Sociology is an area of study that focuses on the analysis of human social activity. If you are interested in social influences and how interpersonal relationships and culture shape human behavior, then sociology might be the right field for you. The field has traditionally covered topics such as social class, religion, politics, culture, law, and deviance, but recently, sociological discussions of health care, the military, and technology have also become prevalent. Sociologists use both qualitative and quantitative techniques to conduct research, including statistical, linguistic, philosophical, and political analysis.
Whether you are researching online bachelors sociology degrees or interested in attending an on-campus program, sociology can be a great area of study for those pursuing careers in social work, education, local government, or urban affairs. In addition, sociology majors may choose to go on to graduate school to prepare for careers in academia and sociological research. Students interested in majoring in sociology should be prepared to demonstrate strong analytical and writing skills and have an aptitude for statistical analysis.
Classes and Assignments of a Sociology Major
Sociology covers a wide range of topics and social issues relevant to domestic and global culture. Common courses might include stratification and class, economic sociology, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, sociology of religion, criminality and deviant behavior, law, social organization, political sociology, research methods, and statistics. The courses offered at a specific college or university will typically vary by semester and based on the specialties of professors on staff. Many programs will require students to take an introductory course in sociology before moving on to higher-level course offerings.
Students should be prepared to write analytical papers, conduct research studies, and give presentations. Prospective students should also keep in mind that research intensive courses will most likely entail field work outside of the classroom. Some courses may also have exams depending on the professor’s preferences or a school’s curriculum requirements.
Degree Levels for a Sociology Major
- Associate. Online associate sociology degrees can be a great way to explore your interest in the subject and may even prove a useful stepping stone towards earning your bachelor’s degree. In addition, an associate degree in sociology can be a perfect complement to another degree you may have already earned. Those employed in fields such as social work, urban affairs, politics, or law may find additional education in an area, such as sociology, a valuable addition to their knowledgebase.
- Bachelor's. A bachelor’s degree program in sociology will include a more comprehensive course load. Students in these programs are more likely to move beyond introductory courses and begin to conduct research and field work of their own. In addition to their required sociology course work, students in a bachelor’s program will complete core classes in key foundational areas. These core requirements can vary greatly from school to school, but give students the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge outside their major. Earning a bachelor’s degree will typically provide greater job opportunities than just an associate degree. Graduates may find employment in fields such as social work, local government, urban affairs, education, or research.
- Master's. The best career opportunities for sociology majors are in academia and research. To secure these coveted positions, online masters sociology degrees are often required. At the master’s level, students will typically need to choose an area of specialization. These specializations can include political sociology, race and ethnicity, and social psychology. For those concerned about balancing a full-time job with school, a number of self paced online masters degree programs are available to fit a busy lifestyle. Individuals pursuing a career in academia will often continue on to a doctoral program in sociology, though sociologists may be able to teach at the community or junior college level with only a master’s degree.
- Doctoral. For those aiming to teach at the college level or work in advanced research, a doctoral degree in sociology is almost always required. At the doctoral level, a student will immerse themselves in their chosen specialty, focusing almost entirely on their own field work and academic research. The program is designed to prepare students for their doctoral dissertation, which gives them the opportunity to add to the current body of knowledge with their own research ideas and analysis. Graduates of a doctoral program are qualified to teach at any level of higher education, but may also purse employment in private research, government, urban affairs, or social work.
A Future as a Sociology Major
The most desirable job opportunities in sociology are in academia and research. For this reason, the best college degree for future employment options in sociology would be either a master’s or doctoral degree. For example, sociology professors are required to have a doctorate, though some may be qualified to teach at the junior or community college level with just a master’s degree. In 2010, sociology professors at the postsecondary level earned a mean annual wage of $71.830 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who have a bachelor’s degree in sociology may find work in local government, urban affairs, or social work. Child, family, and school social workers earned a mean annual salary of $42,850 in 2010, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, keep in mind that your salary may vary from the average, depending on your employer, level of education and experience, and location.