Statue of James Madison in the fall

People with degrees in sociology may enter many careers, and the options are increasing. What is common to all of these careers? Underlying sociological training is the commitment to understand human relationships in every kind of social group.

However, sociologists develop their interests in different ways. They pursue diverse specialty subjects within the field as a whole. Thus, sociologists may specialize in families, adolescence, or children; the urban community; education; health and medicine; aging and the life course; work and occupations; the environment, science, and technology; economics, social inequality, and social class; race relations, ethnicity, and minorities; sex and gender; sports; culture and the arts; politics, the military, peace, and war; crime, delinquency, law, and justice; social change and social movements; and any other area of human organization. College and university courses reflect these interests, as well as research methods and theory building.

Some of the most fascinating subjects explored by sociologists include:
  • Sex and gender: Do men and women have different hiring, employment, and promotion experiences? This would be a research question for a sociologist specializing in how sex and gender affect the workplace.
  • Medical sociology: How is AIDS transmitted (and thus prevented) in different subgroups of the population? How has public opinion about AIDS shifted? These are the concerns of medical sociologists.
  • Organizations and occupations: Which management styles increase productivity and worker satisfaction would engage the attention of an organizational sociologist.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities: Do minority children get "tracked" within the public schools? Do minority parents get "cooled out" from participating in and knowing about the informal power structure within schools? Someone specializing in minority relations would explore these questions.
  • Family: Are children of divorced parents more likely to divorce, or to reject marriage themselves? What factors predict whether abused children would fare better in foster care or reunited with their birth family? These would be possible subjects for a family sociologist.

Any social phenomenon can be examined through the lens of different sociological standpoints. Indeed, a hallmark of sociological analysis is that it utilizes a variety of interconnected perspectives. Most sociological research and theory seeks to explain prevailing social behavior patterns and how they change over time.

Job Prospects

Given the breadth, adaptability and utility of sociology, employment opportunities abound for BA graduates. You can secure entry level positions in many of the areas previously mentioned in defining the scope of sociology. The following list of possibilities is only illustrative — many other paths may be open to you. Employment sectors include:

  • social services — in rehabilitation, case management, group work with youth or the elderly, recreation, or administration.
  • community work — in fund-raising for social service organizations, nonprofits, child-care or community development agencies, or environmental groups.
  • corrections — in probation, parole, or other criminal justice work.
  • business — in advertising, marketing and consumer research, insurance, real estate, personnel work, training, or sales.
  • college settings — in admissions, alumni relations, or placement offices.
  • health services — in family planning, substance abuse, rehabilitation counseling, health planning, hospital admissions, and insurance companies.
  • publishing, journalism, and public relations — in writing, research, and editing.
  • government services — in federal, state, and local government jobs in such areas as transportation, housing, agriculture, and labor.
  • teaching — in elementary and secondary schools, in conjunction with appropriate teacher certification.
Career Examples

Staff Administrator in a Public Assistance Agency
Education: Through his undergraduate studies, William became interested in using his knowledge to serve people. William saw his BA in sociology as a tool for providing services to people in need in a large metropolitan area. With the help of his professors...Click to read more

Human Resources Manager in a Small Manufacturing Firm
Current position: Carlos was drawn to the business world where he wanted to apply his sociological insights. He started as an entry-level assistant in the Human Resources Department of a small company, but after five years Carlos moved up to H.R. Manager...Click to read more

Research Director in a Telecommunications Firm
Education: As an undergraduate, Jim took a few courses in business and computer science to supplement his major in sociology. He especially liked working with the computers that sociologists use extensively in their research. Jim also became fascinated...Click to read more

Planning Officer in a State Department of Planning and Development
Responsibilities: Paula not only commissions research on her own, but she keeps up with the growing research literature. While she does relatively little research herself, Paula's work is particularly important since she keeps informed about relevant studies on...Click to read more

Staff Member of a Research Institute
Education: While completing a BA in sociology, Mary Anne found that she especially enjoyed courses in research methods, statistics,and urban sociology. After college, Mary Anne joined a large, private research institute that conducts sociological studies for...Click to read more

Staff Member of a Federal Agency
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...Click to read more

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