Read about human and consumer business sciences, a broad field of study that can lead to a career in education, fashion, finance or marketing, among other options. Learn about earnings, employment and education for consumer science specialists here, and make an informed decision about your future.
Originally known as home economics, consumer science programs were originally established to help people address child, family and community concerns, such as those related to finance, education and social interaction. In general, professionals employed in this field study consumer behavior, help families make informed financial decisions or assist individuals with improving their nutritional intake. They may also examine interpersonal relationships and the factors involved in human decision-making processes.
A degree in consumer, human or family sciences may lead to a career in child rearing and education, family studies and personal finance. For example, you may be employed as a financial consultant, preschool teacher or youth development specialist. Depending on your academic background, you might also qualify for a position as a dietician or human resources manager. Additional opportunities may be found in agriculture, consumer behavior, food science or textiles, where you might find work as an agricultural scientist, fashion designer or retail buyer. Other opportunities may be found in advertising, marketing management, product development or public relations.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013, the mean annual salary for preschool teachers was $31,420, while human resources managers and personal financial advisors earned an average of $111,180 and $99,920 a year respectively. In the same month, the average yearly salary for dieticians and nutritionists was $56,300, while in the agricultural science industry, food scientists and technologists were paid $65,340 a year.
As of May 2013, fashion designers had average annual incomes of $73,570, while wholesale and retail buyers earned $58,210. By comparison, consumer science professionals who were employed as advertising, marketing, promotions or public relations managers in general had mean annual incomes of $141,950 (www.bls.gov).
Your choice of academic program will depend on your area of special interest and career plans. For example, if you'd like to help families improve their diets or become involved in preventing hunger, a degree program in agricultural science or nutritional science may help you prepare for a job as an agricultural scientist, food technologist or soil scientist. Areas of specialization might include biochemistry, agronomy, forestry or agricultural information science. In an agricultural science program, you'll learn how to improve the lives of individuals, families and populations by researching crop or animal yield, nutritional content, farming techniques or food distribution.
Undergraduate programs can also lead to a bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management or consumer science. Consumer science and fashion programs typically cover topics in fashion forecasting and merchandising, entrepreneurship, statistics and textile studies. Other degree programs that fall under the umbrella of consumer science include hotel and restaurant management.