If you are fascinated by how social interaction intersects with the consequences of individual and group behavior among human beings, sociology might be the career field for you. Far from being limited to tenure-track academia, a career in sociology can involve working in a multitude of career fields, such as sports, health, law enforcement, government and business. The path to becoming a sociologist depends on whether you want to pursue a traditional or professional career.
The first step to becoming a sociologist is completing your bachelor's degree with a major in sociology or a sociology subdiscipline. For example, Ashford University offers a bachelor of arts in sociology, while The University of California-Davis offers a degree in sociology-organizational studies. Course requirements vary by institution, but typically involve a total of at least 120 semester hours, including a broad range of sociology studies, such as social problems, family studies, racial and ethnic group studies, aging and social justice.
Once you have your BA degree, you can embark on a career as an applied sociologist, although your actual job title might not reflect that. Your sociology degree might open the door for you to work at an entry level position in business, social services or government, according to the American Sociological Association. It can also help prepare you to work in journalism, public relations, public administration or any other field that requires the ability to understand and work with diverse groups.
The higher your degree, the more likely you are to obtain a job that actually includes the term "sociologist" in the title, according to the University of Oregon's Department of Sociology. A master of arts in sociology might prepare you to work as a high school teacher or counselor. You might join the faculty at a college or university, or you might not go into the academic world at all. You might parley your sociology master's degree into a career as a research analyst, urban planner, human resources manager or criminologist.
If your goal is to work as a tenure-track college professor of sociology, you probably need a doctorate in the field, but obtaining your Ph.D. doesn't automatically grant you entree into the ivory tower. According to American Sociological Association, approximately 54.5 percent of recent sociology Ph.D.s received permanent tenured or tenure-track positions
2016 Salary Information for Sociologists
Sociologists earned a median annual salary of $79,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, sociologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $57,650, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $108,130, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 3,500 people were employed in the U.S. as sociologists.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Sociologist
- UC Davis: Department of Sociology
- University of Oregon: Careers in Sociology
- American Sociological Association: New Doctorates in Sociology: Professions Inside and Outside the Academy
- Ashford University: Sociology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Sociologists
- Career Trend: Sociologists
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.