Best Online Master’s in Sociology Programs of 2021

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. We've ranked the top online master's in sociology programs so you can compare schools by cost, convenience, and academic quality.

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by Marisa Upson

Published on December 23, 2021 · Updated on April 29, 2022

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Earning an online master's in sociology prepares graduates to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing society. Students study human behavior and social interaction within various cultures, groups, and organizations. They then utilize research, statistics, and analytical and critical thinking skills to address these groups' challenges.

Graduates can use these learned skills in high-demand careers in diverse fields, such as healthcare, business, education, and social services. Even graphic artists use social science skills, drawing from a culture's historical symbols and colors. While salaries vary, Payscale reports that people with a master's in sociology earn an average annual salary of $67,000 as of Nov. 2021.

Most master's in sociology take about two years to complete, with some online programs offering accelerated tracks. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition and fees for a graduate degree in the 2019-2020 academic year ranged from $12,410-$28,430, depending on school type and resident status.

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

Students spend a large amount of time researching, gathering, and analyzing data and then translating this complex data into understandable reports. In addition to excellent research and project development skills, successful learners need strong critical thinking and interpersonal skills.

Most online master's in sociology programs require 30-37 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete. Some online programs offer accelerated tracks that can lead to a degree in 18 months. Typical coursework involves advanced instruction in research, program evaluation, and impact assessment.

A graduate program allows students to expand their knowledge in specific interest areas, which may lead to advancement in their current position or a different career track. A few of the many specializations offered in a master's in sociology include the following:

Students may choose from a master's thesis, research paper, or comprehensive exam, depending on the program. Learners considering continuing their education and pursuing a doctorate should consider the thesis option. Some programs culminate in a capstone project that incorporates a field experience. Others require an internship. Students currently working in the field may meet this requirement.

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Popular Online Master's in Sociology Programs

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

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

Statistical Methods in Sociology

This class introduces the statistical methods used in sociology. Examples include central tendency and dispersion, linear modeling, and cross-tabulation. The course may also use the SPSS statistical software package and introduce conceptualization in social sciences.

Applied Sociology

This course covers current issues and trends in the applied sociology field. Students explore the social forces that shape the world, learning about both nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Other topics may include society's role in suicide, terrorism, and aggression, and preventative measures.

Advanced Research

Students study advanced techniques in qualitative and quantitative data collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation. They then apply these concepts in the analysis of social problems. Covered topics include methods of data collection and analytical techniques.

Sociological Theory

Students explore the theories and classical schools of thought that shaped the sociology field. Topics may include interactionism, functionalism, critical theory, and neo-Marxism. Other covered topics include the biographies of significant sociologists, such as Durkheim and Weber.

Community Development

This course examines community planning theories and the roles of the public, government, and city planners. Students explore controversial practices, community structures, and inclusivity. Learners also study methods to promote change at a community and regional level.

What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Sociology Program?

While admission requirements vary by program, most applicants need a bachelor's degree in sociology or social sciences. However, degree-holders in other fields may qualify with at least 12 hours of social science coursework. In some cases, candidates must complete prerequisites before admission.

In addition to the following, students may also need to submit a writing sample. This sample may highlight a sociological perspective that shows an applicant's original, critical thinking skills. Term papers or social science papers written for publication are usually acceptable.

Application

The application form asks for basic information about education and professional experience. Applicants may submit this form and the following information through a college website or online portal. Many schools also accept applications through a centralized application system that lets students submit one application for many colleges.

Test Scores

Some programs require GRE scores. Even if the program does not require a standardized test score, some scholarships and fellowships may request them. Non-native English-speaking applicants may also need to submit proof of English proficiency through TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Letters of Recommendation

Programs require 2-3 letters of recommendation. These letters should discuss an applicant's readiness for graduate school and come from people who know the applicant professionally or as a student. Most schools prefer letters from faculty members and supervisors in the field. A strong recommendation from a faculty member in sociology can carry significant weight.

Resume and Work Experience

Online master's in sociology programs require an up-to-date resume or curriculum vitae. Professional experience plays a vital role in admissions and may include academic and employment experiences and community and volunteer involvement. Make sure to include educational research experience, publications, awards, and professional memberships.

Essays

Grad school essays, letters of intent, or personal statements allow students to let their personalities shine through in a compelling and concise manner. Writing topics may include why a student chose a particular program, short- and long-term professional and academic goals, and specific interests in sociology.

Official Transcripts

Students must request official transcripts from all attended postsecondary schools. Most programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or a 3.2 GPA attained in the last 60 credits of their bachelor's program. These transcripts also inform admissions of the difficulty level and types of courses a student completed. Some programs also accept transfer graduate credits.

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

Career Outlook

Because of sociology's broad nature, graduates pursue careers in many fields, including human services, research, education, criminal justice, and government. They may advocate for a specific population segment or work for policy reform. Some graduates might use their research and critical thinking expertise in a government think tank.

Some positions are in high demand, while other roles have greater competition. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 5% job growth for sociologists from 2020-2030. During this same period, the BLS projects 22% employment growth for market research analysts. These professionals earn an annual median salary of $86,110 and $65,810, respectively.

See where a master's in sociology can take you. Learn more about sociology careers.

Career Paths

Sociologist

Sociologists study society and human behavior. They develop research projects that examine social influences on various groups and activities, such as institutions, economic groups, and political and religious organizations. These projects may help determine the impact of new policies on certain organizations or specific segments of the population.

Median Annual Salary: $86,110

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts require strong analytical and math skills. Positions that require technical research or leadership roles often require a master's degree. These professionals monitor sales trends for products or services. They gather, analyze, and present data and determine consumer demand and pricing strategies.

Median Annual Salary: $65,810

Policy Analyst

Policy analysts often work for the government and private organizations. They research complex social issues such as environmental protection, access to healthcare, and crime prevention. These professionals may propose solutions, create policy, and influence government actions and public opinion. With experience, they may advance to senior policy analysts.

Average Annual Salary: $60,470 (as of Dec. 2021)

Social and Community Service Manager

Community service managers may work for nonprofits, government agencies, and for-profit social service companies. They determine needed community programs and oversee the administrative aspects of these programs. Tasks may include analyzing data, implementing improvements, and demonstrating a program's effectiveness. They may also manage social workers and other staff members.

Median Annual Salary: $69,600

Human Resources Manager

Master's in sociology graduates are well-positioned to advocate for a group of people in the workforce. Due to their keen understanding of individuals' motivations, they can help direct them toward the best use of their talents. They can also oversee the hiring process and mediate disputes. This position typically requires several years of work experience.

Median Annual Salary: $121,220

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Continuing Education

After earning an online master's in sociology, students may pursue a doctorate. A Ph.D. in sociology prepares graduates for a career in academia and research. Additionally, some Ph.D. holders seek high-level roles in government or business as consultants or research directors.

The Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology also awards the certified applied sociologist or the certified clinical sociologist certifications. Eligible applicants include practicing sociologists with a master's or doctoral degree.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Sociology Program?

Cost

NCES reports that graduate tuition and fees ranged from $8,944-$43,420 for the 2019-2020 school year. The vast difference reflects the type of school. Public schools usually cost less and private institutions often cost significantly more. In-state students attending public schools typically see the lowest tuition rates, though some online programs do not charge nonresident fees.

Program Format

Online master's in sociology programs offer different learning formats. The synchronous format usually consists of scheduled weekly virtual class sessions. Asynchronous programs allow students to access lectures and learning materials at their convenience, with set dates for completion. Many of these programs allow part-time enrollment or offer accelerated learning tracks.

Location

Despite attending online college, students may choose a school near their location or in the same state for many reasons. Some online programs charge nonresident fees, while others require occasional on-campus participation. Some students also take advantage of on-campus seminars, networking opportunities, and campus-based student support services.

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that a school and program meet the highest levels of academic excellence. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for schools. It ensures financial aid eligibility and transferable credits. Few master's in sociology programs receive programmatic accreditation. However, applied and clinical sociology programs may earn accreditation from the Commission on the Accreditation of Programs in Applied and Clinical Sociology.

Student Support

Online master's in sociology programs offer different levels of student support services which may contribute to a student's success. Some essential online student services to consider include mentorship programs, academic advisors, and networking programs. Learners may also use internship placement services and career counseling.

2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Sociology Programs

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Best Online Master's in Sociology Programs

  1. Arizona State University
    Location

    Scottsdale, AZ

    Tuition

    $14166

    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.

  2. University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Location

    Birmingham, AL

    Tuition

    $16636

    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.

  3. New Mexico State University
    Location

    Las Cruces, NM

    Tuition

    $9462

    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.

  4. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $12516

    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.

  5. Virginia Commonwealth University
    Location

    Richmond, VA

    Tuition

    $20897

    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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Sociology Programs

Is a master's in sociology worth it? true

Yes. A master's in sociology prepares graduates to tackle some of society's major social problems, including poverty, racism, and environmental issues. In addition, pursuing a graduate degree allows students to specialize in their interest area and develop strong research and analytical skills.

Earning a master's degree opens more career opportunities and increases earning potential. According to the BLS, workers with a bachelor's degree earn a median weekly wage of $1,305, while those with a master's degree earn $1,545.

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

Master's in sociology degree-holders can pursue careers in many fields, including education, healthcare, government, and business. This advanced degree enables graduates to work as sociologists, policy analysts, educators, and researchers. Others go on to work in social services as social and community service managers or program directors.

Because of its broad nature, many students align their education with their career goals through specializations. A few of the many concentrations in this field include aging, diversity, criminal justice, and community development. In addition, the critical thinking, teamwork, and analytical skills developed in graduate studies translate to in-demand positions in human resources services and marketing analysis.

Are sociology majors in demand? true

The demand for sociology majors varies, depending on the position and employer. For example, the BLS projects 5% job growth for sociologists from 2020-2030, slower than the average 8% growth for all occupations. However, the BLS projects 22% employment growth for market research analysts during the same period, well above the average growth rate.

Other careers that sociology majors pursue that experience high and moderate demand include social and community service managers and human resource managers. The BLS projects 15% and 9% job growth, respectively, from 2020-2030, which amounts to about 26,400 and 14,800 new job openings every year.

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

Annual salaries for people with a master's in sociology vary based on position, employer, location, and experience level. For instance, the BLS reports that sociologists earn a median annual wage of $86,110. However, those that work in research and development in the social sciences and humanities earn a yearly median salary of $96,620.

Another example is market research analysts. These professionals earn a median annual wage of $65,810, with the top 10% earning more than $127,410. Those that work in California boast yearly earnings of $83,150. The average annual wage for market research analysts in Washington comes in at $92,350.

What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in sociology?

A master's in sociology prepares graduates for management positions and high-level roles in the government, private, and nonprofit sectors. With experience, these can translate to high-paying jobs. One of these jobs, human resources managers, earn a median annual wage of $121,220, with the top 10% making more than $208,000.

Social and community service managers also enjoy high-paying positions, depending on their level of experience and industry. While the BLS reports that these managers earn an average median wage of $69,600, the top 10% make $115,800. Additionally, those that work for the local government boast a yearly median salary of $87,720, and those working in New York earn $89,870.

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