What can you do with a BA in sociology?
The undergraduate degree provides a strong liberal arts preparation for careers in business, law, education, medicine, social services, and government. Sociology majors learn how the ways people think, feel, and behave are situated in historically, culturally, and socially specific environments; understand how social structure shapes human behavior; develop skills to read and evaluate research and indeed the full research process including conceptualization, operationalization, data collection, analysis, consideration of ethical issues, and presentation of results.
While Sociology majors, like all majors, end up in many different jobs, below are some common career paths for Sociology majors. As the Sociology major allows students to concentrate in specific thematics, we’ve identified at least two well-suited for each career.
Human Resources: [Bus and Org Structures; Race and Ethnicity; Gender and Sexuality]
HR professionals are a key resource for employees within any sizable organization. Sociology majors’ knowledge of how cultural norms and social structure function are essential skills in such a profession. In addition, more specific HR jobs like diversity managers/consultants focus on specific issues around race and gender that Sociology students have studied deeply.
Social Services: [Social Justice; Culture and Community]
Various social service jobs put sociological findings into action. Social workers deal directly with individuals and their problems, while project managers or community service managers develop social programs, service projects, or manage community centers. A deep understanding of social justice is key here as it is often the primary goal of such organizations.
Public Planning and Administration: [Crime and Social Control; Social Justice]
Sociology asks students to examine larger social forces, so a number of government-based jobs benefit from a sociological imagination. A Sociology degree is most directly relevant to the job of policy analyst (i.e. assessing public policy), but other jobs like legislative aide, where you would assist a state or federal legislator in policy decisions, may serve as an entry-level position into politics. At the local level, municipal jobs like city planner or public safety administrator utilize a deep understanding of the ways that social structure shapes human behavior. For example, Jersey City’s Director of Infrastructure has a B.A. in Sociology from Rutgers.
Marketing: [Culture and Community; Global Perspectives]
Jobs like market research analyst rely on social science skills. Analysts help companies figure out products and services that will interest consumers. Sociology majors develop an understanding of the role of culture as well as the research methods necessary to conduct interviews, focus groups, and other ways of predicting consumer behavior.
Public Health: [Health and Society; Global Perspectives]
Social research plays a key role for public health. For example, while sociologists do not invent or test vaccines, they do look at why some people take them, and others refuse. In addition to medical researchers, community health workers, who work with groups that are often disconnected from reliable health care, are well suited to understand cultural differences and the wide variety of issues that marginalized communities face.
Activism and Non-Profit Jobs [Social Justice; Gender and Sexuality]:
Sociology’s fundamental insight is that much of the world we experience is a social construct. In other words, humans made it this way… and since we did, we can collectively change it. Such change requires organizing and activism. Understanding and producing research are key tasks here as is a working knowledge of social movements and social change. Jobs like researcher for a think tank, project manager, or union organizer also require an understanding of diversity, culture, and larger social forces.
Tech Jobs: [Business and Organizational Structures; Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration]
Understanding algorithms requires more than knowledge of coding, it requires a deep understanding of human behavior that pulls from individually-focused social science fields like psychology as well as the more focused on group behavior – like Sociology. For example, a sociologist currently leads the Core Data Science: Political & Organizational Science team at facebook.
Education: [Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration; Gender and Sexuality]
Besides the obvious example of your sociology professors, many sociologists work in education. Careers as education policy analysts, guidance counselors, or college admission officers require knowledge of diversity and inequality. The ability to read and evaluate research on such topics is also crucial to a successful career in the field of education.
Beyond the B.A. - Graduate school:
If you are interested in graduate school in sociology, obtaining work experience before applying to graduate school might improve your chances of acceptance and make further education more meaningful. An entry level job might also help you sharpen your interests and decide future directions--continuing to climb the career ladder, changing fields, or furthering your education.
Earning a master’s degree or PhD can open up more advanced job opportunities in research and education. While a Sociology B.A. is, of course, great preparation for an advanced degree in Sociology, those who earn a bachelor in Sociology can (and do) go on to earn advanced degrees in a wide range of fields from Law to Political Science.
Sociology and Careers:
Your first job after college is unlikely to define your career. Indeed, today, most workers are likely to change not only jobs frequently, but also careers. A liberal arts education, and a degree in Sociology in particular, is ideal preparation for an ever-changing job market. The skills sociology hones particularly well, which include the ability to take in the big picture, the ability to bring multiple sources of information and data to bear on a problem, the ability to take the role of the other, and the ability to communicate to different audiences, will provide a solid foundation as graduates navigate their careers.
The well-educated sociology BA graduate acquires a sense of history, other cultures and times; the interconnectedness of social life; and different frameworks of thought. They are proficient at gathering information and putting it into perspective. Sociological training helps students bring breadth and depth of understanding to the workplace. A sociology graduate learns to think abstractly, formulate problems, ask appropriate questions, search for answers, analyze situations and data, organize material, write well, and make oral presentations that help others develop insight and make decisions.