Sociology Careers Information & Resources on Sociology-Related Jobs, Degree Programs, and Wages

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

What exactly is a sociology career? Because this field is the study of society and social lives, a number of jobs that don’t have sociologist in its title can still be considered sociology careers. Want to do marketing or public relations at a brand name company? That’s a sociology career. Or maybe case management within social services? Also a sociology career. And, of course, there are research and teaching positions, which are probably the jobs most people think of. Explore sociology career paths and salaries to get a better understanding of the wide range of opportunities.

From Classroom to Career: Jobs in Sociology

Outside of research, few occupations include the actual word “sociologist” in its title or job description, but the core concepts and theories of sociology can be applied to a number of different industries, from social services to education and sales to marketing and even PR to IT. Profiled below are a few of the most popular career possibilities within sociology:

Administrative Assistants

Whether providing secretarial assistance, record-keeping, inventory management, appointment scheduling, or travel arrangements, these professionals help management run things smoothly. Specific responsibilities vary by type of business and office structure, and administrative assistants may have one boss or many. Most jobs are in an office setting, but at times may require some travel or attending to business outside the office.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 3%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Associate degree, postsecondary certificate, or a high school diploma. Some employees may only consider those with a bachelor’s degree.

Human Resources (HR) Manager

HR managers oversee the policies and procedures related to employment and ensure all local, state, and federal laws are being followed correctly. Common tasks include recruitment, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness, addressing employee/employer issues, and administrating benefit programs. They may also be involved in employee training. HR managers typically work in an office environment, although travel to branch offices and fieldwork sites may be required.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 9%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Bachelor’s degree in sociology, psychology, business, or related.

Paralegals

Paralegals assist attorneys in preparing cases for trial, drafting legal documents, conducting research, meeting with clients, and helping with other tasks unique to specialized areas of law. Because paralegals cannot practice law, all work products must be reviewed and approved by an attorney. Strong skills in logic, research, and written and verbal communication are essential. Paralegals must also be able to understand the needs and concerns of their clients.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    An associate degree in paralegal studies or sociology; some employers may require a bachelor’s degree.
    Additional coursework and training is often required for non-paralegal studies degree holders.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors offer therapy to individuals and groups battling drug abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, and other behavioral issues. Responsibilities include evaluating patients’ mental and physical health, reviewing and recommending treatment options, helping patients with behavior modifications, and referring patients to additional resources and services. Counselors work in hospitals, community clinics, prisons, juvenile detention centers, and for governmental agencies such as parole and probation departments.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 22%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree is common for most entry-level jobs, but some employers may prefer someone with a master’s degree

Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social workers diagnose and treat patients with emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. Tasks include evaluating and diagnosing patient problems, recommending and developing treatment plans, and leading therapy sessions. Clinical social workers also interact with physicians and insurance companies, and sometimes perform clerical and administrative tasks.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 12%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Master’s degree in sociology, social work, or related; state licensure and/or certification is also required.

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design, develop, and implement surveys to collect information and then analyze the data for clients to use. These surveys allow researchers and businesses to gain a better understanding of people’s beliefs, opinions, and preferences, which can help with important business aspects such as product development and marketing/branding. Survey researchers may be employed by private businesses, pollsters, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and governmental agencies.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 12%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Because these roles are highly analytical, most require a master’s degree or PhD in marketing, statistics, sociology, or related.

Postsecondary Sociology Teacher

Working at both teaching and research institutions, sociology teachers may be found in either the classroom or conducting sociological studies, depending on their interests. Teachers create syllabi and lesson plans, assess student progress, and advise students on academic improvement and plans for the future. Researchers devise frameworks for human studies and research projects, write about their findings, and present at symposiums and other academic gatherings.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 13%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Teaching at a two-year school requires a master’s degree, while four-year institutions typically mandate PhD holders for the majority of faculty positions.

Anthropologists and Archeologists
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 4%

  • Minimum Education Requirements:

    Master’s degree in anthropology, archeology, or closely-related subject. Leadership and advanced research positions may require a PhD.

Economists
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Minimum Education Requirements:

    A master’s degree minimally, with many jobs requiring a PhD.

Psychologists
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 19%

  • Minimum Education Requirements:

    A master’s degree may be sufficient in some cases, but a PhD or PsyD is a much more common requirement.

Statisticians
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 34%

  • Minimum Education Requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree may suffice for some entry-level positions. Most statisticians hold a master’s in mathematics or statistics. A PhD is normally required for academic and research positions.

Urban and Regional Planners
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Minimum Education Requirements:

    Master’s degree in urban or regional planning.

Political Scientists
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): -2%

    (Because more than half of all political scientists are employed by the federal government, budget cuts are expected to have a negative impact on job outlook, despite a strong and continued need for these professionals.)

  • Minimum Education Requirements:

    Master’s degree in political science, public administration, or public policy. A PhD will likely be required for advanced research and postsecondary academic occupations.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Salaries in the Sociology Field

Education and training in sociology can open the door to job opportunities in a wide variety of professions, but choosing the right one requires weighing a number of factors, one of which is salary. The graph below offers a look at salary levels for a number of occupations related to sociology.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015

How to Know if Sociology is Right for You

Success in sociology careers requires certain knowledge and skills, as well as a keen interest in social relationships and society. It’s important to take close stock of your personal talents, interests, and career goals to see if everything aligns with a particular field or career.

Some of the most common skills required of professionals in the field of sociology are listed below.

Sociology Skills and Technology

Computer literacy

Sociologists gather research and create charts, tables, and reports regularly, making computer literacy essential. Sociologists should have a strong familiarity with word processing, data input, and analysis.

Critical and analytical thinking

Critical and analytical skills support the ability to comprehend, synthesize, and interpret large amounts of information and data, which are tasks required of sociologists on a daily basis.

Interpersonal/cross-cultural understanding

This refers to the ability to communicate and work effectively with many different people. These skills allow sociologists to effectively work with individuals of different ethnicities, races, religions, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Observational skills

Sociology is the study of social relationships and society so observational skills are a must. Sociologists need to be able to detect subtle differences in human behavior and be able to pick up on anything that can affect it.

Statistics and research

Statistical analysis and effective research methods are crucial to the sociologist’s work product. They must additionally possess the skills necessary to conceptualize, design, and implement projects and studies that produce useful information.

Analytical software

There are a number of popular software programs used by sociologists that allow them to produce tabulated reports and charts, plot distributions and trends, and generate descriptive statistics.

Databases and query software

These tools allow users to input data and create databases and database apps in a number of formats. Popular programs for sociologists include QSR International NVivo, Qualtrics Research Suite, and Microsoft Access.

Digital devices

Digital devices such as camcorders, voice recorders, and videoconferencing systems are often used by sociologists in conducting interviews and field observations.

Required Education for Sociology Careers

Sociology degrees are offered at all program levels, from associate to doctorate. For an idea of what to expect, below is an outline of degrees by level:

Associate Degree

In most cases, the associate degree in sociology is offered as a transfer degree, preparing students for further education in a bachelor’s program. Students receive a basic overview of sociology theories and explore key concepts such as human relations, social structures, cultural analysis, and the tools for sociological investigation. Required courses are likely to include:

  • Contemporary Social Problems
  • Statistical Methods of Sociology
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Sociology of the Family
  • Social Psychology
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Identity
Bachelor’s Degree

In a sociology bachelor’s degree program, students explore how social factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status affect work and other organizations. Undergraduate students also gain a firm grasp on research design and methods. At this degree level, common coursework may include:

  • Social Problems
  • Social Psychology
  • Industrial Sociology
  • Sociology of Work
  • Sociology of Sex and Gender
  • Labor Relations
Master’s Degree

By earning an MA or MS in Sociology, students gain advanced and specialized knowledge of sociology theories, perspectives, and research methods. Coursework is typically combined with fieldwork, which allows students to actually apply the concepts they’ve learned in the classroom and become an expert in the field. Many master’s programs also require a research thesis or applied experience such as a practicum during the final semester. During the two years of study, students will likely encounter courses such as:

  • Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology
  • Social Research Strategies
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Theory and Research in Sociology
  • Topics in Sociological Theorizing
Doctorate Degree

A PhD in sociology emphasizes scholarly research, helping to prepare students for careers in academia or high-level policy analysis. These programs usually require students to obtain mastery in at least one area of specialization, such as class/gender/race/ethnicity inequalities, criminology and deviance, or social psychology. Other requirements, outside of coursework, often includes completing one year as a teaching assistant and writing and defending a dissertation on original sociology research. Required coursework is usually taken in the first year and focuses on advanced theories and methods of research – all knowledge that will go towards completing the dissertation. Examples of required courses may include:

  • Classical Sociological Theory
  • Contemporary Sociology
  • Fields and Methods of Social Research
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Multivariate Statistical Methods I and II

Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in sociology – or a closely related major such as liberal arts or psychology – opens the door to a greater number of sociology job options compared to an associate degree. Core coursework focuses on key principles and research methods, but students will also be exposed to topics such as the sociology of work, sex and gender, and race. This level of education is an essential stepping-stone for graduate study.

Master’s Degrees

Master’s degrees in sociology abound at graduate schools throughout the country. Some schools also offer combined degree programs, such as a master’s in sociology and anthropology. Like many other liberal arts master’s degrees, most require two years of full-time study. Working degree seekers may elect to study part-time, meaning they’ll need to devote three or four years to their studies. Depending on the program, a thesis may be required.

Sociology Doctoral Degrees

Doctoral degrees in sociology are less abundant than bachelor’s and master’s programs but can still be found at many graduate schools, including some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation. If you are interested in a sociology-related career in academia, either teaching or in high-level research, then a doctorate degree in sociology is for you.

Earning a PhD in Sociology normally takes five years, but factors such as a student’s employment status, previous graduate-level coursework, and whether the degree seeker has already earned a master’s degree can stretch out the time frame.

Sociology Concentrations

Because sociology is such a broad field, you may want to pursue a concentration to develop specialized, marketable skills in an area of interest. Doing so can prepare you to work with a certain population group or focus on an issue or concern that you wish to have an impact on. Take a look at some of your options:

Criminology

The study of causation, correction, and prevention of crime, criminology awakens the sociology student to an understanding of social norms and deviance within the greater society. Students also learn why deviance exists and the impact it has on individuals, groups, and society at large.

Cultural sociology

This branch of sociology studies how societal institutions, norms, and practices originated and developed over time. Students also study the cultural connections – including ethnicity, race, and gender – that comprise and influence social bonds.

Marriage and family

A primary area in the practice of sociology, sociological studies of marriage and family look at these sacred groups as both institutions and sociological units. Students specializing in this area may work in research, but are most often employed in the counseling field.

Political sociology

With an emphasis on unpacking the power relationship between societies, states, and political conflict, sociologists in this niche approach politics in terms of the social and cultural foundations of power and authority.

Work, Labor, and Economy

This concentration explores and analyzes the nature and function of work. It takes a closer look at how normative codes and organizational and institutional structures affect behavior and experiences in a variety of workplace settings.

Licensing and Certifications for Sociologists

Sociologists do not have to be licensed to work in America, and neither the federal nor state governments issue official certifications for practice. There are, however, state licensing requirements for a number of sociology-related occupations such as social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, police and corrections officers, and alcohol and drug counselor. Be sure to check for any licensing requirements in your jurisdiction.

There are also a number of professional certifications available to sociologists and those in related occupations. Examples of professional certifications include:

Association for Applied and Clinical Psychology
  • Certified Sociological Practitioner/Certified Clinical Sociologist

National Association of Social Workers
  • Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Social Worker

  • Certified Social Worker in Health Care

  • Diplomate in Clinical Social Work

  • Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families – Advanced Social Worker

  • Social Worker in Gerontology

There are currently 20 credentials offered by the NASW.

NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals
  • National Certified Addiction Counselor, Levels I and II

  • Nicotine Dependence Specialist

  • National Certified Adolescent Addiction Counselor

  • There are eight credentials offered by the NAADAC.

Where to Find Sociologists

Sociologists are employed in a variety of work environments, depending on the specific career and industry. Below is a brief look at where sociologists and other sociology-related professionals are likely to be employed:

Academia/education

The majority of sociologists find employment with colleges and universities or research groups. Most work in an office environment, but some positions may additionally require time spent in the field conducting interviews and making observations.

Government

The public sector is home to many sociology careers that involve data analysis and research, typically for policies and initiatives. For instance, you may find yourself working in transportation, housing, or labor.

Health services and community work

For those focused on health services and community work, sociology careers can be found at hospitals, schools, clinics, human services facilities, and with community development corporations and private firms.

Private sector and nonprofits

Many sociology careers can be found in private businesses and nonprofit organizations. You may work for a corporate company conducting consumer research or you may work at a nonprofit organization focusing on community advocacy.

Sociology Job Hunting Resources

Because sociology jobs are so broad and difficult to define, there are few job boards available that are specific to just sociology careers. You’ll be able to find openings on any of the big career platforms, such as LinkedIn and Indeed, as well as directly on an organization’s or company’s website. Additional resources include:

  • American Sociological Association

    ASA members have full access to the organization’s job bank, where they can search job listings and post resumes.

  • Idealist

    Many sociology careers are in the nonprofit world, which makes Idealist a great resource for job openings.

  • USAJobs.gov

    The federal government is also a big employer of applicants with a background in sociology. This free website provides access to thousands of job openings at hundreds of federal agencies and organizations.

Internships for Sociology Students

Students graduating with a sociology degree – particularly those moving directly from a bachelor’s program into the working world – may find themselves facing stiff competition with other sociology and liberal arts degree holders for the best jobs. Having an impressive resume with demonstrable experience and skills will be a tremendous advantage in the employment market. One of the essential ways to add lines to a resume or graduate school application is by completing an internship.

To locate internship opportunities, visit your school’s internship and career center. You may also want to take a look at these useful online resources and examples:

Idealist Careers

Sponsored by idealist.org, this site offers comprehensive information and search tools for locating jobs and internships in the non-profit sector.

Indeed.com

This site lists dozens of sociology-related internship opportunities in every economic sector.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s sociology internship page offers an extensive list of opportunities in the public and private sectors.

Looksharp

Looksharp has a section dedicated exclusively to internships, which you can sort by discipline. Relevant disciplines for sociology internships include non-profit, social work, or business, to name a few.

Sociology-Related Professional Associations & Organizations

Professional associations and organizations provide members with an abundance of quality resources and support services, including certification and licensing assistance, continuing education courses, career advice, and access to job boards. They’re also great for networking with other sociology professionals. Explore the options below:

American Sociological Association

This national organization for sociologists is dedicated to advancing sociology as a scientific discipline and profession.

Association for Applied & Clinical Sociology

AACS is a nonprofit professional association of clinical sociologists and others interested in the application of sociological knowledge. The association has two publications: the Journal of Applied Social Science and Sociology at Work.

Association for Humanist Sociology

AHS membership consists of sociologists, educators, scholars, and activists committed to furthering sociology through the promotion of equality, peace, and social justice. The AHS publishes a professional journal and newsletter and offers both regional and national meetings.

Council on Social Work Education

The CSWE is a non-profit association representing more than 2,500 individual members nationwide. The CSWE is also an accrediting body for graduate and undergraduate social work academic programs.

International Sociological Association

With memberships spanning 126 countries, the ISA is a non-governmental organization affiliated with UNESCO and the Economic and Social Council of the United States. The ISA represents sociologists regardless of ideology or scientific approach in order to advance sociological knowledge.

National Association of Social Workers

NASW is a professional organization whose purpose is to advance sound social policies, create and maintain professional standards, and enhance the professional development of its members.