Sociology Degree Information

What Is Sociology?

Sociology is the study of society including how groups of people interact, behave, and develop. It also looks at how forms of social structure such as class, race, and religion affect people’s actions and opportunities. These interesting concepts are cited as some of the top reasons students choose to major in sociology, according to a survey by the American Sociological Association.

Why Pursue a Degree?

In addition to studying an inherently interesting subject, a sociology degree can help a graduate qualify for a diverse range of job opportunities in various fields. The flexibility of a sociology degree can be a great benefit in a rapidly changing work environment and allow for many options after graduation. A sociology degree provides great preparation for jobs that require strong analytical and research skills. It also provides a strong foundation for getting into a graduate school like law school.

Earning a degree from an accredited program can help open the door to a wide range of possible career opportunities from social work to business.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Sociology?

While there are is a wide range of career options, the most common occupations for graduates of a bachelor’s in sociology program include social services, counselors and psychologists. A significant number of sociology degree graduates also go into roles in management, marketing, and teaching. The critical thinking, research skills, and understanding of human behavior gained from completing a sociology degree can be applicable to virtually any career field including the ones mentioned here. Many sociology bachelor degree program graduates are well-prepared to go on to graduate schools such as law school or a master’s in sociology program due to the strong analytical and research skills that are developed.

General and concentrated sociology degree holders may qualify for positions within social service and government agencies such as case managers and counselors. Depending on their area of specialization, this degree may also allow candidates to secure positions in banking, marketing, and other research-based roles. Many students also choose to pursue an undergraduate degree in sociology to gain acceptance into graduate programs in law, medicine, and education (http://www.soc.cornell.edu/undergrad/why-major/).

Most liberal arts colleges also offer undergraduate degree candidates the opportunity to declare a minor in sociology in conjunction with major such as political science (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/soc/undergraduate/minor.html).

It is important to note that according to the American Sociological Association, there is a wide variety of occupations that accept sociology degree holders as suitable candidates. In the January 2008 ASA report, over one-quarter of all sociology degree grads worked in social services, with the remainder finding employment in administration, management, sales, education and other related fields (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193041.htm).

Degrees by Level

The level of education that you choose to pursue is largely dependent on your career goals. A bachelor’s degree can provide a good educational foundation in social science that can qualify you for many entry-level positions that require a bachelor’s degree and good analytical and research skills. Additional education at the master’s level may lead to better job conditions including higher salary and promotion depending on the field. A doctorate degree in sociology can lead to a career in academia as an assistant professor or research associate.

How to Become a Sociologist

Students applying to sociology undergraduate degree programs generally need to meet the arts admission requirements of their chosen school prior to declaring a sociology major. Once accepted, students can select from options including study abroad semesters, research opportunities and co-op placements (http://www.soc.cornell.edu/undergrad/additional-info/).

Common Curriculum

Most sociology students begin their studies with an undergraduate degree majoring in either general sociology or a related concentration such as American and international studies, economics, law or gender issues. A sociology degree generally begins with introductory courses focused on research methodologies, statistics and sociological theory, followed by upper-level coursework which allows students to focus their interests in a particular area of concentration (http://www.soc.cornell.edu/undergrad/soc-major/).

Sociology Terms and Definitions

The word sociology has Latin roots – socius translates to the English word companion; the suffix -ology refers to the study of something. Knowing that sociology is the study of one’s companions sparks keen interest in people who want to know why people do what they do. Start here with this quick dictionary – Sociology: Terms and Definitions – and make it your own as your knowledge of the science of social behaviors expands and your list of sociology’s terms and definitions grows.

Antipositivism – The belief that society is best studied in a loosely structured way that relies on observation and anecdote (qualitative) rather than the scientific study of positivism (quantitative).

Applied Sociology – Uses the pure findings of sociological research to gain better understanding of issues such as education, marriage, ethnic relations, criminology, and community.

Computational Sociology – The use of artificial intelligence and computer simulations to analyze complex statistical data to model or predict social interaction.

Comte, Auguste (1798-1857) – French science philosopher who unified the studies of economics, history, and psychology to define the field of sociology.

Gender Roles – Behavioral and societal differences said to be inseparable with how an individual relates to his or her social culture.

Human Ecology – Studies the relationships within a given population from a natural and behavioral perspective to assess situations such as criminality and mental illness.

Individual Agency – The ability of an individual to make independent choices, acting on free will; contrast with social structure.

Marx, Karl (1818-1883) – Considered by many to be the true father of sociology; contrast with August Comte.

Modernity – the period of time after the medieval that marks a move away from an agriculture-based feudal society to a more urban-based society driven economically by capitalism and industrialism and culturally by the philosophies of nation-state relations, secularization, and rationalism.

Nuclear Family – Considered a central element of a stable society, this social unit consists of a father, mother, and their offspring sharing the same living quarters.

Population, or Demography – Studies the quantifiable numbers defining a population, such as racial, gender, or age composition.

Positivism – Comte’s belief that scientific appreciation of the past leads to better understanding of the future in regard to theology and the metaphysical realm, thereby improving society in general.

Sieyes, Emmanuel-Joseph (1748-1836) – French essayist who first used the word sociology in a manuscript (that was never published).

Social Change and Disorganization – Studies the way disruptions in cultural or social relationships affect an individual or society.

Social Organization – Studies the various institutions and stratifications that make up a society.

Social Psychology – Studies how individual human nature is affected by life in a group.

Social Sciences – All fields of study that examine society, including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, communication, criminology, education, linguistics, and political science.

Social Structure – Patterns of social arrangement that define a society and influence individual choice, such as schools, government, and local law; contrast with individual agency.

Sociological Theory and Method – Studies how the regulation of one’s environment affects the life of a group.

Additional Resources

Featured Sociology Resources

See our many information resources to learn about sociology education and careers.

1. American Sociological Association: http://www.asanet.org/research/BachelorsinSociology.pdf
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193041.htm
3. Cornell University Department of Sociology: http://www.soc.cornell.edu/undergrad/why-major/
4. Stanford University: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/soc/undergraduate/minor.html