Sociology Career Center

Sociology Careers

Sociology careers can include a diverse range of occupations that sociology degree holders are well positioned to pursue after graduation. The wide choice of careers that are available to sociology degree holders can be a benefit for those who have a lot of interests and like a lot of options. One of the most common careers for graduates of a sociology degree program is in the field of social work. Other common career paths include working in the fields of business, criminal justice, health, education, or government. Sociology graduates are good candidates for jobs that require strong research skills, analytical thinking, and an understanding of the factors that influence group behavior.

Career Outlook

Due to the wide range of potential career paths that sociology graduates pursue, the outlook is highly varied and dependent on the economy and job demand in certain career fields. Social worker hiring is projected to be faster than average with 16 percent growth between 2008 and 2018. Due to government budget reductions job demand in government, education, and law enforcement may be temporarily slow but opportunities still exist and a degree can give you a strong edge in the job market compared to those without a degree. Healthcare jobs are expected to grow the fastest of any industry between 2008-2018 with a projected 3.2 million new jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

15 Jobs You Can Get with a Sociology Degree

What can you do with a sociology degree? Earning a degree in sociology can open the door to careers in various fields. While a career as a sociologist is what first comes to mind for many when thinking about sociology, a sociology degree at the associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s level can lead to a range of exciting opportunities in corrections, counseling, and other areas of the social sciences. The variety of career options available to sociology majors means that there is likely a sociology career that suits your interests, career goals, and the salary you hope to earn. Following are descriptions of just 15 of the jobs you might consider pursuing with a sociology degree.



Now is an exciting time to be practicing as a sociologist. Sociologists analyze human social behavior in individuals, groups, organizations, and institutions and study how these behaviors are influenced and change over time. The increasing globalization of human society and the quickening pace of social change combined with the widespread availability of data that compliments traditional avenues of sociological research has led to more and greater opportunities for sociologists to make a positive impact through their work. Sociologists earn a median salary of $72,360 per year, with job growth expected at a rate of 18% between 2010 and 2020.

Social Worker

Social workers earn a median annual salary of $42,480 per year, and have a faster than average projected job growth rate of 25% between 2010 and 2020 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most social workers concentrate in one of two areas of practice, direct-service or clinical social work, though other possible specialties within social work include community development or social service administration.3 Social workers often collaborate with teams of professionals from related fields, such as youth corrections and health care, to provide services to populations with different needs, offering opportunities for cross-disciplinary contributions and career growth.4

Market Research Analyst

Organizations that want to know about audiences and geographic locations for their products and services rely on market research analysts to research and analyze market conditions. Market research analysts usually begin a project by collecting raw data on a given market before beginning the search for patterns that will ultimately inform business decisions.9 Although classical methodologies for research and analysis are still valuable for market research, new media is playing an increasingly important role in market research analysts’ work, leading to new ways to collect, assess, and manipulate market data.10 As organizations in all economic sectors are realizing the value of market research and analysis, job growth for market research analysts is predicted to reach 41% between 2010 and 2020, with median salaries reported at $60,570 per year by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

School and Career Counselor

School and career counselors assist students in making education and career choices that align with students’ personal interests and aptitudes. A master’s degree in counseling or related fields such as sociology is the generally accepted entry level requirement for this position, which has a median annual salary of $53,380. The duties of school and career counselors are to some degree influenced by the grade levels at which they work, which can include elementary, middle, and secondary schools as well as colleges and trade schools.11 Especially at lower grade levels, school and career counselors may be responsible for providing individual and group counseling that helps build healthy social and behavioral development.11 School and career counselors also assist students in selecting and applying to colleges, arranging internships, and other tasks that promote students’ personal growth.12

Mental Health Counselor

Individuals rely on mental health counselors to provide intervention and treatment for mental and emotional challenges and disorders. Mental health counselors may work with clients on an individual basis, in groups, or in larger community settings.13 Since environmental and community influences play a large part in mental health and mental health counselors aim to help clients adjust to social pressures,13 a degree in sociology can be helpful in this profession. Mental health counselors may further specialize in a specific setting, such as clinical counseling; a certain level of practice such as prevention or intervention; or in specific areas of counseling, such as addiction or gerontology.14 Mental health counselors make a median annual wage of $38,150 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and can expect job growth of 36% between 2010 and 2020.

Urban Planner

As cities, communities, and the global infrastructure at large grow and become more interconnected, job growth of 16% is predicted for urban planners from 2010 to 2020. Urban planners analyze the existing structure and needs of a given area to create and implement plans to maximize the use of resources and land in order to meet community needs or goals. To undertake this work, urban planners must have an understanding of various disciplines including economics and law, as well as theories and concepts within sociology such as demographics and social needs.15 The median annual salary for this profession is $63,040.

Police Officer

Police officers are among the most visible professionals in the criminal justice system. A sociology degree is considered good preparation for a career as a police officer since an understanding of social dynamics can help police officers better understand criminal behavior and social influences on crime.5 Considerable on-the-job training, beginning after graduation from the department police academy, is required for most police officer positions. This is because police officers must perform many different tasks in an average day, from responding to calls and managing investigations to interacting with and educating the public.6 For this work, police officers earn an average salary of $53,540 per year.

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers work in local, state, and federal prisons supervising individuals who have been incarcerated. This work demands a high degree of professionalism, as correctional officers must care for as well as manage the individuals under their supervision.7 In addition, in many institutions correctional officers have begun to assume responsibilities for assessing and monitoring prisoner health and welfare as well as safety.7 Though the work can be physically and mentally stressful, career correctional officers can find a high degree of job satisfaction in helping the incarcerated overcome challenges.8 The median annual pay for correctional officers is $39,020 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Probation Officer

When former prisoners have served their time, it is the job of probation officers to help those formerly incarcerated to successfully return to society and avoid a return to criminality. A degree in sociology can be particularly suitable preparation for a probation officer career; in fact, an entire discipline within sociology, known as sociological criminology, is devoted to analyzing and predicting the relationships and influences between sociology and criminology.5 Probation officers monitor parolees on a regular basis, which can include such tasks as drug testing, arranging for health care, and supervising or facilitating parolees’ efforts to find employment.8 The median rate of pay for this occupation is $47,200; to become a probation officer, candidates must usually have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors provide counseling and intervention to clients who are struggling with addiction and other negative behaviors. The focus of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling is on individual and public health, including the social and societal influences that cause or encourage deviant behavior which can be studied within the framework of sociology.17 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors may provide intervention, clinical supervision, individual and group treatment modules, and other services to clients.14 Though a career in substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling can be started with a high school diploma in some areas, those with a college education are enabled to provide greater services with less supervision, which can be a career advantage.

Social and Human Service Assistant

Social and human services assistants work with social workers, counselors, and other health and human services professionals to provide aid for individuals and community groups. They may hold different titles, such as social work assistant, counselor assistant, case work aide, or human service worker. The duties of a social and human services assistant may therefore change according to the setting in which they work, but generally these professionals are responsible for assisting clients in finding and accessing help.18 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social and human services assistants make a median annual wage of $28,200, and have job growth prospects of 28% between 2010 and 2020. A college degree in a field like sociology can allow social and human service assistants opportunities for career advancement.18

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers are responsible for overseeing and coordinating service programs or the organizations offering such programs. These professionals make a median salary of $57,950 per year, and usually must have a bachelor’s degree. Social and community service managers commonly work for non-profit and government agencies, and have responsibilities such as coordinating with contractors, managing service availability, and supervising counselors, social workers, and other staff.19 The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for social and community service managers will be faster than average between 2010 and 2020, with a rate of growth of 27%. Sociology graduates with an interest in management may be eligible for positions as social and community service managers, especially with related experience in the public services field.19

Research Assistant

Professionals in nearly all fields use research to provide information to support day to day work such as organizational decisions, new theories or business models, and grant applications. Research assistants help these professionals find and interpret the available research, and can be found working in environments as diverse as educational institutions, advertising and marketing departments, and law firms.20 A bachelor’s degree is a typical qualification for this work. A degree in sociology can provide the well-rounded education that employers seek when hiring research assistants.20 Research assistants working in the social sciences make a median annual wage of $37,140 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Survey Researcher

Survey researchers conceptualize, design, and administer surveys to acquire information. A degree in sociology can help individuals prepare for careers as survey researchers given the research and methodology focuses found in most sociology degree programs. A sociology degree can also prepare survey researchers to work with different populations and understand how to design and interpret objective survey questions, an important component of survey researchers’ work. Furthermore, many surveys have a sociological focus or can be influenced by sociological factors.21 Survey researchers make a median annual salary of $36,050 per year, with an anticipated job growth rate between 2010 and 2020 of 24%.

Human Resources Specialist

A job growth rate of 21% is predicted for human resources specialists between 2010 and 2020. Human resources specialists are generally at the entry level of a career in human resources management, and commonly help organizations in the public, private, non-profit, and government sectors find, screen, interview, and select candidates for open positions. They may also assist in designing and implementing company policies, overseeing training and development programs, and other human resources related tasks.22 The median salary of human resources specialists is $52,690 per year.

Additional Resources about Sociology Careers

1. Giddens, Anthony and Simon Griffiths. Sociology. 5th ed. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006. Print.
2. Andersen, Margaret L. and Howard F. Taylor. Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. 4th ed. Belmont: Thomson Higher Education, 2006. Print.
3. Birkenmaier, Julie, Marla Berg-Weger, and Martha P. Dewees. The Practice of Generalist Social Work. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
4. Higham, Patricia. Social Work: Introducing Professional Practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2006. Print.
5. Guarino-Ghezzi, Susan and A. Javier TreveƱo. Understanding Crime: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Albany: Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., 2005. Print.
6. Bumbak, Ann. Dynamic Police Training. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2011. Print.
7. O’Tolle, Sean and Simon Eyland. Corrections Criminology. Sydney: Hawkins Press, 2005. Print.
8. Siegel, Larry and Clemens Bartollas. Corrections Today. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.
9. Van Hamersveld, Mario and Cees de Bont, eds. Market Research Handbook. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2007. Print.
10. Smith, David Van Lloyd and JH Fletcher. The Art & Science of Interpreting Market Research Evidence. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2004. Print.
11. Thompson, Rosemary. School Counseling: Best Practice for Working in the Schools. 2nd ed. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2002. Print.
12. Eliason, Grafton T. and John Patrick, eds. Career Development in the Schools. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2008. Print.
13. Palmo Artis J., William J. Weikel, and David P. Borsos. Foundations of Mental Health Counseling. 3rd ed. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher LTD, 2006. Print.
14. Guindon, Mary H. A Counseling Primer: An Introduction to the Profession. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
15. Houghton, Gillian. Careers in Urban Planning. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2003. Print.
16. Bayer, Michael, Nancy Frank, and Jason Valerius. Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010. Print.
17. Clinard, Marshall Barron and Robert F. Meier. Sociology of Deviant Behavior. 13th ed. Belmont: Thomson Higher Education, 2008. Print.
18. Cohn, Jessica. Top Careers in Two Years: Education and Social Services. New York: Ferguson, 2008. Print.
19. Greve, Carsten and Niels Ejersbo. Contracts as Reinvented Institutions in the Public Sector: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2005. Print.
20. Facts on File. Career Discovery Encyclopedia. 7th ed. New York: Ferguson, 2009. Print.
21. Glock, Charles Young. Survey Research in the Social Sciences. Hartford: Russell Sage Foundation, 1967. Print.
22. Burrow, James L., Brad Kleindl, and Kenneth E. Everard. Business Principles and Management. 12th ed. Mason: Thomson Higher Education, 2008. Print.
23. Strayer, Susan D., et al. Vault Guide to Human Resources Careers. New York: Vault Inc., 2005. Print.