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Like most social sciences, sociology--the discipline which addresses all aspects of human interaction, from the most universal employer-employee interactions to studying urban growth and inner-city population shifts--is entering a new era of applied research. A degree demonstrates a clear understanding of the field’s methods and viewpoints, but modern-day sociologists take this experience further to develop practical applications based on what they have observed or studied. Research follows teaching as the most common career path for sociologists and often is used to evaluate the success of public programs and policies. Contemporary social scientists have responded to the realization that even the most seemingly insignificant changes in social interaction can have major consequences, and positions have been created in state and federal government agencies to examine the impact their policies have on their constituents.

Societies reflect their members, and some sociologists choose to work on an individual or family basis to make improvements one step at a time. Training and certification is available to students interested in becoming counselors, therapists, or social workers within government agencies.

Degree Information

Most schools with a department of sociology offer M.S. and Ph.D. programs, in addition to Master of Sociology (M.Soc.) M.S. programs typically require 30 hours of course work and a research thesis, while M.Soc. programs require 30 hours of course work and supervised credit hours in the field. Most importantly, M.Soc. credits are typically not transferable to a Ph.D. program. Doctoral students can expect to spend five to six years working on course work, dissertation research, and oral exams.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Are you an independent thinker who enjoys solving problems?
  • Does the faculty of the school you are considering share your research interests?
  • Does the program you are considering focus on the degree you want to obtain (M.S. versus Ph.D.)?
  • Does the program you are considering encourage collaboration between faculty and students?

Career Overview

Hundreds of career paths are open to those with advanced degrees in sociology. Employment opportunities are available in the fields of social services, teaching, criminal justice, non-profit agencies, and rehabilitation counseling.

Research grants are available to fund opportunities for graduate students to continue their study beyond school. Grants most often focus on one issue important to the group awarding them and can include programs such as Community Action Research Initiatives, Fellowships in Creative Responses to Homelessness, and Democratization.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements depend on the geographic location and career path chosen by the student. To teach sociology at a university, a doctoral degree is needed. In order to become a certified social worker, degrees must be obtained by programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education in addition to post-graduate school experience and Association of Social Work Board exams.

Salary Information

Nationally, the median salary for sociologists is $53,160. Pay varies depending on education, experience, and work setting. Half of all sociologists earn between $38,280 and $72,240. Those with a Ph.D. earn significantly more than those with lesser degrees.

Related Links

American Sociological Association
Information for sociologists, students, and the general public including job opportunities, research grants, and newly-published reports from members.

Southern Rural Sociological Association
Established to foster the study and understanding of rural sociology in the Southern United States.

Researching Consumer Cultures: New Cultures and Economies
A site from the U.K. focused on consumption, leisure behavior, and the sociology of the Internet.