Sociologists study human societies past and present. However, not all sociology careers take place in the library or university classroom. Many students choose a sociology major because courses blend history, psychology, economics, and other liberal arts topics, leading to positions as diverse as school teacher and politician. Sociology graduates enjoy strong job prospects, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the sociology field to grow 11% through 2026.
Start career planning as soon as possible. The program you select — along with the concentrations or specializations that program offers — influences which sociology careers you can obtain after graduation. While reflecting on your career goals, use the information in this article to explore sociology career requirements, degrees, roles, and salaries.
Skills Gained in a Sociology Program
Sociology programs emphasize the skills students need for future careers. For example, by writing essays, students hone communication, research, and analysis skills. The five skills below represent common competencies that sociology programs instill in students.
- Critical Thinking
Sociology requires students to use and improve their critical-thinking skills. Students practice this skill by participating in class discussions and making arguments when writing research papers and answering test questions.
Sociology courses require students to interpret and analyze information. In class, students evaluate arguments and propose alternatives. Most sociology careers require an analytical mindset, which may include analyzing a policy proposal or finding a logical flaw in a politician's argument.
Sociology majors hone verbal and written communication skills through essays, exams, class discussions, and internships. These skills prove vital to sociology careers, as nearly all companies and organizations seek employees with excellent communication skills to complete daily responsibilities.
Sociology students develop research skills through research projects and dissertations. Some programs boast courses that solely teach students how to become more effective researchers. On the job, professionals use research skills to find solutions and build arguments.
Most employers desire applicants with strong writing skills. Students develop writing skills through essays, research projects, and exams. Employers typically pay close attention to applicants' writing skills when reviewing cover letters and resumes.
Why Pursue a Career in Sociology?
As sociology emphasizes many different topics and skills, you can apply your education to nearly all careers that liberal arts majors pursue. With so many sociology careers to choose from, you can select positions aligned with your interests and career goals. Potential jobs for sociology graduates include postsecondary teacher, market research analyst, family therapist, and school administrator. No matter which sociology career you select, you can affect positive and lasting change in the world.
How Much Do Sociology Majors Make?
Your sociology career salary depends on many factors, such as experience and education. For example, your salary potential rises when you earn an advanced degree and gain professional experience. As demonstrated in the following chart, experienced employees earn significantly more than entry-level employees. Your industry and location also impact your salary. Larger companies and jobs in big cities often offer applicants the highest salaries; however, large cities also typically come with a higher cost of living than smaller cities.
Interview with a Professional
Laura Varnell has over 20 years of experience in the early childhood education arena and currently serves as a school business consultant for Primrose Schools Franchising Company. Laura is a master-level registered trainer in Texas and teaches the executive director credential course, a class that allows new directors in Texas to earn credentials to operate early learning programs. Laura holds both a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of North Texas and a master's degree in adult education and training.
- Why did you decide to pursue a degree and career in sociology?
I took a sociology class in high school and absolutely loved it. I was involved in the speech and debate team in high school, so I started college as a communications major. I loved the communications classes, but at the beginning of my junior year I decided to make communication my minor and pursue sociology as my major. I don't think I realized until I had been in college for a couple of years how much I was using concepts in sociology everyday, and I became fascinated by those concepts. Any social issue you can think of falls under the umbrella of sociology.
- What makes a sociology degree unique?
I think because the degree is so broad, it opens up many different opportunities for students pursuing it. Students have the opportunity to dive into multiple topics, like race, culture, religion, poverty, health, and stratification, and can then pinpoint what interests them the most and really focus on that. I was able to take so many interesting classes, and I still use information that I learned from them in my life every day.
One of my favorite classes was sociology of disasters. I took that class years ago but all of the principles have stayed the same. Students that enjoy classes like that could continue focusing on disasters and work for FEMA or the Red Cross. I was able to take courses like sociology of religion, health, aging, and statistics. I still remember key concepts from those classes that I use every day.
I feel like sociology has given me a special lens that not everyone has; it helps me to see how certain systems are set up, and those systems have a huge impact on our behavior and how we work together in society. The one class that has stuck with me the most was the sociology of family. Since I have worked in the early childhood and education industry for over 20 years, that class has helped me on a daily basis. By understanding different family types, dynamics, and trauma, I'm a better leader and more open to diversity in the families that we serve.
- What was the job search like after completing your degree?
I was already working in the childcare industry, and once I completed my degree I became the executive director for the program that I managed. We provided care for over 150 families. I later went on to become a regional manager, overseeing 19 schools in five states, and then was promoted to VP of strategy and development. I'm currently a consultant for a premier early learning franchise company, and I teach classes in Texas for those interested in entering the field of early education.
- Why did you decide to move into teaching? Is this a common career path for sociology graduates?
A couple of years after I completed my sociology degree, I decided to pursue a master's degree in adult education and training. I was able to combine my passion for sociology, teaching, and training into one purpose. For the last 12 years I have been a trainer and consultant for early childhood educators. One of the most popular classes I teach is parent communication, where we look at how we can effectively communicate with parents from different backgrounds and experiences.
- What advice would you give to students considering a degree and career in sociology?
Go for it! I can't think of a more relevant major than sociology. If you're interested in reforming the justice system, sociology is your major. If you are passionate about climate change, sociology is your major. If you want to open a nonprofit that helps women business owners start new businesses, sociology is your major. If you're interested in researching how the mental health crisis is impacting youth, sociology is your major.
- Any final thoughts for us?
I encourage anyone thinking of majoring in sociology to talk to current or former sociology students, audit a class, read a sociology book, or listen to a sociology podcast.
How to Succeed in Sociology
Depending on your career goals, you may need an associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctorate in sociology. Associate and bachelor's programs prepare graduates for entry-level careers (e.g., legal assistant), while master's programs give students the advanced education they need to pursue high-level roles, like policy analysts and research analyst. Sociology students who pursue a doctorate often plan to teach at colleges or universities, educating the next generation of sociologists while advancing the field through original research.
Second to education, your professional experience determines which sociology careers you can pursue. You can gain valuable experience by completing one or more internships or fellowships during your sociology program. Social work agencies, law offices, nonprofits, and many other industries accept undergraduate and graduate student interns. Besides bolstering your resume, internships help you decide which careers match your academic interests and career goals.
Licensure and Certification
As you research potential careers, determine if you need a license or certification in addition to a degree. Although few sociology careers require certification, earning one can improve your job prospects and salary potential.
User experience (UX) experts help companies make products more desirable by enhancing products' usability and accessibility. UX certification requires in-person training courses and exams.
Victim advocates work with crime victims to process their experiences and offer resources. Through the University of Georgia, sociologists of all experience levels can earn a Victim Advocacy Certificate by completing a seven-week course that emphasizes victims' rights and victim advocate skills.
Concentrations Available to Sociology Majors
Your sociology degree may offer several concentrations. Concentrations allow you to tailor your degree to your interests and goals. To complete a concentration, you take specialized courses in addition to your program's standard sociology curriculum. The following four concentrations are common among sociology programs, but concentration offerings vary so you should research the options at each prospective school.
- Global Studies: Students who complete a concentration in global studies analyze global health and health policy, international migration, and the political and social history of different regions. Courses focus on international trends, such as how strife affects culture, preparing students to work in careers that require knowledge of global issues.
- Sociology of Culture: Sociology of culture emphasizes how people's morals, religions, and mindsets affect their actions. Courses include theories of religious behavior, sociology of mass communication, and work and identity. Graduates can use their education to enter the Peace Corps, among other professions that require cultural competency.
- Sociology of Families and Populations: This concentration emphasizes how family influences cultural socialization. Students analyze how different cultural family norms affect societies through courses such as social stratification, family data, and family research. This concentration prepares students for careers in family therapy and counseling.
- Urban Sociology: Urban sociology analyzes how a city's density, ethnic makeup, and social services affect residents' actions and beliefs. Typical courses include social stratification, inequality, and the relationships between racial justice and the sociology of the law. Urban sociology graduates can work as urban planners.
What Can You Do With a Sociology Degree?
As a multidisciplinary field, sociology programs provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to work in many different careers. For this reason, you should start researching careers as soon as possible. You can attain an entry-level career with an associate or bachelor's in sociology degree. These careers offer valuable experience, but they typically pay less than careers that require a master's or doctorate in sociology.
Earning an advanced degree allows you to take on managerial roles with high levels of responsibility. Many experienced sociology professionals with advanced degrees return to college and university classrooms to educate the next generation of sociologists. Candidates with any degree can advance their careers by completing certifications and continuing education courses.
Associate Degree in Sociology
An associate degree in sociology offers an introduction to sociology courses and a valuable liberal arts education applicable to diverse careers. Associate degrees typically cost less than a bachelor's or advanced degree, allowing you to explore the subject without making a significant financial commitment.
After earning an associate degree, you can work in one of many entry-level positions that can help you decide on a long-term career. The sociology careers listed below represent common professions you can enter after earning an associate degree.
- Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors help people replace harmful behaviors with healthy ones. They interview patients to discover their addictions' root causes and run community outreach programs to educate communities about the dangers of addiction. An associate in sociology, along with some additional training, prepares sociology majors for this fulfilling career.
- Insurance Sales Agent
Insurance sales agents help companies gain new clients. They contact potential clients, explain insurance benefits, and help clients renew or cancel their policies. This position requires many skills sociology programs convey, like communication and research.
- Preschool Teacher
Preschool teachers help children through the age of five learn the academic and social skills necessary for success in kindergarten and beyond. They create engaging activities, identify behavioral and learning disorders, and plan curricula. Sociology graduates use their knowledge of different cultures to instill tolerance and acceptance in their students.
Bachelor's Degree in Sociology
Earning a bachelor's degree in sociology qualifies graduates for more entry-level careers than associate degrees. These careers often boast higher starting salaries and more responsibility.
The table below describes five popular career options for graduates. To ensure that your education prepares you for these and other sociology careers, research the top sociology programs. Many of the best programs boast an entirely online curriculum that allows you to continue working full or part time while earning your degree.
- Human Resources Specialist
Human resources specialists help companies find the best talent. They review resumes, contact references, and interview applicants. These professionals also play an important role in informing employees about the latest changes concerning company policies and benefits. Sociology graduates possess the communication, writing, and organizational skills needed to succeed in this position.
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts help employers create effective marketing campaigns. They gather and analyze consumer opinions, keep track of sales trends, and give reports to superiors. Sociology majors possess the group decision-making knowledge required for this position.
- Public Relations Specialist
When companies want to improve or maintain their image, they turn to public relations specialists. These professionals write press releases, give interviews, and survey the public concerning their employers' products or services. A sociology degree conveys many of the skills necessary to succeed in an entry-level public relations specialist position.
- High School Teacher
High school teachers instruct 9th- to 12th-grade students on core academic subjects and electives. Besides teaching 6-7 classes each day, high school teachers plan curricula, coach teams, and mentor students. A sociology degree in addition to a teacher preparation program qualifies graduates to teach at the high school level.
- Adult Literacy Teacher
Sociology programs' emphasis on writing and communication skills prepares students for careers as adult literacy teachers. These professionals help adults with literacy challenges improve their reading and writing skills.
Master's Degree in Sociology
Master's in sociology programs allow students to specialize in a sociology subfield. Master's students typically conduct original research and write a master's thesis on their specialization, honing the writing, research, and analytical skills necessary for many high-level sociology careers.
Many managerial-level sociology careers require a master's degree in addition to professional experience. These professions boast higher starting salaries than careers open to sociology graduates with associate or bachelor's degrees. To attain one of the careers below, research the top online master's in sociology programs.
- Survey Researcher
Companies and organizations hire survey researchers to develop surveys that reflect consumer opinions. Before releasing their surveys, survey researchers may test them with small groups. These professionals present their findings through charts and graphs. A master's degree provides the critical-thinking and analysis skills that companies desire in survey researchers.
- Instructional Coordinator
Instructional coordinators create and revise curricula for primary and secondary schools. They often visit schools, lead professional development seminars, and mentor teachers one-on-one. School districts desire applicants with teaching experience and advanced degrees.
Anthropologists study human behavior with regard to customs, religion, and other societal values. If they specialize in a foreign culture, anthropologists may travel extensively or live abroad as part of their jobs. As typical sociology programs emphasize anthropology topics, graduates can enter an anthropology career with minimal additional education or training.
- School and Career Counselor
School and career counselors help children and adolescents identify their strengths and weaknesses, explore career paths, and rectify social and academic issues. Counselors also collaborate with teachers and administrators to ensure that students receive the support they need inside and outside of the classroom. A master's degree in sociology prepares students for this position.
Doctoral Degree in Sociology
Unlike associate, bachelor's, and master's programs, doctoral programs emphasize original research. Doctoral students collaborate with professors on research projects, teach undergraduate courses, and often travel as part of their education. Typical doctoral programs take 4-6 years to complete. Students dedicate much of their time to researching and writing their dissertation. Students present and defend their dissertation in front of faculty advisors and professors.
Earning this terminal degree indicates to prospective employers that you are an expert in the field, qualifying you for roles such as tenure-track professor or postsecondary administrator.
- Postsecondary Teacher
Postsecondary teachers work in community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. They teach courses, hold office hours for students, and publish original research that they may present at conferences. Although many postsecondary teachers possess master's degrees, only teachers with doctorates qualify for tenure and department chair positions.
- Postsecondary Education Administrator
Postsecondary education administrators ensure that their schools provide students with an excellent education. They create departmental policy, appoint and promote faculty, and create department budgets. Doctorate in sociology graduates can become an academic dean after working as a professor and department chair.
Sociologists work for schools, governments, and research centers. They use their expertise to gauge people's opinions concerning social issues in order to affect change and create public policy. Doctoral programs' emphasis on original research prepares graduates for this fulfilling career path.
What Industries Can You Work in With a Sociology Degree?
Along with your degree and specialization, the industry you select influences your job title, responsibilities, and salary potential. Common industries for sociology graduates include research, government, academia, family services, and consulting. The following table briefly describes each industry and what type of roles sociologists can perform. Keep in mind that the industry that you select may involve different or additional responsibilities than what this article describes.
- Scientific Research and Development Services
The scientific research and development services industry creates new technologies and makes scientific discoveries. Typical sociology professionals in this industry work as survey researchers or in related positions.
- State Government
State governments hire sociologists to help form public policy through surveys and interviews. Sociologists present their results to elected officials and make recommendations.
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
Postsecondary institutions educate students and perform research. At colleges and universities, sociologists can teach classes, conduct research, and lead departments. These roles typically require a master's or doctoral degree.
- Individual and Family Services
Many sociology graduates pursue careers as counselors or therapists. In these roles, sociologists work with individuals and families to identify problems and propose solutions.
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
Companies retain consultants to solve problems or complete specialized projects. A sociology graduate may work as a market research consultant, advising businesses on how to market their products or services.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Do You Find a Job as a Sociology Graduate?
It is beneficial to start preparing for your future job as early as possible. Your school's career center may offer valuable services such as resume critiques, practice interviews, and personalized advice on what you can do to improve your career prospects. Your advisor may recommend earning an industry certification to make your resume stand out.
You can also consult professional organizations to learn more about sociology careers, network with professionals, and look for jobs. Consider starting your search at the Sociology Job Market Forum, American Sociological Association, or the International Sociological Association. The following section includes additional resources you can use to pursue a sociology career.
Professional Resources for Sociology Majors
Although based in the U.K., the BSA boasts members from all over the world. Members receive access to over 60 British sociology journals, a course on how to publish research, and an exclusive job board. International members pay a slightly higher membership rate, but student members receive a discount.
The International Sociology Honor Society, AKD boasts hundreds of chapters on college campuses throughout the United States. Members must maintain a minimum 3.3 GPA. Member benefits include a mentorship program, grants to present research at sociology conferences, and scholarship opportunities for minority students.
The SSS attracts professionals who work at colleges and universities in the southern United States. Professors and students training for careers in academia can join. All members receive access to the organization's quarterly newsletter, grant opportunities, and the SSS annual conference.
SWS advocates for women sociologists by funding research that promotes equality between the sexes. Men may also join, and all members receive access to the organization's private job board. Members also benefit from a mentorship program.
Practicing sociologists and graduate students can join the ESS. Members can present research at the society's annual meeting or at a regional mini-conference. Minority student members may qualify for the Charles V. Willie Minority Graduate Student Award.
The ESA represents over 2,800 members living throughout Europe. Although U.S.-based sociologists cannot join, visitors to the ESA website can still benefit from the association's publications. Undergraduate and graduate students planning to work in Europe should regularly consult the ESA website to stay up to date on the latest sociological research.
On LinkedIn, professionals from all backgrounds can network and post their resumes. Companies and organizations use LinkedIn to research and recruit talent. Employers also use it to post jobs, and users can set up personalized job alerts to learn about the latest opportunities.
ASR's more than 700 members study how religious beliefs impact societies. Undergraduate and graduate students can join for a low introductory rate. Each year, the ASR awards the Robert J. McNamara Student Paper Award to a graduate student who submits the best research paper.
Survey researchers and other professionals with sociology backgrounds can join AAPOR. Sociology graduate students pay a low membership rate and receive significant discounts on conference registrations. Students also benefit from the association's publications, which feature the latest research on surveying best practices.
AACS members work in nearly all sociology professions. Graduate student members receive the association's research journal and discounts on conference fees. Members who possess at least five years' experience may qualify for a clinical sociologist of certified sociologist certification.