Sociologists study the behavior of humans and society at large. A sociologist might focus on any level of society, from individuals to governments, to understand how society reacts to changes in technology, illness, crime, social movements and more.
Research and analysis are key points of this career. The results of that research can aid lawmakers, administrators and educators in resolving social problems and adjusting public policy.
The most popular sociology degrees
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports that though there are some entry-level positions in sociology for bachelor's degree holders, most positions require more advanced education. With a online liberal-arts degree in sociology, students might qualify for positions as market analysts, writers, policy analysts or research assistants. Those who intend to pursue research or administrative positions usually need a master's degree, and positions in college or university teaching often require a Ph.D.
Some colleges and universities allow students to design their own concentration within sociology, while others offer courses specifically designed for a certain area of sociology, such as criminology. Sociology studies may focus on a particular geographic region, social group or social problem. Students focusing on applied areas of sociology, which use research findings to improve social programs or help individuals, may benefit from an internship, which can also help them in a competitive job market.
How do online degrees in sociology work?
Sociology courses include research methods and statistics as well as classes covering the family, gender, class differences and social theory. These classes often use reading and discussion as key pedagogical techniques, making them good candidates for an online learning environment. Online degrees in sociology make use of email, discussion forums, chat rooms and more to enable students to discuss course materials with classmates around the world.
Many sociology degree programs, especially at the graduate level, require students to conduct independent research or gain clinical experience. Online degrees in sociology allow students to keep up with coursework no matter where their research takes them, whether it's a homeless shelter in their local town or a village in South America.
What to expect from a career in sociology
The work of a sociologist can touch every aspect of human behavior. Sociologists compile data on issues from war to welfare in the hopes of influencing public policy and contributing to dialogue about important social issues. The work is very meticulous and thorough, and in some cases, it can take decades for a sociologist to find clear data.
Working with statistics, mathematics, data collection, computers and qualitative research methods such as interviews is central to the day-to-day work of a sociologist. The work requires logical thinking and careful analysis. Sociologists need excellent communication skills, intellectual curiosity, creativity and in-depth research training.
According to the BLS, most sociologists work as researchers, administrators and counselors. About 37 percent go on to become teachers. In 2008, the industries that employed the largest number of sociologists included scientific research and development, social advocacy programs, and state and local governments.
The BLS reported a mean annual salary of $80,130 for sociologists in 2010. The bottom 10 percent made less than $44,000, while the top 10 percent made more than $129,870. Sociology professors--a common career path for those with a Ph.D.--had a mean annual wage of $71,830 in 2010, according to the BLS.
The overall employment of sociologists and political scientists is expected to increase by 21 percent from 2008 to 2018.
Related careers for students with a sociology degree can be found in other social sciences, such as political science, economics, psychology, anthropology and social work. Other related jobs include that of historian, archaeologist, and geographer.