English Language Blog

Job Suffixes and Uncommon Professions Posted by on Feb 21, 2012 in English Language, English Vocabulary

Most beginning English classes have a lesson on vocabulary related to jobs and professions.  Usually these lessons cover jobs like: baker, teacher, and lawyer.  One piece of grammatical information people often learn early on about profession title words in English is that they often end in the suffix –er.  This suffix is commonly used to indicate a person who does a job related to the base form of the word to which –er is added.  For example, teach + er = teacher and bake + er = baker.  This rule, of course doesn’t not always hold true.  For example, cook + er = cooker, but this is not the correct word in English for a person who cooks as their job.  The correct word is either “cook” or “chef”.  So, the rule of adding –er to a word to indicate that a person does this job is not universal.  (Neither are all words that end in -er related to jobs or professions.)  There are also some other common suffixes related to professions you may or may not have heard of, for example: –or, –ist, and –ian.  Professions that end in these suffixes include: actor, doctor, director, psychologist, florist, journalist, pediatrician, electrician, and librarian, just to name a few.

When teaching about vocabulary related to professions I have often thought that the vocabulary related to professions is not that interesting, mostly because it is so limited.  Only learning about jobs that end in –er certainly doesn’t represent a wide variety of professions!  There are just so many professions out there beyond the basic ones you may already have learned in an introductory English course.  So, today I am going to highlight some different professions.  Some of these professions you may have never heard of, or perhaps you just haven’t heard the English names for these professions before.  None-the-less I hope this will help increase your English vocabulary related to the topic area of jobs/professions.  Who knows, while reading about these profession, you may also discover a career you are interested in pursuing!

Actuary – Actuaries are people who deal with risk for their profession. Actuaries decide how likely things such as death, sickness, injury, disability, and loss of property are to occur, as well as the costs of these things.  They help design insurance policies and pension plans. Most actuaries work for insurance companies.

Archaeologist – Archaeologists examine ancient sites and objects to learn about the past. They often work on excavations, commonly called ‘digs’, and record, analyze, and interpret archaeological remains.

Astronomer – Astronomers are scientists who study planets, stars, and galaxies.  They use large telescopes and special cameras to create images of the universe.  They work with data collected from the images they take in outer space to analyze it for new information.

Forester – Foresters are in charge of forests.  They are skilled in planting, managing, or caring for trees.  A forester’s work may include timber (wood) harvesting, ecological restoration, or managing protected wilderness areas.

Landscape architect – Landscape architects make outdoor places more beautiful and useful.  They design parks, playgrounds, college campuses, sports playing fields, and even back yards. They also work with environmental scientists to find the best way to conserve or restore natural resources.

Paralegal – Paralegals or legal assistants are people who help lawyers in their work. They perform some of the same work as lawyers, but have less schooling.  Paralegals investigate cases to make sure that lawyers know all of the important facts.

Rancher – Ranchers are people who own or run ranches, which are big animal farms. A rancher’s work usually involves handling livestock (i.e. cows, horses). Ranchers manage large herds of animals, making sure the animals have enough to eat, stay healthy, and stay on the right land. Sometimes the people who work on ranches, but don’t own the ranch are called: cowhands, ranch hands, wranglers, or cowboys.

Sound engineering technician – Sound engineer technicians operate machines and equipment to record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects in sporting arenas, theater productions, recording studios, or movie and video productions.  They often work in the movie or music industries, but also in radio broadcasting and in the performing arts.

Surveyor – Surveyors measure land, air space, and water areas. They describe where certain areas of land are and they explain what it looks like, and how much land is there.  Surveyors also create maps.

Zookeeper – Zookeepers take care of wild animals in zoos and animal parks. They feed the animals, clean their living spaces, and work to keep them healthy. Zookeepers, sometimes called “keepers”, watch the animals to see if they are sick or hurt and write detailed notes about each animal to tell a veterinarian if there is a problem.  They also teach people who come to zoos about animals.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.