When you pursue a master's in sociology online, you prepare yourself for a variety of meaningful careers focused on community service and bettering society as a whole. Sociology is primarily an academic discipline that studies human interaction and culture, and an advanced degree in the field is perfect for those who work well with others and wish to make the world around them a more just and positive place.

Many careers within sociology are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that community service management careers — a common path for those with an online sociology master's degree — will grow 18% over the next 10 years.

What are the best sociology programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:

Rank School Location
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

Sociology graduates have the skills and knowledge to understand how society works, which can be especially valuable when assisting those in need or developing successful programs and services. Whether you go on to become a university professor, program manager, social worker, case manager, or a professional in a different field, earning a master's in sociology online is a great step toward achieving your career goals.

What are the Best Online Master's in Sociology Programs?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Arizona State University

Scottsdale, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

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

Birmingham, AL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 58%

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

Las Cruces, NM Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 47%

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

Huntsville, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 52%

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

Richmond, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

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

Below, you will find a sample list of courses commonly offered through online master's degree programs in sociology. While course options differ between schools, this list should give you a good idea of the options available upon enrollment.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Sociology

  • Methods in sociology: This course provides a cohesive introduction to the methods commonly used in sociological inquiry, including social network analysis, comparative research, and ethnography. Students learn how to incorporate these methods into research. The class prepares students for their capstone projects.
  • Economic sociology: Students examine some of the most controversial issues in sociology, including the effects of capitalism, modernization, and development on communities and societies. The course also covers issues such as labor, entrepreneurship, inequality, social justice, and class systems around the world.
  • Fundamentals of ethnomethodology: This subset of sociology centers on the different ways members of a society can produce objects, actions, and events in ways that all can understand and agree upon. Specifically, students examine the social processes and norms that support various social phenomena, such as social structures, gender, race, and culture.
  • Sociology of religion: This course covers the relationships between society and religion, including the study of various religious symbols, practices, languages, and communities on a global scale. Students also explore historic and emerging religions, including how they affect cultures and ways congregations and denominations handle conflict.
  • Macro organizational theory: Students learn about the origins, maintenance, and decline of organizations in human cultures, including a variety of theories regarding why these structures exist and how they succeed or fail. In many cases, the course establishes sound research ideas for students' final capstone projects.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Sociology?

While most students can earn an online sociology master's degree in two or fewer years, many factors influence program length. One of the most significant factors is whether you can learn at your own pace or if the program is taught in a cohort format. In the former arrangement, you can take more credits each semester or term and finish your degree quickly. Cohort learning requires you to take all or most of your classes with the same group of students, limiting you to the pace of the cohort.

Students enrolled in sociology master's programs online generally take 32-40 credits, depending on the format of the program and whether the school follows semester or quarter terms.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Sociology Degrees

It is important to identify a regionally or nationally accredited online master's in sociology program. When a school or program holds accreditation, it has met rigorous curriculum and instruction quality standards. Regional accreditation holds more prestige, although there are many nationally accredited colleges and universities offering top-tier academic programs, including those in sociology.

When looking at potential online master's degree programs in sociology, search for those accredited through regional agencies like the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, or the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The most common national accrediting body is the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. In addition to the school overall, specific programs may also receive accreditation.

There are two main agencies that oversee the practices of the accrediting bodies themselves. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a full list of approved agencies. There is also the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, an independent nonprofit that maintains strict standards for how accrediting agencies must go about evaluating colleges, universities, and programs. It also maintains a list of approved accreditors.

A full list of reputable accrediting agencies is available at the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Sociology Graduates

Master's in Sociology Salary

While sociology is not necessarily known for its lucrative pay, there is room for income growth. Sociologists, for example, tend to bring in significant salaries as they gain more experience. The amount of money you can make with a master's degree in sociology may vary depending on your workplace, your level of experience, and your career goals. The following table features income data for various professions in sociology.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Late-Career
Sociologist $50,670 $50,670 $58,270 $102,860
Community Service Manager $48,626 $42,304 $61,269 $61,755
Community Outreach Coordinator $40,484 $38,865 $44,127 $44,532
Social Worker $43,996 $40,036 $51,035 $55,875
Substance Abuse Counselor $37,881 $35,608 $43,563 $46,215

Master's in Sociology Careers

There are numerous career paths for those who graduate with an accredited online master's in sociology degree. A common thread among sociology careers is that they are service oriented. If you are friendly, tolerant, and passionate about making a positive difference, you are likely to succeed in these careers.

Community Service Manager

Responsible for creating, implementing, and evaluating programs and services for a community,these professionals play an important role in the health of society. They conduct community needs assessments, plan outreach activities, write grants, and ensure programs meet objectives. Community service managers typically work for nonprofits and government agencies.

Median Annual Salary: $64,680

Projected Growth Rate: 18%

Social Worker

Working directly with individuals and families, social workers help address a variety of challenges, including substance abuse, poverty, unemployment, and illness. They often connect people with key resources like food assistance, healthcare, childcare, and other social service providers. Social workers also find themselves assisting individuals with mental health issues.

Median Annual Salary: $46,890

Projected Growth Rate: 16%

Training and Development Specialist

These specialists ensure employees have the skills, training, and resources necessary to be successful in their jobs and careers. They may use various instructional techniques, evaluate training methods, and draw from diverse sources and materials as they design the best possible programs.

Median Annual Salary: $59,020

Projected Growth Rate: 11%

College Instructor

Some individuals with a master's degree in sociology become college instructors, teaching courses within their area of expertise. This involves planning lessons and grading assignments, developing exams, and working with students to ensure they have a grasp of course material.

Median Annual Salary: $75,430

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Substance Abuse Counselor

These professionals work with individuals and families experiencing the effects of drug and/or alcohol abuse. They work with a wide range of people, including children, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. It has become an especially important field as the country continues to deal with a worsening opioid crisis.

Median Annual Salary: $42,150

Projected Growth Rate: 23%

Professional Organizations

As you review the best online sociology master's programs, consider joining a professional organization related to the field. These groups provide valuable networking opportunities, especially for those just beginning their careers. The five organizations listed below offer continuing education, career services, job boards, and annual conferences.

Financing Your Online Master's in Sociology Program

You have some options when it comes to financing your online sociology master's degree. To start, be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if you qualify for financial aid, whether it's in the form of grants, scholarships, low-interest loans, or work-study awards. You should also explore funding opportunities within your prospective program, along with scholarships offered specifically to those seeking sociology degrees. Exploring these resources can reduce your student loan debt and make your higher education journey possible.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.