May/June 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 5

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Help Wanted:
The Government Needs Sociologists Too

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I would like to compliment the association on being interested in forging new opportunities for positions outside academia, along with the author of the April article "Forging a Career Outside the Tenure Track." I thought her way of finding an "outside" job was excellent.

My path was in the opposite direction. I returned to graduate school from a wonderful position as foreign area analyst for the U.S. Army. Believe it or not, we analysts had total academic freedom as well as access to professional-level resources. We all were academically trained, qualified,  and operated on the professional level. Those years contributed directly to my graduate studies as my dissertation was an extension of the study and thinking I had done while employed by the army. I had every intention of returning to a government job, but after a decade in the hallowed halls, I had lost my contacts and the methods of finding openings had changed. I found that academia does not know how to find other types of jobs. As a result, I now find myself in academia teaching in a community college in Appalachia, which I love as much as I loved my government job. 

For those on the job hunt, I recommend applying for federal, state, and local government jobs. In spite of frozen budgets, it’s a vast and fascinating world all its own. Academic career centers wishing to help those in sociology and other fields need to learn how to navigate the government trails. The key website for federal government is As the author of "Forging a Career" says, it’s a very different world. The ways of locating positions and self presentation within the government are quite different from methods and self presentation in academia. Good hunting to all of us.

Phyllis Puffer, Big Sandy Community and Technical College (Prestonsburg, KY)

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