I'm not interested in becoming an academic. Rather, I'm interested in opportunities for a Computer Science (or related) major to work in research, either in industry, but also particularly in academia, and particularly in fields where CS skills/knowledge could be applied to social sciences (or cognitive science). This includes anywhere from simply being a programmer that happens to work in a research setting to doing actual dirty work with computational modeling that may even require some domain knowledge of the topic at hand.
My problem is that I don't really know what sorts of opportunities exist out there and how to get to those opportunities. I'm not opposed to getting a graduate (master's) degree in a specific field, getting research experience, and developing broad expertise around a subject area. In fact, that could be great.
However, I get the impression that in academia, you center your research around highly specific areas and that becomes your life. To be honest, there is not one highly specific area of interest that I have (at least not yet) where I would be passionate enough to dedicate and invest such a huge portion of my life towards studying and researching, not to mention I don't want to tie myself down to any specific subject nor the poor job market of academia (sucks, I know).
I'm more interested in breadth and the ability to work on interesting projects. Part of the reason I went into Computer Science was because of how applicable it was to many fields. While I find Computer Science and programming to be incredibly engaging, my heart truly lies in the study of people, and it would be a dream to merge the two worlds together. In some sense, you could say I would love to work in academia without becoming a full-out-academic, by leveraging my background into another field. But I would like to make it a viable career path.
A random list of subjects/areas/words to capture my interests: cognitive science, computational models of narratives/belief/reasoning, agent-based modeling, complex systems, social network analysis, human computer interaction.
I know a field like bioinformatics or computational biology is pretty huge, and I've often read about ways to enter those fields (e.g. be a CS person who enters from the outside and picks up the biology knowledge as they go along, or someone who has done biology research their whole career and is now learning and picking up CS/programming skills to assist their research). I'm interested in opportunities to be more of the former, for the reasons I have outlined above. Though I would say, the more I can wet my feet into the domain area, the more preferable.
What paths can I take? What are some emerging fields? What jobs exist and in what numbers? How can I get there?