FAQs About Sociology

WHAT IS SOCIOLOGY?

*         Sociology is the study of the interplay of individual behavior and social institutions such as the family, politics, religion, work, leisure, law and law enforcement, education, and health care.  Sociologists study a broad range of topics.  A sociology major might study something small-scale, such as how people manage the impressions they make on others, or something of a much larger scale, such as the causes and consequences of immigration or changes in family patterns.  Students who major in sociology find concepts such as culture emotions, inequality, social problems, deviant behavior, political movements, health disparities, and urbanization to be fascinating topics.  Approaches sociologist use to study these and other topics include surveys, experiments, focus groups, people watching, and in-depth interviews. 

WHY DO STUDENTS MAJOR IN SOCIOLOGY?

*         A four-year study of majors, conducted by the American Sociology Association, shows that almost all students who take sociology course are excited by the concepts that they learn.  Some students chose to major in Sociology because they have a strong desire to improve the society around them by better understanding the relationships between individuals and social issues.  Other students are focused on employment, graduate, or professional school.  They see sociology as a major that will prepare them for the job they want or prepare them to continue their education.  What attracts students to sociology are the wide range of challenging questions sociology explores and the thoughtful, evidence-based answers about the social world that it provides.  Students emerge from the major with conceptual skills, research skills, computer skills, and interpersonal skills.

WHAT CAREER OPPORTUITIES WILL I HAVE AFTER GRADUATION?

*         The graduate with a sociology major can succeed in a variety of careers without pursuing an additional degree.  Eighteen months after graduation more than nine out of ten sociology majors who were not full-time graduate students held paid jobs.  Former majors reported finding jobs in many different fields, including case and group workers, non-profit administrators, paralegals, crime scene technicians, human rights advocates, managers, computer consultants, marketing researchers, teachers, editors, and survey workers.  These are job categories that are expected to grow, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Sociology majors also report finding these careers very satisfying, especially when the work is more closely related to what they learned as sociology majors.  By four years after graduation, 80% of those majors who entered the labor market have changed jobs, although often staying the in t same field.  These job changes frequently reflect promotion, salary increases, and better benefits, more responsibility, and increasingly interesting work.

CAN YOU FIND A JOB WITH A DEGREE IN SOCIOLOGY?

*         One would do better to ask what cannot be done with a degree in sociology. In a sense sociology provides students with a broad informational background, critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills sought by the vast majority of employers. Sociology, like other liberal arts majors offers students, not simply a fixed base of current knowledge, but the insight to identify major questions, and the ability to pursue meaningful answers to those questions. In short, sociology students learn how to learn.

 More specifically, sociology students obtain myriad types of jobs with a BA or BS in Sociology.  Sociology graduates have held jobs as Program Implementers, Child Care Counselors, Social Workers, Therapists, Employment Interviewers, Census Enumerators, Office Coordinators, Group Counselors, Unit Coordinators of group homes, Counselors for delinquent youths, Consultants, Researchers, Social Services Case Workers, Child Protection Workers, Managers of retail establishments, Employment and Training Specialists, Training Coordinators, Police Officers, Prison Guards, Probation Officers, Activity Directors in nursing homes, Youth Shelter Directors, and Personnel Managers.

Undergraduate Sociology also acts as a springboard for specialized fields of graduate study.

WILL I BE PREPARED TO PURSUE FURTHER EDUCATION?

*         Many sociology majors (about half) pursue advanced degreed directly after undergraduate school or after working for a while.  An undergraduate sociology degree provides a logical pathway to advanced degrees in fields such as sociology, social work, education, psychology, counseling, law, city planning, business, anthropology, criminal justice, public policy, medicine, and public health.

WHAT SKILLS CAN I GAIN WITH A SOCIOLOGY DEGREE?

*         Sociology majors learn skills useful for their future careers.  Sociology graduates report that the most valuable skills they gained from the sociology courses were the following: developing evidence-based arguments, evaluating different research methods, writing clear reports,  interpreting data, using computer resources to locate information, learning statistical software, understanding tests of significance, working with diverse groups, and identifying ethical issues in research.  The sociology curriculum also teaches students a variety of interpersonal skills, such as working in small groups, using leadership skills, and working with people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. 

HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE?

*         It is important that you start thinking about your future now as your pursue you major in sociology.  The decision that you make during your undergraduate years will affect your success in finding an interesting job or in being admitted to the graduate program of your choice.  You should discuss your future plans for employment or graduate study with faculty members or advisors in order to choose course that prepare you for your immediate future. If you plan to find a job directly after graduation, you should participate in internships, engage in community activities, take part in community based learning programs, gain leadership skills, and attend job fairs.  Do NOT hesitate to list the skills that you learned in sociology on your resume and be sure to discuss them during job interviews.   Scholarly networks, such as the sociology honor society Alpha kappa Delta, and state or regional sociology meetings, help students be aware of the latent knowledge and cutting edge research; develop relationships with faculty members and graduate students; and teach undergraduate students how to present their work at scholarly meetings and sue the meetings effectively in pursuing their goals. Whenever possible, you should work with one or more faculty members on research projects so that you can expand your research skills.

WHAT SHOULD I TELL MY PARENTS?

*         Parents want their children to be successful, and some parents do not have a strong idea about what sociology is.  You can address these issues if you talk about your major.  Engage your parents and family members in conversations about what you find interested in your classes.  If your parents understand that interests you about sociology, they are more likely to understand and appreciate sociology and be more supportive of your choice of major.  Furthermore, tell your parents about the skills and knowledge you are acquiring as sociology major and that have led majors to find jobs in growing fields.

 

Adapted from the American Sociological Association’s Report: Launching Majors into Satisfying Careers: Faculty manual and student Dataset.  2010.