Most people have never heard of sociology until they are required to take it as part of a degree requirement in college. Some students will complete the requirement and move on with other more desirable courses. But some who study it will become absolutely enamored with it, and wish to pursue a degree in the field.
Exactly what is sociology?
In a nutshell, it is the study of society.
The next logical question then is what is society, defined? Society consists of individuals, their family members, neighbors, the military, government officials and almost any other type of group of people. A sociologist learns to study human behavior as it exists in social settings and other areas of society. They study how people interact with one another in the workplace, at home and in religious settings, to name a few.
How to Become a Sociologist
Sociologists must possess several important skills in order to be able to effectively serve in their field. Analytical, communication and written skills are the most important, as sociologists must be able to analyze data and then be able to convey those findings to others. Because sociologists often are called upon to analyze data as a means of solving a problem, good critical-thinking skills also are a must-have in this career.
While some students are able to find entry-level jobs with only a bachelor’s degree in sociology, wages and opportunities with only an undergraduate degree are limited. According to a 2008 study by the American Sociological Society, over 60 percent of students who pursue a degree in sociology seek to enter the workforce with only a bachelor’s degree. Of those who sought immediate employment, most worked as counselors or in social service programs. Two-thirds of those working with only an undergraduate degree reported, however, that they were very satisfied with their careers.
As with psychology, sociologists generally need a master’s degree or doctoral degree in sociology in order to practice their craft at the intended level. There is more than one master-level degree program currently available: traditional, applied, clinical and professional. In a traditional program, students are prepared to enter into a doctoral program. In the other three kinds of programs, courses are planned around the preparation for entering the workplace.
That being said, one of the only reasons to pursue a master’s degree in sociology is if the intention to move forth toward a doctoral degree is desired. Those who possess a doctoral degree in sociology are qualified to work in research or to teach in colleges and universities.
Many colleges and universities now are offering online undergraduate degree programs in sociology. Arizona State University offers a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology, which provides students with a variety of courses on traditional social institutions and contemporary social issues.
Other top schools for online sociology degrees are Grand Canyon University, Ashford University, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Southern New Hampshire University.
U.S. News and World Report, in a special issue on top schools in the nation, ranked the top 500 traditional colleges and universities for obtaining a degree in sociology. Their top five choices are the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Princeton; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Harvard.
Future Growth and Jobs Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 2011 survey indicated that demand for trained sociologists will grow by 18 percent over the next decade. Its growth pace is about average with other occupations.
The same report lists the median annual salary for sociologists as $72,360. Half of all reported workers in the field of sociology earned the median wage. Roughly 10 percent of those in the field earned $44,000 or less, while the top 10 percent of wage earners garnered salaries as high as $130,000 annually.
Article by Shari Berg, PsychologyCollegeFinder.org