Making the Most of a Sociology Degree



Sociology Career Overview & Resource Guide

Today’s job market is experiencing a constant, ever-evolving transformation. To this end, skills developed by sociology majors continue to be essential to the fabric of our society.  These skills include the ability to:

-         Assess changes in the broader social structure,

-         Analyze the effect of these changes individually and globally,

-         Understand diverse peoples,

-         Analyze linear and abstract problems.

In addition to the aforementioned core skills, a sociology degree track also provides training in critical thinking, communication, a battery of effective research methods, and statistics in social science. The skills acquired by successful sociology majors can often be quite useful in a wide range of careers, particularly when they enter the professional world.  The competencies learned while studying to earn a sociology degree often overlap with adjacent sectors of the professional world that can include community planning, public relations, system professions, criminal justice, business, as well as positions in government and social agencies.

Sociology also provides a solid base for professions that typically require graduate school training such as public policy and administration, counseling, law, teaching, or social work.  In order to become a sociologist, you must first learn the necessary professional requirements, job duties, degree requirements, and career outlook to determine if it will be a great fit for your future.

What is a Sociologist?

A sociologist is a person who specializes in studying human behavior.  This behavior most often will be rooted in society and social behavior through the prudent examination of organizations, groups, social institutions, cultures, and processes that tend to develop when people work and interact together.

While placing strong emphasis on social and political systems, a sociologist seeks to study humanity on various levels and determine how individuals respond to change.  A sociologist will gather data to test a hypothesis through a series of statistically relevant quantitative, qualitative, and comparative research to explore race, ethnicity, social constructs, and sex in a bid to determine the role they play in both social systems and political systems.

Although a master’s degree may be preferred by some prospective employers, the minimum education requirement for a sociologist is a bachelor’s degree.  Most people with a bachelor’s degree in sociology find related jobs adjacent to a sociologist practitioner as a professional statistician, survey researcher, demographer, and/or policy analysts.  Another possible track for those with a sociology background can be teaching, albeit high school or at the postsecondary level.

What are the Duties of a Sociologist?

Generally speaking, sociologists are well versed in collecting data through interviews, observations, surveys, research, and a variety of other specialized sources.  Valid, statistically relevant data is a necessary component for any sociologist in order to test theories about any social and political issues.  As a result, a professional sociologist carefully designs research projects, prepares customized presentations, crafts articles, generates topic-specific reports, analyzes data, and draw conclusions from data.  A sociologist can also advise and collaborate with other social policymakers, sociologists, psychologists, social scientists, and other groups on sociological issues and research findings.

Sociologists invest time and resources to carefully observe the activity of a wide variety of groups that can include: political, religious, social, financial, economic institutions, corporations, government entities, organizations, groups, and individuals.  They are trained to study human behavior with a granular lens as well as taking a wider perspective to ascertain interaction and behavior within the context of larger political, economic, and social forces.  Sociologists may also be tasked to untangle a complex weave of human behavior to look closely at the effect of social influences on different groups and individuals in order to draw valuable conclusions from the data assembled.  Professional sociologist can then be asked to trace the origin and growth of these groups and their associated interactions in order to better understand the group and their future trajectory.

Apart from conducting research through quantitative and qualitative methods, sociologists will often employ industry-specific statistical analysis programs during the research process to help assemble large chunks of data.  With an emphasis on social constructs, political systems, how humans respond to change, behavior in within political systems, and the development of power systems, it is easy to see the complexity that can arise to organize information and make sense of sociological trends.

What are the Job Description of Sociologists?

As we have discussed, sociologists learn how humans respond to a variety of stimuli.  A sociologist may invest resources to understand a variety of trends within the following sectors: crime, politics, technology, poverty, economic, wealth, social constructs, cultural movements, socioeconomics, and many other aspects involving human behavior.

Sociologists will often dive into research by considering time, location, and group factors in an effort to establish a baseline.  This group may be compared to another group or to the same group during a different juncture in time by utilizing a comparative analysis tool.  A sociologist may go further by continuing to collect information, perform additional research, create surveys, or conduct interviews to best understand the scope and variables in play prior to moving to the next phase of the process.

Social workers, lawmakers, business executives, educators, and administrators of all stripes employ sociological research to help solve a variety of social issues and to then shape & formulate public policy.  Sociologists can be generalists or create a specific niche for themselves in an array of topics including: aging, income, poverty, gender, socioeconomic, population, families, education, crime, health, racial, and ethnic relations.

As we have mentioned, some sociologists specialize in handling crime cases which is a specialty unto itself known as penologists or criminologists.  Professionals apply their sociological knowledge to analyze the primary and secondary causes of crime along with the personal and social effects of those particular crimes.  A criminologist may also be tasked to assess the interworking of the penal system in order to better understand motivations, decision making, psychological triggers, and group norming to help shape policy to deter future behavior.

What are the Educational Requirements of a Sociologist?

Anyone who is interested in becoming a sociologist is required to have, at minimum, a bachelor‘s degree in sociology.  During a student’s sociological education track, they are expected to learn about research methods, psychology, statistics, philosophy, and social problems.  Students will also learn the possible effects of sexism, racism, wealth, and poverty affect people within a social class. A student can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in four years’ time from one of dozens and dozens of accredited colleges found here.

As with most fields of study, you improve your odds of obtaining a highly sought after job in sociology by earning a Master of Arts in Sociology.  Once on the educational track towards a sociology degree, it is important to know students can elect to specialize in a number of sub-tracks while in graduate school such as social psychology, philosophy, sexuality, macroeconomics, statistics, survey research, political science, businesses, or criminology to name a few options to bolster your burgeoning resume.

Career Outlook for Sociologists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for sociologists with advanced degrees, strong statistical skills, deep analytical skills will have the best opportunities.  The average annual income for a sociologist is just under $74,000 with the highest average income for professional sociologists residing in New Jersey, California, and the District of Columbia all of which exceed $100,000 per year.  The states experiencing the quickest growth in sociology professionals are California, Texas, and New York.

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