Sociologists study all aspects of social life, from small groups to large-scale institutions. The discipline emphasizes the impact of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and social class on privilege and social relations. Students in this major learn about socialization across the life cycle, crime and deviance, social conflict, social inequality, and globalization.
The BLS projects an 11% increase in employment for social scientists and related workers between 2016 and 2026.
As the U.S. grows more diverse, the skills acquired in a sociology degree are increasingly valuable. The study of sociology is a springboard to exciting careers in research, policy analysis, human services, and other positions requiring a strong social science foundation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11% increase in employment for social scientists and related workers between 2016 and 2026. Scientific research, government, higher education, advocacy, and counseling offer the highest paying prospects for sociology graduates, with career opportunities and salary potential increasing with advanced training and experience.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Sociology?
Students drawn to sociology realize the importance of understanding complex social phenomena and using that insight to address social problems like racism, sexism, poverty, immigration, environmental crises, and global conflict. In addition to providing a theoretical and factual foundation for the study of social issues, a sociology degree teaches the statistical and research skills required to address and alleviate these problems. The best sociology programs stress research methodology and applied knowledge. These programs also teach students how to evaluate and conduct comparative and historical analyses; how to apply statistical and quantitative techniques to data collection; and how to perform qualitative research using methods such as interviews, participant observation, and content analysis.
Many schools offer undergraduate sociology degrees in online and on-campus formats. An online bachelor’s degree is an appealing option for working professionals interested in exploring new career opportunities or those whose personal responsibilities keep them from attending a campus-based program.
Students in traditional on-campus programs benefit from the interaction with other students in their cohort, collaborating on group assignments or applied sociological projects in local communities. As graduation nears, they benefit from their school’s career placement services and opportunities for internships and independent research experiences. A degree from one of the top sociology programs offers a competitive edge for those applying to graduate or professional schools, as well as for those moving directly into the workforce.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Sociology?
Sociology is among the most versatile social science majors. An undergraduate sociology degree opens doors to many interesting careers, especially for graduates with statistical and research skills. Those who earn advanced degrees find even more opportunities for career advancement. Because sociologists design research projects, collect data, and write and present their findings, they must acquire strong critical thinking and communication skills. The emphasis on diverse populations, contentious social problems, and groups in conflict requires sociologists to develop empathy and understanding. While many sociologists find employment as researchers or policy analysts, they also work in secondary or postsecondary education, social work, human resources, and legal fields.
Sociologists design and conduct research projects that examine groups, cultures, institutions, and organizations. They use statistical techniques and qualitative and quantitative methods to study social issues, including race, gender, social inequality, poverty, and crime. Most positions require a master’s or a Ph.D. in sociology. Advanced graduate work in sociology requires a bachelor’s degree in the field.
Median Annual Salary: $79,650
Projected Growth Rate: 1%
- Market Research Analyst
Many companies hire market research analysts to examine potential sales and demand for products and services. They collect and analyze data on consumer trends, competitors, and market conditions. Most positions require an undergraduate degree. Employers often hire sociology graduates with training in statistics and research methods.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Survey Researcher
Governments, nonprofits, and industries depend on information gathered through research. Survey researchers help these organizations collect and analyze data, apply statistical software, and evaluate findings. Although employment as a survey researcher often requires graduate training, a bachelor’s degree in sociology can lead to entry-level positions, especially for those trained in research methodology and statistics.
Median Annual Salary: $54,270
Projected Growth Rate: 2%
- Social Worker
Social workers assist individuals and communities in coping with a variety of problems. They often work in schools, healthcare clinics, and mental health facilities. Although employment as a clinical social worker requires a master’s degree and supervised experience, a bachelor’s in sociology or a related field can lead to entry-level positions as case workers or non-clinical assistants.
Median Annual Salary: $47,980
Projected Growth Rate: 16%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Sociology Program
Do your homework before choosing a sociology program. Pay attention to the school’s accreditation status, program rankings, and reputation. With so many options for on-campus and online sociology degrees, ask yourself what works best for you. Are you planning to attend full time, or do you need a flexible, part-time schedule that allows you to keep working or handle your family obligations?
Sociology covers a broad range of issues, but many programs emphasize a specific focus. Do the courses and specializations reflect your interests and career goals? Does the program require a capstone course, an internship, or an independent research project or thesis? The best sociology programs provide prospective students with information about the number of graduates who found employment or how many have gone on to earn graduate or professional degrees.
Cost represents one of the most important considerations in selecting a program. Tuition rates vary considerably between public and private institutions. The school’s location also contributes to the cost. Some online programs may require you to travel to campus for in-person residencies. If you select a traditional campus-based program, do you plan to commute or live in an apartment or a student residence? Can you rely on public transportation, or do you need a vehicle? Check out the cost of living, food and gas prices, and housing expenses where your intended school is located. If you know you must work while attending school, ask about work-study or other on-campus job opportunities. What are the possibilities for off-campus employment?
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor’s in Sociology Programs
Students should understand the importance of earning their degree from an accredited institution. Independent accrediting agencies evaluate schools to ensure that they deliver quality education. The majority of accredited schools receive regional accreditation; institutions with lower tuition rates and less restrictive admissions policies may opt for national accreditation. Find out if your intended school has been awarded accreditation at the national or regional level, and if the sociology degree has earned programmatic accreditation from the Commission on the Accreditation of Programs in Applied and Clinical Sociology (CAPACS).
Programs or departments within a school that already received accreditation may seek programmatic accreditation. The best sociology programs have earned CAPACS programmatic accreditation. This specialized designation recognizes quality programs in applied, clinical, and public sociology, and sociological practice. While CAPACS accreditation may be a factor when choosing your program, especially if your career goals are in clinical and applied sociology, keep in mind that relatively few sociology programs have earned this designation.
Bachelor's in Sociology Program Admissions
Students who intend to enroll at a traditional brick-and-mortar college right after high school should begin researching different schools as soon as 11th grade. While most schools set application deadlines for February of senior year, students can apply as early as the summer after junior year. Students should select two or three “target schools” they most want to attend. They should also decide on a few “safety schools,” where they feel fairly confident about their admission chances, and one or two “reach schools,” where the competition may eliminate them from the acceptance pool.
Each school sets its own admission requirements. While many on-campus programs consider SAT or ACT scores, most schools give considerable weight to overall academic performance, co-curricular service, and other factors. Because online programs often target admission at working professionals or others who have been out of school for a while, their admissions requirements may not require standardized tests or a minimum GPA.
- Minimum GPA: Most schools require a baseline GPA of 2.5 or 3.0. Schools may also look favorably at a GPA that has improved from ninth grade and view a declining GPA negatively.
- Application: Some colleges use short application forms requesting basic information, while others require much more documentation. CommonApp, a college admission tool, helps streamline the process. Students can apply to any of its 750 member schools by completing one form.
- Transcripts: A high school transcript shows your grades, classes completed, and overall GPA. Most colleges require a stamped, official transcript submitted with the application.Some high schools charge a small fee for preparing and mailing transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Some colleges may require three or more recommendations. Make sure you ask for letters at least a month or more before the application deadline. Choose teachers and advisers who will describe you in positive ways that set you apart from other applicants.
- Test Scores: Students take the SAT or ACT during their junior year or early in their senior year. Colleges consider test scores as one of many factors in their admission decision. Most schools do not mandate a minimum cutoff score.
- Application Fee: Students can expect to pay an average of $40 for each college application. Students with financial hardships may request a fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Sociology Program?
While program requirements vary by school, most sociology degrees consist of a core set of courses in social theory, research methods, socialization and society, social inequality, and social change. As students progress through the major, they may choose from elective courses and concentrations that align with their interests and career goals.
|Social Inequalities and Social Identities||This concentration explores how the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, and other social locations shape inequalities and identities. It examines how social hierarchies emerge and reinforce each other. Coursework includes social stratification, race and ethnicity, social construction of race, sociology of gender, masculinities and sexualities, and women and social change.||Researchers and applied sociological practitioners in government or nonprofit agencies, social workers, community organizers, law professionals, public policy researchers|
|Globalization and Social Change||Students study global issues within the context of sociological theory and research. Areas of analysis include global markets, global culture and consumption, socioeconomic development, global inequality and poverty, and immigration and migration. Coursework addresses how globalization intensifies these processes, creating new social challenges and opportunities for social transformation.||Policy analysts and researchers in internationally-focused nonprofits and government agencies, refugee services providers, immigration advocates|
|Crime, Deviance, and Social Control||This set of courses emphasizes the causes of crime and deviance and the social forces and institutions that regulate deviant and criminal behavior from a sociological perspective. It explores how norms, values, and culture shape behavior and attitudes, constructing social definitions of deviance and crime. Courses address juvenile delinquency, family violence, sexual abuse, drug culture, policing, and corrections.||Probation, law enforcement, and criminal justice officers; social workers; addictions counselors; victim advocates|
|Health and Social Welfare||This concentration attracts students interested in healthcare as a social problem. It examines the healthcare delivery systems in the United States and internationally, social conditions that create disparities in well-being and illness, and the social, economic, and political forces that inform health and welfare policies.||Social workers, gerontology administrators and caregivers, public health advocates, substance abuse counselors, policy researchers in government or nonprofit agencies|
|Mass Media and Popular Culture||Students explore the impact of mass media and popular culture, including films, television, popular music, and social media with an emphasis on how media vehicles create and filter meaning throughout society. Courses include technology and society, popular culture, race and gender, film and society, and privacy and community in the digital age.||Arts and cultural production specialists, media researchers and educators, social media managers, marketing researchers|
Courses in a Bachelor’s in Sociology Program
Because sociology covers such a broad range of topics, each program offers a different approach, depending on the expertise of the faculty. While a common curriculum does not exist, many sociology degrees require foundational courses in sociological theory and research methodology. Most programs also offer electives and concentrations addressing a variety of social processes and social problems.
- Race and Race Relations
This course explores macro-level and micro-level theories that explain the experiences of racial and ethnic groups, emphasizing a critical race perspective and the ways that individual perceptions and interactions across racial and ethnic groups relate to structural patterns. This course aligns with the career goals of students interested in policy analysis and research in government and nonprofit agencies.
This introduction to the study of gerontology applies a sociological perspective to the study of aging and the aged. Students analyze issues unique to an aging population, including demographic trends, retirement, and healthcare, through a life course methodology. Gerontology can lead to career opportunities in healthcare, advocacy, and social work administration assisting the elderly.
- Social Services and Social Welfare
This course surveys social service systems and the major fields of practice within the profession of social work, including child and family welfare, juvenile delinquency, health and occupational social work, and criminal justice. This course helps students prepare for entry-level positions in social services and provides a foundation for graduate work in social work and related fields.
- Gender and Violence
This examination of the structural roots of gender-based violence covers domestic abuse, sexual assault, harassment and workplace abuse, hate crimes, law enforcement abuse, international violence, and gender-focused genocide. The course requires participation in anti-violence training and organizing, where students acquire skills to work as victim advocates and domestic abuse counselors.
- Social Inequality
The study of inequality examines social theories and empirical analysis of class, wealth, income, age, race and gender inequality, and stratification. Students explore historical and comparative analyses of structural inequality; the U.S. class system; and global perspectives on wealth, poverty, and social mobility. This course helps students prepare for career paths in policy research and community organizing.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Sociology?
A sociology degree generally takes four years of full-time study. Most programs require 120 credits, or about 40 courses. Several factors affect the length of time to complete a bachelor’s degree. Students should consider whether they can attend classes full time or part time. Some students can maintain continuous enrollment over the course of eight semesters while others may have periods of nonattendance or opt for one or more semesters of part-time coursework. Full-time status usually requires 12 hours each semester, but students must take more than this minimum if they want to graduate in four years.
Students with work and family commitments may prefer the flexibility of an online degree. Some online programs offer accelerated degrees that students may complete in 18 months to two years. Students may shorten the time to complete a degree by bringing in transfer credits from other colleges or high school AP courses that exempt them from required or introductory courses.
How Much Is a Bachelor’s in Sociology?
The cost of an undergraduate education continues to increase. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), first-time, full-time undergraduates at both public and private nonprofit four-year institutions paid higher average tuition and fees in 2016-17 than in 2010-11. The NCES reports that the average tuition for public four-year institutions rose to $8,800 in 2016-17, which is a 12% increase from 2010-11. The average tuition for private nonprofit four-year institutions increased by 15% to $33,500 in the same period.
Many factors impact the overall cost of a sociology degree. Each college determines its tuition pricing differently. Students should consider whether programs at public institutions offer better value than private schools. They should compare out-of-state tuition rates to the cost of attending an in-state school. Students should also research expenses for books and supplies, room and board, food, and transportation.
When selecting colleges, research the cost of living in the communities around campus. Does your intended school offer on-campus work-study opportunities? What about the outlook for off-campus employment? Make sure to investigate financial aid. Should you apply for a student loan, or do you qualify for any aid in the form of scholarships or grants?
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor’s in Sociology Prepares For
Currently, only applied and clinical sociologists with advanced degrees may seek certification credentials. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in sociology working in social services or criminal justice positions may sometimes apply for specialized licensure or certifications in fields like addictions counseling and conflict mediation.
- Certified Sociological Practitioner
This certification, awarded by the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS), establishes standards of excellence in sociological practice and recognizes the accomplishments of experienced sociological practitioners who work in the fields of applied, clinical, or engaged public sociology. Applicants must hold a master’s or doctoral degree in sociology and provide substantial documentation of their contributions to applied practice.
- Certified Clinical Sociologist
The AACS awards this certification to sociologists who demonstrate active engagement in the application of sociological perspectives to the analysis and design of intervention for positive social change. Sociologists working in clinical settings with a master’s or Ph.D. may apply for this certification.
Resources for Sociology Students
This useful social science information site, maintained by the University of Amsterdam, provides links to international data archives and research centers. It hosts a comprehensive listing of subject areas in sociology that includes annotated bibliographies and study guides.
This annual report presents case studies, analysis, and recommendations on all aspects of global economic development. Recent reports considered issues related to healthcare delivery, economies in transition, and environmental challenges.
Published by the National Opinion Research, the GSS monitors changes in social characteristics and attitudes held by the U.S. population on such issues as race relations, crime, confidence in public institutions, and quality of life.
Geared toward students and educators, this entertaining and informative blog presents sociological perspectives on current news events and social problems. Sociologists from across the U.S. contribute commentary on issues ranging from immigration and violence to racial and gender inequality.
This Twitter feed provides news and commentary on current events, and links to research and policy statements relevant to sociologists and students. It often reports on controversial topics but attempts to stay grounded in sociological theory and based in fact.
Professional Organizations in Sociology
Sociology students should explore employment and graduate study possibilities long before they finish their degree. Joining a professional organization as an undergraduate provides an excellent opportunity to network with aspiring and established sociologists, learn about careers and internships, and stay current about developments in the field. Professional associations for sociologists embrace many specialized interests by sponsoring networking events and conferences. Student members can take advantage of their job banks, resume services, and career development resources.
ASA serves over 13,000 members. It sponsors an annual academic conference, hosts an extensive resource site providing information on careers, professional development, and graduate training, and maintains a job bank.
ABS promotes the interests of African American sociologists. It works to increase the number of professionally-trained black sociologists and advocates to expand their participation throughout the discipline. The association hosts an annual conference and maintains a job bank for its members.
This interdisciplinary association brings together sociologists interested in research, social policy, and social action. Undergraduate and graduate members have access to annual meetings and applications for research support and conference travel grants.
ISA members include practicing sociologists from across the world. It sponsors networking and professional development opportunities and offers several publications to keep its members abreast of the latest research.
This organization promotes women in sociology by encouraging scholarship, career development, and institutional diversity. It offers a mentoring program and publishes Gender and Society, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the study of gender across global and transnational spaces.