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Careers in Sociology

Six alumni—including (from left to right) Tony Hudson, Britt Pennington, Ellen Sachs, Robert Harper, Ashley Johnson, and Karina Genis—speak with current sociology majors about their careers and how their sociology degree helps them in the work they do.
Six alumni—including (from left to right) Tony Hudson, Britt Pennington, Ellen Sachs, Robert Harper, Ashley Johnson, and Karina Genis—speak with current sociology majors about their careers and how their sociology degree helps them in the work they do.

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 Major in Sociology page on their website for additional information.

 

“What can I do with a B.A. in sociology?”

As a strong liberal arts major, sociology provides several answers to this important question:

  • 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.
  • A B.A. in sociology is excellent preparation for future graduate work in sociology in order to become a professor, researcher, or applied sociologist.

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 M.A. or Ph.D. in sociology?”

The "graduate school wall." This is a collection of the university pennants of all the different schools that our sociology alumni have attended to receive a graduate degree.
The “graduate school wall.” This is a collection of the university pennants of all the different schools that our sociology alumni have attended to receive a graduate degree.

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, public health researchers or administrators, gerontologists, statisticians, urban planners, community developers, criminologists, or demographers.
  • Some M.A. and Ph.D. 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. The American Sociological Association has conducted research in order to profile the careers of sociology graduates nationwide and published a report titled “What are They Doing With a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology?,” linked here. If you would like more detailed information on the types of careers pursued by sociology majors, this is an informative resource.

 

Job Prospects for the B.A. Graduate

Graduating sociology majors are all smiles after receiving their diplomas.
Graduating sociology majors are all smiles after receiving their diplomas.

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, residential affairs, student life, 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, public health, agriculture, and labor
  • Teaching—in elementary and secondary schools, in conjunction with appropriate teacher certification.

 

Job-Related Skills Development

Majoring in sociology equips students with many marketable job skills that are attractive to employers in a wide range of professions. The curriculum for the major is designed in such a way as to ensure all of our majors develop such skills as the following:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Data Analysis (including both qualitative and quantitative/statistical analysis)
  • Deep understanding of human behavior, social relationships, group dynamics, complex organizations, and social institutions
  • Complex problem solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Research design and implementation
  • Classifying, evaluating, and synthesizing
  • Listening, interviewing, and facilitating group discussions
  • Project management
  • Writing skills (analytic, theoretical, and persuasive)
  • Public speaking
  • Issues surrounding social inequality, equity, inclusion, and diversity
  • Teamwork, collaboration, coordinating group projects, and working effectively with others

 

The Career Paths of Augsburg University Sociology Alumni

Here is an abbreviated list of career paths that our alumni have pursued after graduation. Some also obtained graduate-level degrees in pursuit of their career goals.

Torstenson Scholars pause for a photo in the midst of their research/data collection process.
Torstenson Scholars pause for a photo in the midst of their research/data collection process.
  • Attorney
  • Human Resources Officer
  • Teacher/Professor
  • Pastor
  • Counselor/Therapist
  • Mental Health Practitioner
  • Business Analyst
  • Director of Grants, Research, and Revenue
  • City/Urban Planner
  • Community Organizer
  • Non-profit Executive Director
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Account Manager
  • Research Analyst
  • Vice President of a Medical Insurance Company
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Executive Engagement Specialist for a National Bank
  • An Academic Dean for an Ivy League University
  • Senior Consultant
  • Librarian
  • Probation Officer
  • Strategic Market Development, Sales Manager
  • Doctor/Physician
  • Police Officer
  • Service Manager
  • Case Planner
  • Social Worker
  • Media and Technology Specialist
  • Business Owner
  • Public Administration
  • Paralegal
  • Case Manager
  • Communications Associate
  • Public Defender
  • Commercial Property Manager
  • Security Officer
  • Healthcare and Behavioral Health Legislative Director
  • Chief Development Officer
  • Human Resources Recruiting Specialist
  • City Administrator
  • IT Business Systems Analyst

There are so many possibilities! Feel free to speak with your faculty advisor in the Department of Sociology to discuss possible career paths.