What's a futurist?

Futurist Jobs

Think you'd make a good futurist? There are actually many different types of futurist jobs. You may find one working for governmental entities, non-profits or corporations. In the latter case, jobs are often with major marketing and advertising groups, and the positions are called marketing specialists, ideation specialists or directors of future research [sources: Chalupa, Kellogg Forum]. Futurists can also work independently as consultants. Groups as varied as Hallmark, IBM, British Telecom and the FBI all work with futurists [source: Glasner].

In the world of academia, futurists generally focus their efforts on social criticism. Professional futurists who work for companies, whether as consultants or paid staff, try to anticipate market changes and the public's mood to help their clients make prudent business plans. No matter the concentration of study, the job involves reading a wide variety of materials related to the subject matter, including media reports and information in statistical databases. It's also helpful to interview experts in the field, plus other futurists and even members of the public. Futurists also spend a great deal of time thinking, analyzing and strategizing -- for example, if "x" is the current reality, and "y" and "z" are the trends, what might the next logical consequences be? A talented futurist is able to recognize connections in myriad, scattered pieces of information [sources: Future Search, Mullins].

Because the field is still relatively new, and because futurists' job titles can vary widely, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't track futurist wages and employment rates. However, the governmental group estimates there are 500 to 1,000 professional futurists working in the U.S. today [source: Mullins]. In a sign of the profession's growth, numerous professional organizations are being created as well, such as the Association of Professional Futurists, the World Future Society and the World Future Council.

All of this is promising, as many see the rise of futurists as critical to our future. Why? While humans are more than capable of realizing the implications of our actions -- pollution, energy consumption and overpopulation, to name a few -- we've got a pretty dismal track record at doing what's best for society in the long run. Perhaps if more futurists are around, they'll help us better understand what we should be doing today to ensure a better tomorrow [source: Crawford].