Sociology: A World of Opportunities
Sociology provides many distinctive perspectives on the world, generating new ideas and critiquing the old.* The field also offers a range of research techniques that can be applied to virtually any aspect of social life: street crime and delinquency, corporate downsizing, how people express emotions, welfare or education reform, how families differ and flourish, or problems of peace and war.
Because sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is a rapidly expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft policies and create programs. Sociologists understand social inequality, patterns of behavior, forces for social change and resistance, and how social systems work. Sociology is an exciting discipline with expanding opportunities for a wide range of career paths.
Most people who think of themselves as “sociologists” or have the word “sociologist” in their job title, have graduate training, but BAs in sociology apply the sociological perspective to a wide variety of jobs in such sectors as business, the health professions, the criminal justice system, social services, and government.
* This material is adapted from a sociology careers booklet available from the American Sociological Association. Please visit the Career Resources page on their website for additional information.
“What can I do with a BA in sociology?”
As a strong liberal arts major, sociology provides several answers to this important question:
- A BA in sociology is excellent preparation for future graduate work in sociology in order to become a professor, researcher, or applied sociologist.
- The undergraduate degree provides a strong liberal arts preparation for entry level positions throughout the business, social service, and government worlds. Employers look for people with the skills that an undergraduate education in sociology provides.
- Since its subject matter is intrinsically fascinating, sociology offers valuable preparation for careers in journalism, politics, public relations, business, or public administration–fields that involve investigative skills and working with diverse groups.
Many students choose sociology because they see it as a broad liberal arts base for professions such as law, education, medicine, social work, and counseling. Sociology provides a rich fund of knowledge that directly pertains to each of these fields.
“What can I do with an MA or PhD degree in sociology?”
With advanced degrees, the more likely it is that a job will have the title sociologist, but many opportunities exist–the diversity of sociological careers ranges much further than what you might find under “S” in the Sunday newspaper employment ads. Many jobs outside of academia do not necessarily carry the specific title of sociologist:
- Sociologists become high school teachers or faculty in colleges and universities, advising students, conducting research, and publishing their work. Over 3000 colleges offer sociology courses.
- Sociologists enter the corporate, non-profit, and government worlds as directors of research, policy analysts, consultants, human resource managers, and program managers.
- Practicing sociologists with advanced degrees may be called research analysts, survey researchers, gerontologists, statisticians, urban planners, community developers, criminologists, or demographers.
- Some MA and PhD sociologists obtain specialized training to become counselors, therapists, or program directors in social service agencies.
Today, sociologists embark upon literally hundreds of career paths. Although teaching and conducting research remains the dominant activity among the thousands of professional sociologists today, other forms of employment are growing both in number and significance.
In some sectors, sociologists work closely with economists, political scientists, anthropologists, psychologists, social workers, and others, reflecting a growing appreciation of sociology’s contributions to interdisciplinary analysis and action.
Job Prospects for the BA Graduate
Given the breadth, adaptability and utility of sociology, employment opportunities abound for BA graduates. You can secure entry level positions in many of the areas previously mentioned in defining the scope of sociology. The following list of possibilities is only illustrative–many other paths may be open to you. Employment sectors include:
- Social services—in rehabilitation, case management, group work with youth or the elderly, recreation, or administration
- Community work—in fund-raising for social service organizations, nonprofits, child-care or community development agencies, or environmental groups
- Corrections—in probation, parole, or other criminal justice work
- Business—in advertising, marketing and consumer research, insurance, real estate, personnel work, training, or sales
- College settings—in admissions, alumni relations, or placement offices
- Health services—in family planning, substance abuse, rehabilitation counseling, health planning, hospital admissions, and insurance companies
- Publishing, journalism, and public relations—in writing, research, and editing
- Government services—in federal, state, and local government jobs in such areas as transportation, housing, agriculture, and labor
- Teaching—in elementary and secondary schools, in conjunction with appropriate teacher certification.
The Career Paths of Augsburg College Sociology Alumni
In 2011, sociology professor Lars Christiansen conducted a survey of those who graduated with a degree in sociology from Augsburg College (Christensen, Lars. May 24, 2011. “Assessment of Sociology Alumni Data.” Augsburg College Department of Sociology.) The findings included below will provide you with a sense of where our majors end up in terms of their careers.
Sociology Alumni Industry Employment Data, 2001 – 2010 (n=43)
Sociology Alumni Industry and Occupation Employment Data, 2001 – 2010 (n=43)
Sociology Alumni Industry Employment Data by Decade, 1950s – 2010
Sociology Alumni Public Sector Employment by Decade, 1950s – 2010 (n=54)