACP won -- inspiring struggles for justice around the country and the world.
PR specialists promote people and organizations. They work in a variety of settings, from corporations to government agencies. Many serve private clients.
When celebrities go into drug rehab or when businesses are guilty of fraud, there’s only one thing to do: hire a public relations (PR) specialist. PR specialists do more than put a positive spin on their client’s less-than-admirable activities. They also spread the word when they’ve done something good, like winning an Academy Award or donating money to a charity.
And how do PR specialists get the word out? They spend much of their time writing press releases and pitching story ideas to reporters.
RNs provide patients with direct care and help doctors. They are also health educators, working with individuals and communities to prevent illness and improve health.
TV programs portray nurses as the backbone of a hospital. They pick up the slack when medical students are lost and often go beyond the call of duty to meet patient needs. Nursing may not always be as exciting as it seems on TV, but there’s truth to these dramas.
No less important is the work of registered nurses (RNs) in home care and nursing home settings. Regardless of where they’re employed, RNs play a critical role helping doctors take care of patients.
Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities caused by illnesses, accidents, birth defects, or stress. They provide counseling and help people get needed services, learn skills, find jobs, and live on their own.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression and led the nation through World War II. Yet, because of the disease polio, he couldn't walk on his own. He believed -- probably correctly -- that the nation would not easily accept his disability. So he hid it, leaning on others when he appeared in public.
Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities accept themselves and live full lives that include work. In doing so, they help create a more just world for us all.
Science technicians focus on the practical matters of scientific experimentation and research. They maintain equipment and instruments, record data, and help scientists calculate results and draw conclusions.
When you think of science, do you imagine a complex chemistry experiment complete with test tubes, beakers, and flasks? Or maybe you see a large radio telescope, scanning the sky for signs of alien intelligence.
Science technicians maintain complicated instruments like these and make sure that experiments run smoothly.
Sociologists study people and the behavior within the social groups that they form. They also study social institutions such as religion and law.
Socio- comes from the Latin word socius, which means “companion.” As a sociologist, you’ll study people as companions, the ways in which they live, work, and play together.
You’ll also examine the problems, from family arguments at the dinner table to violent crime, that occur within groups. Your research might be used by governments and organizations that help people live and work together better.
Special education teachers teach children who have special learning needs or problems such as trouble speaking. Most teach students in elementary, middle, and high schools, though some work with infants and toddlers.
The fairy-tale author Hans Christian Anderson had dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading difficult. Others who have struggled with dyslexia include Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Cruise, and Magic Johnson. If you listed all the people with special learning needs who have made important contributions to society, you'd fill a book.
Do you love to help others? Are you tolerant of people who learn differently and sometimes behave differently? If so, you might consider becoming a special education teacher.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists assess, diagnose, treat, and help to prevent speech and hearing problems caused by accidents, diseases, and genetic disorders.
A three-year-old boy, diagnosed with autism, has never uttered a word. A sixty-year-old woman is recovering from a severe stroke and must learn to speak again. Although you relate to them differently, you'll teach both language skills using many of the same techniques.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists work not only with a variety of clients but also in a wide range of settings, including schools, hospitals, and doctors’ offices. Some even choose to conduct research into speech and hearing.
Speech-language pathology assistants help people with a range of speech problems.
You may find the stuttering cartoon character Porky Pig amusing, but to many children and adults who stutter, he’s no joke. Speech-language pathology assistants work under the supervision of speech-language pathologists to help people control their stuttering or other speech problems. They work in settings that range from hospitals to schools, guiding clients through documented treatment plans.
Translators read written materials, which can range from poetry to technical manuals, in one language and write them in another.
Translators often describe their work as a labor of love and it’s true that translating a great novel into another language can be almost as satisfying as though you had written it yourself. However, translators also do the necessary work of translating technical manuals, business memos, news stories, and government documents, without which the global economy would probably grind to a halt. Whether you translate poetry or scientific reports, translating requires creative thinking, research, and determination.
Travel agents help people plan trips all over the world.
The world’s busiest airport is in Atlanta: an average of 2,400 flights come and go each day. England is packed with more than 1,400 castles. And you can sail across the Atlantic Ocean in only six days.
These are the kinds of facts that travel agents are paid to know. Whether they’re finding a fancy hotel or a cheap flight, booking an African safari or a Swedish massage, travel agents are travel gurus. They get paid to guide clients through the maze of the travel industry.
Urban and regional planners help communities decide on the best use of land. They find places to build homes and businesses, deal with transportation issues, and study the environmental effects of possible projects.
It’s a hot day, and you wish your town would hurry up and build that pool everyone keeps talking about. But where should it be built? What land is available? How will people get there? How would building it affect the local wildlife? What do you say to neighbors who worry about noise and traffic? As an urban or regional planner, it would be your job to help the town answer all of these questions -- and many more.
As the nation’s population grows, so do our cities and suburbs. Planners play a key role in managing that growth. They help keep communities safe, livable places and work to improve them.