Overview of Sociology Degrees
Sociology deals with human behavior, relationships, and societies. Learners in the field study basic social structures and institutions, along with societal challenges, such as poverty and inequality. Students explore how various groups function within society and how characteristics, such as race and gender, affect an individual's status in a community.
A sociology degree prepares students for careers studying social patterns and human behavior. Sociology programs also appeal to students who are passionate about tackling social issues. Internships and practical experiences help sociology students develop the skills they need to conduct research and to help individuals and communities confront social issues.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong job growth for many sociology-related careers. BLS projects an 18% increase in employment for social and community services managers from 2016-2026, which is likely due to the aging U.S. population and a growing addiction epidemic. In addition, BLS projects employment for market researchers to increase 23% during the same period, which translates to more than 138,000 new jobs. This growth is largely driven by the increasing reliance of companies on market research and data analytics.
Application Process for Sociology Programs
Prospective sociology students must meet the school's general admission requirements for undergraduate applicants. While each school's admission process and expectations are unique, most colleges require similar application materials.
Most colleges require applicants to submit a preliminary application and a small fee. Some schools accept The Common App, a single form that applicants can submit to multiple colleges and universities. Typically, undergraduate applicants must also submit an official high school transcript, and they may need a minimum GPA. While most colleges require a GPA of at least 2.0, the most selective schools may expect applicants to hold at least a 3.5 GPA. Most schools accept a GED certificate in lieu of a high school diploma. Applicants must generally submit ACT or SAT test scores, and some colleges set minimum standardized test score requirements.
Many colleges consider each applicant's extracurricular interests, personality, and leadership skills. In addition to transcripts and test scores, applicants may need to submit a personal essay and recommendation letters. Some schools require applicants to interview with an admissions officer, student, or alum.
Transfer applicants should carefully research admission requirements for students with significant college experience. Transfer applicants must typically fulfill different GPA and testing requirements.
What Will I Learn Studying Sociology?
Sociology students explore society and human behavior. They learn how societies function and about common problems in communities. They study societal issues related to poverty, inequality, race, and disability. Through coursework in social psychology, criminology, and social deviance, students examine how societies influence individual behavior. Sociology programs also explore marriage, families, and other relationships. Through coursework in anthropology, students learn about cultural aspects such as religion, economics, politics, and art.
Bachelor's programs in sociology usually comprise about 120 credits. Students typically take 40-50 credits of general education classes, 40-50 credits in major courses, and 20-30 elective credits. Some programs offer concentrations in fields such as medical sociology, urban sociology, and criminology. Though curricula vary between schools, the courses below are common to many bachelor's in sociology programs.
- Sociological Theory
- Students explore the intellectual history of sociology as an academic discipline. They become familiar with major breakthroughs and contributions to sociological thought. Students also learn about classical and contemporary frameworks for thinking about societies, and they study various approaches of sociology researchers.
- Methods of Social Research
- This course introduces students to essential methods and techniques of social research. Students explore the research process and learn to select a problem, build a research plan, collect information, interpret data, and prepare a report. Students also learn about quantitative and qualitative methods.
- Social Stratification
- In this course, students consider the major social stratifications of race, gender, and ethnicity. They study how these groupings relate to class, power, and status in a society. The course covers the differences between various groups in terms of social mobility and economic opportunity.
- Social Statistics
- This course covers the basic statistical methods that sociology researchers use. Students learn to quantitatively study human behavior in society. They explore the fundamentals of surveys, polls, and statistical observation. Students learn how statistical data helps researchers evaluate attitudes, access to services, and other population characteristics.
- Cultural Anthropology
- Students in this course examine human behavior in a cultural context. They learn about how numerous factors combine to form a predominant culture and way of life. Students consider how elements such as technology, family, art, economics, religion, and philosophy contribute to culture.
- Medical Sociology
- This course covers how societal factors influence health and illness. Students explore how social stratifications, such as class, race, and gender, impact health within specific populations. Learners also examine the overall structure of medicine in the United States.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's Degree in Sociology?
The following section details the skills and competencies that sociology students often develop during their studies and how these skills apply to various sociology-related professions. Though curricula vary between schools, most programs help students develop similar analytical, research, and counseling abilities. The sections below also include common responsibilities and typical salaries of bachelor's in sociology graduates.
While sociology curricula focus mainly on concepts and theories, students also develop concrete skills. The best online sociology degrees equip students with a broad set of abilities that are applicable to many professions. For example, students build research skills they can use to study collective behavior, social inequality, and mass culture.
Some programs include a research requirement that helps students develop skills in statistical analysis, data gathering, critical thinking, and presenting. The ability to analyze data and construct an argument can help students excel in research-focused roles at corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations, and think tanks.
Major coursework helps sociology students improve their oral and written communication skills. They gain experience writing research papers, producing presentations, and verbally explaining complex ideas. Elective courses help sociology undergraduates gain skills that apply to specialized positions. For example, coursework in family problems provides knowledge students need to analyze family issues in a social context. Courses in medical sociology can prepare students to work alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Sociology students can apply their knowledge of people, groups, and societies to many fields and occupations. Sociology graduates who want to enter the corporate world can pursue careers in human resources or diversity training. Those interested in working directly with disadvantaged populations may look for jobs in social services or counseling. Graduates can also address large-scale social issues and inequalities through work with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, foundations, and charities. Some sociology graduates work as probation officers or correctional treatment specialists, who help rehabilitate law offenders.
In addition, online sociology degree holders can leverage their research skills to secure jobs conducting market research for companies such as advertising agencies and marketing firms. They may also work as behavioral analysts or research analysts. Below is an overview of common positions and salaries for sociology graduates.
Career Profiles - Descriptions & Salaries
Social and Community Service Manager
Administrative Services Manager
Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist
Program Coordinator, Nonprofit Organization
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Sociology?
A bachelor's degree prepares students for many sociology-related careers; however, learners interested in senior-level or leadership roles should consider earning an advanced degree. A law degree can help socially conscious professionals influence public policy and fight for causes. To teach sociology at the college level, professionals need a Ph.D. in the field. In addition, advanced education can help sociology graduates enter clinical positions. Aspiring social workers and counselors often need to earn a master's degree to become licensed.
Bachelor's degree holders can advance in the field without pursuing further education. Professionals can earn an industry certification to increase their marketability and expand their skill set. Work experience can also help professionals earn promotions and advance within an organization.
Accreditation for Sociology Bachelor's Programs
Accreditation is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a sociology program. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high academic standards, and federal student aid programs and many private scholarships are only available to students attending accredited schools. Credits and degrees from accredited institutions transfer easily to other colleges, and many employers and graduate schools only recognize degrees from accredited institutions.
Applicants should ensure that each prospective school holds national or regional accreditation from an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Regional accrediting bodies include the Higher Learning Commission and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
While programmatic accreditation is not absolutely necessary, many of the best sociology programs hold field-specific accreditation. Students should look for programs with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Programs in Applied and Clinical Sociology.
Sociology Professional Organizations
Professional organizations provide resources and opportunities for students, recent graduates, and established professionals. Professional associations host networking events that help students create industry connections and learn from experienced professionals. Many associations publish newsletters, publications, and journals that help members stay updated on the latest research in the field. Organizations may also maintain job boards and career centers. Below are some of the most popular professional organizations for sociology graduates.
American Sociological Association
ASA supports sociologists and other professionals who study societies, social relationships, and social institutions. The association facilitates research, teaching, and discourse related to sociology. Members have access to online and print journals, a job board, and an annual conference.
Society for the Study of Social Problems
The SSSP unites scholars, students, and professionals interested in studying and addressing social problems. Members include community activists, social scientists, policy makers, and professors. Members have access to an annual meeting, community service opportunities, and the organization's academic journal.
Population Association of America
Founded in 1930, the PAA promotes research into issues associated with the human population. The organization's 3,000 members include public health workers, sociologists, economists, and demographers. Members receive a bimonthly journal and a quarterly online newsletter. They can also access a career page and attend an annual meeting.