(some information courtesy of the American Sociological Association)
Most people who think of themselves as “sociologists,” or have the word “sociologist” in their job title, have graduate school training like a master’s degree or a Ph.D., but people with a BA in sociology apply the sociological perspective to a wide variety of jobs in such sectors as education, law, the health professions, the criminal justice system, social services, activism, business, and government. Often, any of these areas can apply to urban or rural communities, or even on a larger scale such as in global development in “developing” countries.
“What can I do with a BA in Sociology?”
As a strong social science 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. An Applied Sociologist often does surveys to gather information about a group or community or sector of the population. Someone doing applied sociology can work for a political party, a special interest group, the government, their city council, or any job that requires some knowledge of what “drives” a society.
- Provides strong social science preparation for entry level positions throughout the business, social service, and government worlds. Employers often look for people with the skills that an undergraduate education in sociology provides. Because a sociological perspective requires students to think “outside of the box” or even often “outside of your own comfort zone,” sociology majors are equipped with the necessary tools to think critically about complex issues and to understand (or be open to understanding) various perspectives. Majoring in sociology will also help your reading and writing abilities, much-needed skills in today’s marketplace, and it should garner in you an open mind to new ideas.
- Offers valuable preparation for careers in journalism, politics, public relations, business, or public administration – fields that involve investigative skills and a call to diversity, since its subject matter is intrinsically fascinating and broad-based.
In short, sociology, as a broad liberal arts degree, is applicable to those careers that require a deep understanding of human behavior and social interactions.
Over the last decade, a variety of studies and media investigations have examined what exactly today’s employers are looking for. Here are some perspectives:
“Business executives appreciate long-term outcomes of a college education, the preparation not simply for a job but for a long and varied career. According to a study commissioned by Hobart & William Smith Colleges, business leaders value liberal arts grads for their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, strong writing and speaking skills, self-discipline, exposure to diverse ideas, and global perspective. And they hire them because it makes good sense in a global business environment marked by constant change. Rather than developing a trade good for one particular job, liberal arts graduates develop a broad base of knowledge and skills that prepare them for evolving challenges over the long haul.” Source: Studley, J. (2003, Sept/Oct). Are liberal arts dead? Careers & Colleges, 24(1), 17.
“A liberal education is what teaches people how to write and how to think and makes them much more valuable in the job market over a 40-year career than graduates of a preprofessional program,” says James Freedman, retired president of Dartmouth. Source: Rimer, S. (2003, February 19). Justifying a Liberal Arts Education in Hard Times. New York Times, p. B7.
“Tomorrow’s world of work will be characterized by rapidly changing careers, shifting relationships with employers, and many other dramatic changes in work life. In such a dynamic environment, the specialization paradigm of a university education won’t work well; a liberal arts education may be much more valuable…Already, new challenges and opportunities pop up practically every day in all sorts of organizations, and grasping these new opportunities demands an ability to think creatively. Insightful leaders now recognize that a liberal arts education prepares graduates to think more broadly, to conceptualize at a multidisciplinary level that’s more responsive to the increasingly broad issues confronting people in all walks of life.” Source: Herman, R.E. (2000, July/August). The case for liberal arts. The Futurist, 34 (4), 16-17.
“Business executives appreciate long-term outcomes of a college education, the preparation not simply for a job but for a long and varied career. According to a study commissioned by Hobart & William Smith Colleges, business leaders value liberal arts grads for their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, strong writing and speaking skills, self-discipline, exposure to diverse ideas, and global perspective. And they hire them because it makes good sense in a global business environment marked by constant change. Rather than developing a trade good for one particular job, liberal arts graduates develop a broad base of knowledge and skills that prepare them for evolving challenges over the long haul.” Source: Studley, J. (2003, September/October). Are liberal arts dead? Careers & Colleges, 24(1), 17.
Students choose sociology because they see it as a broad social science 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 Ph.D. in Sociology?”
With advanced degrees, the more likely it is that a job will have the title of “Sociologist,” but many other opportunities exist. 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 3,000 colleges and universities offer sociology courses in the United States.
- Sociologists enter the corporate, non-profit, and government worlds as directors of research, policy analysts, consultants, human resource managers, public health workers, and program managers. Sociologists are also linked with global development and are often a part of the United Nations (U.N.), the World Health Organization (WHO), or even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- Practicing sociologists with advanced degrees may be called research analysts, survey researchers, gerontologists, foresters, lobbyists, statisticians, urban planners, community developers, criminologists, or demographers. An example would be in rural areas that have been economically devastated by something like the closure of small businesses following the opening of a Wal-Mart, or the rise in unemployment when factories are moved to other countries for cheaper labor.
- Some MA 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.
Sociology, as a liberal arts degree, trains students to examine society in a broad manner. This means that students who major in sociology may be able to enter a wide variety of careers; a sociology degree is also good preparation for law school. For more information, learn what you can do with a sociology degree by exploring the resources below.
The American Sociological Association has prepared numerous publications to educate students about the value of a sociology degree. They have a rich website with much helpful information for students.
Last Updated May 5, 2022