1 Category: AP Courses
2 Field: History & Social Science
3 Course: AP United States History
AP United States History
Study the cultural, economic, political, and social developments that have shaped the United States from c. 1491 to the present. You’ll analyze texts, visual sources, and other historical evidence and write essays expressing historical arguments.
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.
American studies majors look closely at the United States and its people from a variety of angles.
As a young and incredibly diverse nation, the United States is considered by many to be a work in progress. American studies majors explore the colorful canvas of the United States, often asking what it means to be American.
If you choose this major, you’ll study everything from the novels, music, and film of the United States to its politics, economy, and history. You’ll even investigate primary sources such as the letters of a Civil War soldier or the oral histories of the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles.
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.
This program prepares students to plan, organize, direct, and control an organization's activities.
With the creation of large factories in the late 1800s came the need to manage large groups of workers. In his 1911 book The Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor addressed that need. He suggested that each worker be trained to do a single task with no wasted effort. His philosophy made such a big impact on the business world that it was nicknamed Taylorism and is still studied today.
Of course, there’s a lot of disagreement about Taylorism: some people argue that it's inhumane, while others celebrate the increased productivity it has led to. As a student in business management, you’ll add your voice to this debate and others like it.
Students of comparative literature learn about the literature and literary traditions of two or more different countries, cultures, or languages.
Try to imagine King Lear translated into Chinese and you will have an idea of the difference it makes to read a literary masterpiece in its original language. As a comparative literature major, you will study literature and literary movements across national and cultural boundaries. You may trace the influence of Chinese poetry on American poetry, or compare early Japanese novels to more contemporary French ones. Whatever you read, you will learn to see life from a variety of perspectives.
Economics majors learn about economic theory, economic systems such as capitalism, and mathematical methods. They use their knowledge to analyze how limited resources are made, traded, and used.
As the old song says, money makes the world go 'round. However, without the proper knowledge, it’s difficult to figure out exactly how.
Economics majors learn to decode the systems behind what can often appear impossible to understand. They study economic models and theories to analyze how the seemingly simple acts of buying and selling can be complicated by factors such as taxes, interest rates, inflation, labor disagreements, and even the weather.
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.
As a film studies major, you’ll study film history, theory, and criticism, as well as the basics of film production. You’ll also examine related arts such as television and video.
Think of your favorite movie. Was it the story you liked? Or the characters? The action? How about the look of it? Digging deep into your gut feelings about movies is just the beginning of film studies.
If movies mean more to you than just an evening out with your friends, this could be the major for you. You’ll learn how to discuss and write about films critically. You’ll also learn about the connections movies have to history and national identities. You’ll even learn what all those people listed in the credits actually do. P.S. A gaffer is a lighting technician.
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?”
History majors learn how to interpret objects and written documents from the past. They also read the works of published historians and evaluate their ideas.
You’ve probably heard older people talk about the “good old days.” But were they really all that good? Were people and ideas all that different? How did the good old days become today?
To answer questions like these, you’ll need to look for clues -- and not only in textbooks filled with dates and biographies. As a history major, you’ll find history in everything from a 1956 Elvis Presley poster to a 1934 ticket stub showing the price of a movie. You’ll even find it in last summer’s playlist of your favorite songs.
By the time you graduate, you’ll know how to decide for yourself what to think about the old days -- good or bad. And, perhaps more importantly, you’ll learn what those days can teach us about today and tomorrow.
Majors in international relations study international politics and institutions, learning the principles of diplomacy and foreign policy.
How has the war in Iraq affected relations between the U.S. and the world? Have our actions struck fear in the hearts of our enemies? Have they cost us valuable allies?
International relations majors explore issues like these. In their quest to understand the delicate and complex dance of diplomacy, they study the way nations interact on military, economic, and cultural levels.
Students of labor and industrial relations explore the history, contributions, and problems of working people as well as their relations with employers. Instruction also covers management theory and practice.
It’s no secret that a downturn in the economy affects employees all over the country. But what legal rights do employees have during a recession? Are they still entitled to health care benefits and unemployment insurance? What about worker’s compensation?
Students of labor and industrial relations study employment issues like these so that they’ll be ready to manage personnel issues for a business, union, or other organization. Their studies are interdisciplinary, including courses in everything from psychology to economics.
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.
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.
Almost never offered as a major, a prelaw advising program will help you stay on track as you prepare for law school.
In the movie The Paper Chase, law professor Kingsfield strikes terror into students' hearts. Like many law professors who use the Socratic method, named after the philosopher, Kingsfield asks questions rather than lecturing. And when students answer his questions poorly, he's not above insulting them. But over time viewers realize that Kingsfield's goal is to sharpen his students' ability to reason.
That’s a skill they'll need to succeed as lawyers -- and a skill that law schools look for in applicants. In fact it’s not any specific major that will get you into a top school; it’s sharp thinking, reading, and communication skills that make the difference.
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.
Students of public policy analysis learn various methods for studying proposed solutions to public problems.
Should people be allowed to smoke in bars? This is just one public policy debate taking place across the globe. Legislators and other public officials must decide whether the health benefits of a smoking ban outweigh the money that bars -- and even whole cities -- could lose if smokers take their business elsewhere.
Public policy refers to all of the laws, regulations, and other programs developed by governments to solve problems. And if you major in public policy analysis, you’ll make problem solving your specialty. Along the way, you’ll grapple with some of society’s most urgent issues, such as crime, health care, and the quality of the air we breathe.
Religious studies majors learn about the nature of religious belief and traditions. Courses focus on specific religions such as Hinduism, academic fields used to study religion such as anthropology, and religious history and politics.
How can religion lead both to the activism of Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to cult suicides? How was the universe created? Do we have souls? Religious studies majors explore such questions -- but they don't settle for simple answers. Instead, they seek rich insights through research, reading, writing, and discussion.
Whatever their differences, most religious studies majors agree that, as one student put it, "we are really one people; we just have different ways of expressing truth." If you are fascinated by religious questions and traditions, and enjoy exploring many points of view, consider this major.
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?
Actors play characters in theater, film, TV, radio, and other media. Actors interpret scripts and perform roles that entertain, inform, or teach an audience.
Pursuing an acting career takes passion, dedication, and the willingness to share the spotlight. You might live in New York City or Los Angeles and wait tables while you attend countless cattle calls (mass auditions) just to be considered for a small walk-on role.
While most big-name stars and aspiring actors alike do live and work in New York City or Los Angeles, many actors can find work outside these hubs. Opportunities exist with regional theater companies, TV studios, radio stations, nightclubs, and even theme parks.
Advertising sales agents sell advertising to businesses and other organizations. They sell ad space in newspapers, magazines, direct mail circulars, and telephone directories and on TV, radio, websites, and billboards.
Advertising sales agents hold a wide range of jobs. Local sales agents work for specific media companies, such as newspapers and radio stations, selling ad space or airtime to local businesses. Other agents work in the advertising industry for companies that specialize in selling advertising and work on national ad campaigns. They act as go-betweens, bringing together businesses that need to advertise with media companies that have advertising to sell.
Instead of selling just one kind of advertising, sales agents often sell groups of ads that take advantage of a mix of media. These so-called integrated packages are a growing trend in the ad biz. A single package might include space in a magazine and on a website, along with TV airtime.
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.
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.
Buyers and purchasers look for the highest-quality products at the lowest cost.
Everyone has a favorite store. Maybe yours is the sports store at the mall. Whichever it is, you shop there for a reason, maybe because it sells the best products for the lowest prices. If so, they have top-notch buyers. These pros stalk the wholesale marketplace -- scouring catalogs, visiting manufacturers, going to fashion shows and trade shows -- looking for products that fly off the shelves. That's why loyal customers like you keep coming back for more.
Buyers look for products to resell to the public or to retailers. Purchasers, on the other hand, buy supplies and services for use by the organizations they work for. Working for organizations as different as private corporations and the U.S. military, purchasers order everything from paper clips to tanks.
Camera operators film TV programs and commercials, videos, and movies. Film and video editors choose images from those that camera operators capture to create a final product.
Whether capturing a political protest for the local news, putting together a weekly cable TV program, or creating a scene for a new action movie, the decisions you make as a camera operator or film and video editor will require a combination of creative and technical skills. You'll need a good eye and a steady hand to choose interesting material, decide how to present it, and pick the right equipment or software to use.
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 and information systems managers supervise computer professionals as well as technology projects big and small.
How are worms different from viruses, and how can we protect our computer networks against them? Is the latest technology worth paying top dollar for? What’s the best way to sell products online? The computer questions facing businesses are many -- that’s no surprise. But it may surprise you to know that it takes more than computer genius to answer them.
Computer and information systems managers coordinate the work of computer professionals and help top managers make crucial business decisions. And, in some cases, they are top managers.
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 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.
Directors work closely with actors, designers, choreographers, and playwrights to manage the planning and production of theatrical works, including plays, films, musicals, and TV programs.
Directors make many of the creative decisions that bring a dramatic production to life. They have a part in almost every aspect of producing a play, film, or TV program. They must be creative artists as well as knowledgeable technicians. Active onstage and behind the scenes, they interpret scripts, communicate their vision to set and costume designers, audition and select cast members, manage rehearsals, and coach actors.
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.
Education administrators provide direction and day-to-day management of day care centers, preschools, schools, and colleges and universities. They also oversee educational programs for other institutions such as museums, businesses, and job-training organizations.
"If you don't settle down, I'll send you to the principal's office!" For eons, it seems, teachers have used this threat to keep order in the classroom. It's not the best advertisement for the job of principal, to say the least.
But in reality, principals -- as well as other education administrators such as assistant principals, school district administrators, and college and university deans -- have highly rewarding and challenging jobs. They aren't simply disciplinarians -- they are the leaders of entire communities of learners.
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.
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.
Federal law enforcement agents work to stop violations of federal law, from bank robbery to drug trafficking and terrorist activity.
With September 11, 2001, behind us and the constant threat of terrorism ahead, the FBI reports a “critical need” for more special agents -- and that’s just one of many roles you could play in this profession. As a federal agent, you could investigate corporate scandals, work to stop drug smuggling, search luggage for bombs, and much more. And you’ll have to be good at keeping secrets: the job requires confidentiality at all costs.
Financial analysts help businesses and other organizations come up with investment strategies to meet their financial goals.
Do you get psyched about stocks and bonds? Is the business section the first place you flip to in the Sunday paper? If so, then you should think about becoming a financial analyst.
If you do, your main responsibility will be spotting stock market trends and keeping tabs on up-and-coming companies. You’ll also make predictions about the economic health of various industries. Why? So you can help businesses make good investment decisions.
Financial managers oversee the monetary concerns of businesses and other organizations.
Is it better to spend the last of the money for senior prom on decorations or food? Is it better to spend more money on the class trip and go to an amusement park or save money and visit a museum?
These are challenging decisions, but if they’re challenges you’d enjoy meeting, then consider becoming a financial manager. In this career, you’ll have to make risky financial decisions -- and convince others that you’re right.
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
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.
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 resources managers help maintain working relationships between employers and employees. They oversee hiring, benefits, salaries, training, and more.
Human resources managers are the backbone of every company. They work with employers and employees. They have a wide range of responsibilities, which include answering questions about the company health plan, helping coworkers work out disagreements, and making sure that supervisors treat employees fairly.
You might work for a small company where you cover all areas of human resources or for a large company where you specialize. Either way, you’ll be responsible for making sure that everyone is happy.
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.
Imams are Muslim clergy (religious leaders) in mosques (Islamic places of worship) and in Muslim communities. They lead prayers, deliver sermons, and provide religious education and counseling.
Muslims, like Christians and Jews, trace their religion to the ancient figure of Abraham. The word "imam" in the Koran (the Muslim sacred text) refers to Abraham and other leaders.
Though anyone leading a Muslim prayer may be called an imam, in practice imams are revered leaders with years of study behind them. One of their many challenges is staying informed about Islamic interpretations of modern-day advancements, such as organ transplants, so they can help believers make wise decisions while remaining true to Islam.
Industrial engineers consider factors such as location, inventory, and the needs of workers to create systems that help businesses and other organizations run better.
Suppose you had a great idea for a new product. Even better, suppose a lot of people wanted to buy it. First, congratulations! Second, how are you going to make it? How many workers will you need? How many items can they produce? What kind of system will help them make more? What kinds of parts will they need to make it? How much should you keep on hand?
An industrial engineer can help you answer these questions. Or, if answering questions like these sounds like an interesting challenge, you could become one.
Insurance sales agents help people and companies choose insurance policies that protect their lives, health, and property.
Insurance sales agents may offer various kinds of insurance or specialize in a specific type of policy, such as health and long-term-care, life, or property insurance. People often get some information online about insurance policies, but many still depend on insurance sales agents to advise them on what type of coverage they need and help them choose which policy will best protect them. And insurance companies depend on these salespeople to bring in a steady stream of customers.
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.
Management consultants think about ways to increase a company's profits and productivity. Their goal is to make a business more successful and competitive.
Do you get a rush from solving a problem no one else can? Do people come to you for help and advice when they get into complicated situations? If so, you might be cut out for a career as a management consultant.
Companies and other organizations hire management consultants to help them solve some of their biggest problems. Whether they need to build a new website, design a new computer system, or launch a new product, they call on management consultants to save the day.
Market and survey researchers both collect information about the public. Market researchers also analyze information, including business statistics.
How much do teens spend on video games? What kinds of movies are most popular with college students? How much is too much for a hot cup of coffee? Market researchers and survey researchers uncover the answers to questions like these. Their methods include everything from telephone and Internet surveys to focus groups to studies of past sales.
Once these answers are discovered, they're used to create better products, ad campaigns, promotions, and more. In short, it’s the mission of market and survey researchers to know everything there is to know about customer satisfaction.
Mathematicians use mathematical theory, algorithms, and computers to solve problems in economics, science, engineering, and other fields.
When you think of a mathematician, you may imagine a gray-haired man standing in front of a chalkboard covered end to end with formulas. In fact, mathematicians come in all shapes and sizes. And they work with the latest computer technologies in fields as varied as business and physics.
There are two main groups of mathematicians. Theoretical mathematicians come up with new ways of thinking about quantities -- you can thank them for adding to the formulas and principles you learn in math class. Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, use math to solve practical problems in fields like computer science. The line that divides these two groups, however, often blurs.
Medical and health services managers plan, direct, and coordinate the delivery of health care in doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities. Responsibilities range from managing employees to budgeting to purchasing equipment.
The reason for your visit may well be the only thing on your mind when you go to a clinic or hospital. And if the managers at these places are doing their job right, that’s all you’ll need to think about.
Medical and health services managers work to make sure that the people who come through their doors receive the best possible care. But like other management professionals, they must also keep an eye on costs. At a time when health care in the United States is undergoing dramatic changes and health care costs continue to rise, this career presents important challenges.
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.
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 counselors treat people with mental and emotional problems. They help people work through everything from job stress to marriage conflicts to suicidal impulses.
A mental health counselor meets with a small group of people with severe mental problems. At first, the counselor is very active. He asks members questions about the history of their illnesses, how they cope, and what it's like to interact with others.
Over time, the counselor says less and less, encouraging group members to ask the questions and provide support. After the sessions end, they report that their lives have improved: they have more confidence, more friends, and more fun.
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.
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.
Priests are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Anglican religious leaders who have been ordained (officially appointed) by their churches.
Although you might see priests only on Sunday mornings in church, they actually lead very busy lives. They might be up at dawn to lead morning mass. At lunchtime, they might be leading discussions at schools about the challenges of faith. And rather than relaxing in front of an evening TV show, they may be visiting the homes of church members.
Priests believe deeply in God and feel that serving other people is the best way to serve God.
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.
Protestant ministers are religious leaders who have been ordained (officially appointed) by the Protestant denomination (subgroup) to which they belong.
In 1517, in what is now Germany, Roman Catholic priest Martin Luther got so mad at what he saw as weaknesses in Catholicism that he nailed a list of complaints called the "95 Theses" onto a church door.
Luther didn't want to break away from Catholicism; he just wanted to improve it. But his action set off a chain of events that eventually led to a new form of Christianity called Protestantism. This belief system spread around the world and is still going strong today.
Public accountants provide a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting services to their clients, who may be corporations, governments, nonprofits, or individuals.
Every business is required by law to file paperwork with the government. That includes the tax statements they turn in to the Internal Revenue Service. As a public accountant, you may create and file such reports.
On the other hand, you can specialize in external audits. In that case, you’ll examine a company's financial statements and reporting procedures to ensure truth and accuracy.
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.
Rabbis are clergy (religious leaders) who have been ordained (officially appointed) by the Jewish denomination to which they belong.
Jewish religious services differ radically depending on the denomination, or subgroup.
In Orthodox synagogues, for example, men and women sit in separate sections, heads covered. They chant the same Hebrew prayers that Jews chanted more than two thousand years ago. In Reform services, everyone sits together, most heads are bare, and most of the service is in English.
Whatever the denomination, there's usually a rabbi present, guiding members in worship.
Real estate brokers and sales agents are paid to sell other people's properties, from farms to condos. They also help buyers find the properties they're looking for.
Everyone needs a place to live, shop, and work. But who do you call when you need help finding your dream home or the ideal office space? That’s when real estate brokers and agents come in handy.
These professionals spend endless hours scouring cities and towns, studying buildings and neighborhoods, and assessing property values. Why? To find the perfect place for their client.
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.
A sales worker supervisor heads up the sales team and keeps an eye on inventory.
Whether they run the corner grocery or a gourmet supermarket, a fancy boutique or a discount department store, all retailers try to sell their products and services to customers. Customers, for their part, want their experiences with the sales staff to be positive.
As a sales worker supervisor, you’ll need to do more than make sure that products are sold -- you’ll need to make sure that customers are happy and want to return.
Set designers plan, design, and oversee the construction of sets for theatrical, motion picture, and TV productions.
Gritty city street or lush green countryside. Lively medieval marketplace or sleek suburban shopping mall. If you’ve ever been amazed at the look of a movie or play, you’ve been under the spell of a talented designer.
Set designers establish the physical worlds of plays, movies, and TV shows, setting the mood, time, and place of the story. They work with directors, other designers, and technicians to make a strong visual impact.
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.
Theater, film, and TV technicians are craftspeople who work in stage, film, and TV productions building and decorating sets, setting up lighting and sound, and making costumes.
Maybe you got your first taste of the theater as a stagehand in a high school production of Oklahoma! Or maybe it’s the sparkle of Hollywood that’s grabbed your attention. If you love being part of a spirited, hardworking team and want to work on projects you can see and touch, this could be the career for you.
While technicians often specialize in particular areas, it takes a lot of flexibility to build a career. The more you can do, from wiring lights to building flats, the more work you’ll find -- especially early on in your career.
Top executives run businesses and other organizations. Combining knowledge of the field with business skills, they attempt to lead their organizations to success.
What does it take to reach the top? Carly Fiorina knows. She is the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Hewlett-Packard Company. Fiorina majored in medieval history and philosophy in college. She tried law school but hated it. Instead, she went into business and quickly became a rising star.
As Hewlett-Packard's CEO, she helped the company merge with another computer company, Compaq. Many people see this as the most successful high-tech merger in history -- and they see Fiorina as one of the brightest lights in the business world.
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.
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.
Writers develop text for publications, such as books, magazines, websites, and newsletters. They also create material for radio and TV broadcasts, movies, and plays.
Writers work in many places, from magazines to corporations to home offices. They create articles and nonfiction books, newsletters for nonprofits, annual reports for big companies, and scripts for TV and radio shows, just to name a few possibilities.
If you dream of writing a story, poem, or play that will live on long after you do, you may have to do so just for the joy of it -- and find a day job to make ends meet. If you’re also interested in writing nonfiction and develop a specialty in, for example, business, fashion, or sports, you may find that getting paid to write is an easier goal to reach.