Best Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

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By The BestColleges Rankings Team

Published on August 12, 2021

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Sociology involves the study of society, social behavior, and social issues that impact cultures, groups, and organizations. Individuals pursuing a master's in sociology learn how to address challenging cultural issues through the lens of statistics, research, and data analysis.

Sociology is one of the broadest fields of study, leading to numerous career opportunities for graduates with a master's. Sociologists work in government agencies, schools, healthcare facilities, and in social advocacy positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that sociologists earn a median annual salary of $83,420, over twice the median annual wage for all occupations.

Our master's in sociology program guide offers an in-depth look into common courses, career opportunities, and admission requirements.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Sociology Programs? Here Are Our Top 5:

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#1 Arizona State University Scottsdale, AZ
#2 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL
#3 New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM
#4 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
#5 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Sociology Programs

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Arizona State University View School Profile Scottsdale, AZ

Arizona State University is a leading research university that offers an online master of arts in sociology. Through an applied practitioner approach, this 30-credit program is designed to help students understand contemporary social issues.This non-thesis program can be completed in 15-18 months, culminating with a three-course capstone project. Students work with expert faculty members. who help guide their project. Graduates can pursue careers in human resources and social services, working for nonprofits and government agencies.While students can apply with a minimum 3.0 GPA, this program is highly competitive and prioritizes applicants with a 3.30 GPA or higher. Other requirements include official transcripts, an updated resume, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution.

University of Alabama at Birmingham View School Profile Birmingham, AL

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an online master of arts in applied sociology that focuses on sociological research, theory, and psychology. This MA program is a non-thesis pathway and culminates in a six-credit, faculty-directed capstone project.

Comprising nine courses totaling 30 credits, this program's curriculum includes 12 credits of core courses, 12 credits of additional sociology electives, and six credits devoted to the capstone project. While the majority of courses are set, instructors often align assignments with their students' personal interests and goals to better prepare them for their professional careers.UAB charges the same tuition for in-state and out-of-state students — an attractive incentive for nonresidents looking for cost-effective programs. Applicants must have a background in social sciences to be admitted. Students with an unrelated bachelor's or master's degree who wish to enroll are considered on a case-by-case basis.

New Mexico State University View School Profile Las Cruces, NM

Founded in 1888, New Mexico State University is the oldest public institution in New Mexico. The university offers an online master's in sociology, covering topics like alternative economies, digital media, social movements, political and environmental sociology, popular culture, and social psychology.By exploring research design and theory, students can apply insights and findings to better understand individuals, groups, and communities. While this online program does not feature a thesis, students are required to take a comprehensive written exam.This program spans 36 credits and typically takes two years to complete. Admission requirements include a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and a minimum 3.0 GPA. However, students are not required to submit GRE scores.

Sam Houston State University View School Profile Huntsville, TX

Sam Houston State University — located in Huntsville, Texas — offers an online master of arts in sociology that explores methodological techniques, theoretical perspectives, and empirical evidence related to sociological theory.While every student is required to complete 37 credits, the exact curriculum depends on whether students pursue the thesis option or the comprehensive exam option. The thesis option consists of seven core courses and six electives, whereas the comprehensive exam option features five core courses and eight electives. Both tracks develop the skills needed to analyze social issues.

Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, a letter of intent, and a writing sample that highlights their critical thinking skills and sociology experience. Enrollment is limited to spring and fall terms; this program does not currently host summer sessions.

Virginia Commonwealth University View School Profile Richmond, VA

Virginia Commonwealth University offers a master of arts in sociology with a concentration in digital sociology. Comprising 10 courses and totaling 36 credits, this program is offered entirely online and can be completed in four semesters.

This master's in sociology blends data and sociology, preparing students to work in digitally focused areas and social movements. Coursework examines how diverse groups intersect with the digital world and how technology influences human behavior, relationships, and self-concepts. Students learn about important sociology concepts, literature evaluation, data analytics, and quantitative and qualitative reasoning.This program culminates in two projects, which take place in the third and fourth semesters, respectively. Both projects are designed by the student to demonstrate their ability to critically analyze a research question. Following the completion of these research projects, department faculty assess the student's eligibility to graduate.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Sociology Program?

Most online master's in sociology programs require 30-37 credits and take approximately two years of full-time study to complete.

Sociology majors research and analyze data to define industry trends, develop or improve community programs, formulate public policy, and address social issues such as discrimination.

Success in this field requires an analytical nature, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and an aptitude for research and investigative inquiry. Sociologists also prepare reports and presentations, necessitating effective communication and writing abilities.

Most online master's in sociology programs require 30-37 credits and take approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Some schools offer accelerated tracks, which students can complete in about 18 months. Most programs culminate in a capstone project, a traditional thesis, and/or a comprehensive written exam.

Online sociology master's programs consist of a core curriculum with optional electives, which students can use to complete a concentration. Prospective students should consider programs with electives or concentration options in their chosen field.

Electives may cover topics like sociology of death and dying, race and ethnic groups, comparative criminology, deviant behavior, and healthcare delivery systems. Popular concentrations include education, healthcare, social services, digital media, criminology, and chemical dependency.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Sociology Programs

Most online master's in sociology programs require a bachelor's degree, with a minimum number of undergraduate credits in sociology or a closely related field. Many schools require applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit standardized test scores.

Some schools consider prospective students who fail to meet admission requirements on an individual basis. When making these decisions, schools may look at an applicant's professional experience and letters of recommendation from faculty members.

Learn more about applying for graduate school and common admission requirements in our graduate admissions guide.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Sociology Program?

Most online master's in sociology programs consist of core classes that cover sociological theory, research methods, social statistics, and data analysis. In addition to these courses, students may select electives related to education, criminology, healthcare, or other fields of interest.

The following courses represent typical options found in master's in sociology programs.

Sociological Theory

This course focuses on the three levels of inquiry in sociological theory. Macro-level analysis examines societal trends and the broad social issues that surround us, such as diversity, globalism, equality, and justice. Meso-level analysis investigates groups and their interactions. Micro-level analysis studies individuals, including their roles and identities.

Applied Sociological Research Methods

This course explores the fundamental principles and methods of social research. Covered topics include the scientific method; measurement, sampling, and research design; and methods of data collection, including questionnaires, observations, and experimentation. Students also explore ethical concerns relevant to qualitative and quantitative research.

Social Statistics

Students learn about statistical methods and models used to analyze survey data. Techniques include descriptive statistics, which involves describing and summarizing data, as well as inferential statistics, which involves testing hypotheses and making estimates about a population based on probability and assumptions. Coursework incorporates chi-square, t-tests, and cross-tabulation analysis.

Social Psychology

This course covers behavioral principles, including the cause and effect of an individual's choices and actions. Covered topics include emotions, gender, identity, mental health, status, race, and deviance. Through discussions and lectures, students explore the effects of persuasion and the social forces that influence one's behavior.

Social Science Data Analysis

In this course, students learn about the various sources available for social science research. Covered topics include simple univariate distributional statistics and bivariate regression and correlation. Students may practice with Statistical Package for the Social Sciences — a common software program used by sociologists.

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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Sociology Degree?

A master's in sociology prepares graduates to work in several fields, including business, education, healthcare, social services, law, and politics. A few common career paths for these professionals include sociologist, market research analyst, social and community service manager, and educator.

The BLS projects 18% job growth for market research analysts between 2019 and 2029. Social and community service managers also enjoy an above-average projected growth rate of 17%.

Learn more about sociology careers and see where a master's in sociology can take you by reading our sociology careers guide.

true Sociologist

Sociologists study social behavior by gathering data and conducting research on groups, cultures, and organizations. This data can help experts determine the social influences that affect people's lives, either as individuals or in the context of a group or institution. Most sociologists work in consulting firms, schools, government agencies, or research facilities. They may use research to recommend social programs or changes to public policy.

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts work for consulting firms or as part of a company's marketing team. These professionals use statistics and research to examine industry trends, survey customers, and test products and services. They also develop or determine the effectiveness of current marketing campaigns. While some market analyst positions only require a bachelor's degree, others require a master's degree. A master's can also help candidates prepare for leadership roles.

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers work in communities to identify needed services and suggest improvements to existing programs. They use research and statistics to evaluate programs and report this information to stakeholders and administrators. Numerous organizations, including government agencies, nonprofits, and family services groups, depend on these managers to oversee staff and programs.

Educator

A master's in sociology qualifies graduates to work as high school teachers or as professors at some community colleges. While most four-year universities require a Ph.D., some graduates can find work as nontenured lecturers or postsecondary education administrators. These administrators' duties vary depending on the size of the school but may include maintaining student records; overseeing registration; and preparing and analyzing data about students, classes, applications, and programs and services.

Survey Researcher

Survey researchers specialize in designing surveys to collect data from certain population groups. After gathering information, these researchers analyze results using statistical software and present reports on their findings. Survey researchers work for nonprofits, schools, polling organizations, and research firms. The BLS reports that survey researchers earn a median annual salary of $59,170.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Sociology Programs

Is a master's in sociology worth it?

Graduates with a master's in sociology typically earn higher wages than those who only hold a bachelor's. According to the BLS, individuals with a master's degree earn about $13,000 more in median annual salary than those with only a bachelor's degree. An online master's in sociology can lead to career opportunities working for government agencies, schools, and social services groups.

What can I do with a master's in sociology?

With a master's in sociology, graduates can become sociologists, market research analysts, survey researchers, social and community managers, and educators. These professionals work in various industries, including education, consulting, scientific research and development, and individual and family services.

Are sociologists in demand?

The BLS projects that employment of sociologists will grow 4% between 2019 and 2029 — about as fast as the average for all occupations. While graduates may face relatively stiff competition in certain roles, they should enjoy many opportunities in faster-growing careers, such as market research analyst and social and community service manager.

How much money can I make with a master's in sociology?

Annual salaries for graduates with a master's in sociology vary based on their position and industry. According to the BLS, sociologists earn a median annual salary of $83,420, while social and community service managers earn a median annual wage of $67,150. Sociologists who work in scientific research and development services boast an annual mean wage of $100,730.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a master's in sociology?

According to the BLS, human resource managers earn a median annual salary of $116,720 — one of the highest-paying positions for those with a master's in sociology. Additionally, postsecondary education administrators earn a median annual wage of $95,410.

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