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What is Sociology?
Sociology is the study of society. Individuals pursuing a degree in sociology will learn to examine society through a scientific lens, extrapolating data and a identifying trends. Sociology branches into a variety of subfields, all dealing with the various facets of society and how to identify societal issues and apply possible measures to correct them. Individuals will utilize a variety of methods and techniques that in order to perform research and utilize that information in order to complete studies and produce results based on the information gathered. Resourceful sociologists will tackle difficult information gathering problems in new ways in order to achieve their goals.
As a discipline of social science, sociologists work to make sense of the way society works. The interworking of a society can be a highly complex, multi-faceted effort to understand the effect of one decision on multiple groups and their interactions with each other as a result of that decision. Professional sociologists invest substantive time to observe the behavior of groups of influence including: political, religious, social, financial, economic institutions, corporations, government entities, and organizations. Sociologists are adept at understanding on a granular level only to pivot and take a broad perspective to understand a behavior within the context of larger political, economic, and social forces.
What Does a Sociologist Do?
A team of sociologists may be hired to untangle a complex weave of human behavior to determine the effect of social influences on different groups and individuals and draw valuable conclusions from the data assembled. Data can be gathered from third-parties, public data, interviews, surveys, and other research methods to better understand human experiences (faith, identity, religion, love, gender, morality, family, race, war, poverty, politics, education, economics, etc.). It is not uncommon for a sociologist to be tasked by a group or special interest group to organize historical information about the origin, evolution, and growth of class of people to understand a trajectory for the future.
Trained sociologists leverage both common and uncommon quantitative and qualitative research methods, including industry-specific statistical analysis software used to crunch massive data sets across several variables. Sociologists need to be focused, detail-oriented, and analytical to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to understanding trends in human behavior, social constructs, political systems, response to change, political systems, and evolution of power systems.
Educational Requirements of Sociologists
An education in sociology is available starting at the associate level, though the most common sociology degree pursued is the bachelor's degree, which provides an education that is useful for entering law programs as well as a variety of other graduate programs, in addition to preparing an individual for entry into a sociology related career. Sociology degrees are available from the associate's level all the way to the doctoral, with higher level degrees dealing with more theoretical and policy oriented work. Higher level degrees also allow for the teaching of sociology.
Sociology curriculum may include:
- Macroeconomic Principles
- Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality
- Global Society
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Employment Opportunities in Sociology
Individuals who chose to pursue a career in sociology may find work at colleges and universities, government agencies, or in the private sector. Individuals who wish to teach at the university level typically must have a doctoral degree, although community colleges may hire individual with a master's degree. Experienced and established sociologists may find themselves as department heads, and are responsible for reviewing curriculum and establishing research projects within their school while managing their given budget.
Sociologists with a master's or doctoral degree will be able to pursue research positions as well as seek grant money in order to put into effect their own research projects. Such projects will either be funded by federal, state or local funds, or through private money either from a business or an established research body. Individuals must provide a proposal demonstrating why the given research topic is important and what methods will be utilized in order to obtain the necessary information. Often such projects are pursued in conjunction with a college, university, or equivalent institution, which provide the facilities for research and a center for information gathering.
Most Popular Careers in Sociology
Sociology majors can work in a variety of settings across a number of disparate industries. Studying sociology in college will provide you with the opportunity to learn deep and wide while preparing for an exciting future in the field of sociology. Some colleges and universities provide students with the opportunity to elect an area of concentration while in school while other programs do not provide subspecialties during the degree program. In either case, the list below will help you think about differing areas of sociology and the far-reaching bounds of the discipline as it relates to real-world applications. Areas of the economy that benefit from the expertise and knowledge of a sociologists include:
- Education: Being a teacher, professor, research professional, or academic publisher coupled with the keen eye for data and interrelationships could be a benefit to a school district and the community at-large.
- Therapy & Counseling Services: Although not a traditional means to a counseling career, a sociologist could enter the field with work experience or professional certifications to become a counselor or therapist helping others with: drug abuse, substance addiction, depression, disorders, relationship issues, etc.
- Youth Development: A trained sociologist leveraging their knowledge and insight to benefit youth in a community could be recipe for exciting change and development. Helping young people grapple with a healthy world view of social issues, politics, healthcare, rehabilitation, and community involvement has the potential to impact a generation of citizens.
- Technology: The adept skills of a sociologist can teach others in a corporation effective ways to use data and science to improve products, extend the life of existing products, create new markets, and otherwise enhance the lives of others through technology. Technology can scale exceptionally fast affecting people in spades if performed correctly.
- Business: Sociologists can help the business world via disciplines like statistics, public relations, human resource management, recruiting, strategic management, and managing non-profit organizations. Linking real-world data with organizational goals can be a win-win for both entities.
- Public Services: A sociologist leveraging their education to help with crime prevention, social justice, public health, correctional facilities, and welfare services can be a powerful force. Subspecialties within each discipline will allow for deeper understanding and more precise solutions to far-reaching societal problems.
- Marketing & Advertising: Understanding the interactions within a society and identifying the needs of a particular group can be a way for non-profit organizations and corporations to benefit others on a large scale.
- Politics: Sociologists with a political bent can join organizations or start groups to help enact positive change in the world through activism with social justice, social welfare, inequality, and fundraising.
States with the Highest Employment of Sociologists
- New York
- North Carolina
Top Paying States for Sociology Majors
- Massachusetts $118,230
- New Jersey $114,600
- Pennsylvania $101,900
- California $98,360
- Oregon $94,130
Largest Employers of Sociology Majors
- Scientific Research and Development Centers
- Colleges and Universities
- State Government Agencies
- Local Government Agencies
- Scientific Consulting Services
Job Growth, Salary and Related Sociology Fields
Job growth for sociologists are expected to increase as research into society and the resulting public policy become more and more important. The number of positions will continue to be limited due to budgeting constraints, though the field itself is expected to expand as sociological research is applied to new and different areas of interest. Employment at colleges and universities will remain constant. The median annual income for a sociologist is $79,750 which can vary based on the type of work and sector of employment.
Students interested in sociology may also be interested in criminology, liberal arts, or social work. For additional information on a future in sociology, visit the ASA & ISA and then read our blog titled Making the Most of a Sociology Degree.