Education: After graduating from a small predominantly Black college in the South, Linda received a fellowship for graduate work at a private university in the North. She progressed quickly, choosing to specialize in the sociology of education, a subject which fascinated her. While completing her PhD thesis, she spent summers working for a Senator who supports national education reform.
Current position: Linda has only recently joined the staff of the U.S. Department of Education where she serves as a Social Science Analyst. Her division focuses on key issues in minority education--recruitment, financial support, mentoring, and career development.
Responsibilities: In her new job, Linda conducts research on the access of minority students to higher education. Her findings will be presented to Congress as education reform proceeds. She supervises two assistants.
Benefits: Linda's salary is determined by the U.S. Civil Service scale, which provides her with a reasonable and stable income, and excellent benefits including pension, medical coverage, and vacations.
Because government sociologists face complex problems that require complex solutions, they must be able to produce good data and place it into a broader context. Skills in survey and evaluation research and special knowledge in such areas as health sociology, aging, criminal justice, demography, and the family enable the sociologist to understand (and sometimes shape) current or proposed government programs that affect vast numbers of people. Some special programs afford students an opportunity to gain government experience:
The Federal Cooperative Education Program allows students of many disciplines, including sociology, to alternate full-time college study with full- time employment in a Federal agency. Many agencies that attract sociologists participate in this program. Contact the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., the agency personnel office, or your college placement office.
The Presidential Management Internship Program (PMI) offers Federal employment to students upon completion of their graduate program. Sociology majors are eligible under this program. It offers rewarding entry-level positions that provide exposure to a wide range of public management issues. This program also provides substantial opportunities for career development, on-the-job training, and job rotation to expand skills and knowledge. For more information, contact the Office of Personnel Management or your career placement office.
Opportunities in Business. Many sociologists with BA degrees enter the private sector, working primarily in sales, human resources, and management. Corporations employ full-time (or hire as consultants) those with advanced degrees, especially in the fields of marketing, advertising, telecommunications, and insurance. Businesses especially benefit from sociologists who specialize in demography--the study of population--and market research--the study of the needs, preferences, and life-styles of potential clients or customers. Many sociologists work in public opinion or market research, producing findings of interest to leaders in politics, communications, and advertising. Industrial or corporate sociologists--experts on productivity, work relations, minorities and women in the work force, linking technology to the organization, corporate cultures and organizational development--constitute another specialized group.
Sociologists in the corporate world command an arsenal of skills and knowledge that help solve a wide range of business problems, increase job satisfaction, serve consumers better, and make companies more profitable. These include:
using demography and forecasting to plan for the future;
using training techniques to deal with organizational change;
finding out what consumers want through market analysis and focus groups;
increasing productivity and efficiency through team-building and work reorganization.