Planning A Career with a Bachelor's of Arts in Sociology?

One of the most common questions asked of any sociology professor is, "What can I do with a Sociology BA?" In reality, there are several answers to this question. The American Sociological Association has a web site that outlines possible career paths and offers tips for how to apply to graduate school -

Careers in Sociology, 6th ed. ASA (PDF)

Careers in Sociology

First, a Sociology BA provides you with a useful background for some specific jobs. For example, employers in fields such as criminal justice, human services, or personnel and industrial relations often employ sociology majors in a variety of capacities in their organizations. Students who pursue graduate training in sociology and related fields can also expect to find employment in fields such as teaching, research, planning, social work, and public policy.

If you are interested in a career in one of these fields, there are several things you can do to make yourself more attractive to a prospective employer. You may want to choose your elective courses in sociology (as well as your general electives) with your career goals in mind. If you are planning a career in human services, for example, you should choose sociology courses that deal with the sorts of social problems with which human services agencies deal, such as poverty, family problems, aging, or health care problems. It would also be a good idea to select electives in other departments that are related to your area of interest (perhaps a course in abnormal psychology or human development or a political science course in public policy). You also may want to add a minor (or even a second major) in a related field or to consider an internship or graduate training in your area of interest (see below). Your advisor can be a valuable resource in helping you to decide which courses are best suited to your career goals. If you have definite ideas about what you would like to do, be sure to discuss them with your advisor as soon as you can.

Second, like most liberal arts majors, a BA in sociology gives a general background for a broad range of jobs. Most businesses, for example, hire prospective managers as trainees. They expect the applicant to possess good analytical, writing, and oral skills and to be educable; they do not usually assume a major in a particular subject. Many employers prefer liberal arts majors both because they have been well-trained in "the basics" and because their broad education makes them flexible and adaptable to changing conditions. Sociology majors who develop their basic skills, are well- placed to apply for a wide range of jobs that are not directly related to the subject matter of sociology itself and will find themselves well-prepared to adapt to changing opportunities. Courses in writing, math, computer sciences, and foreign language may provide you with the background for a number of jobs.

Two final points may help you keep your career prospects in proper perspective. First, anyone starting out on a career must expect to start out at the bottom (or near it). Most people do not move immediately from a BA program to their "dream job." Very often, finding that job takes many years and may require a laborious process of waiting, creating opportunities for oneself, and taking advantage of those that present themselves. In other words, the fact that a sociology BA does not lead automatically and quickly to an ideal job is absolutely normal. Second, while career preparation is an important part of undergraduate education, it is not its only purpose. In addition to teaching skills that may prove useful later on, a sociology BA also provides valuable insights on topics not directly related to careers -- politics, religion, family problems, gender, the economy and many others. In constructing your undergraduate program, you should try to balance career-oriented courses with courses on matters of general interest.

Sociology Professor or Researcher

Requires M.A. or Ph.D. in sociology

Sociologists can teach at the community level with a master's degree or at the college level with a Ph.D. Some sociologists chose to do research with government or nonprofit agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services or the Urban Institute.

Recommended courses:

  • Independent research project under faculty supervision, either Directed Study {Socl 399) or Senior Thesis (Socl 391)
  • An extra course in research methods, either Field Research Methods (Socl 361) or Statistical Software (CSCI 216)
  • One or more 300-level Socl electives in addition to the required two 300-level courses


 
Market Research or Polling

Requires a B.A. or M.A.

Market research and public opinion polling are simply applications of the survey research techniques you learn in your research class.

Recommended courses:

  • Statistical Software (CSCI 216)
  • A directed study (Socl 399) conducting a survey or analyzing data.
  • An internship in the Survey Research Center of the School of Business or a market research firm.
  • Electives in Management Science or Political Science, selected with the help of your advisor



Social Work

Requires MSW to advance in the field; a B.A. or B.S. to enter

There are many different kinds of social work: providing services in group settings (as a counselor), dealing with individual clients (as a therapist), overseeing recipients of public services (as a caseworker), or supervising a social service agency (as a manager). Social workers work in schools, hospitals, group homes, government offices, and private agencies.

Recommended courses:

  • An internship with a social service agency.
  • Sociology electives in Social Problems and Public Policy (Socl 102), Sociology of the Family (Socl 210), Inequality, Class, and Poverty (Socl 220), Race and Ethnicity (Socl 230), Aging and Society (Socl 352)

Additional possibilities:

  • Psychology minor including Introduction to Community Psychology (PSYC 262), Humanistic
        Psychology (PSYC 311), or Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 360).
  • Human Development minor, concentrating on courses about children, adolescents, the elderly, or
        whatever population with which you want to work.


Teaching in Public School

Requires certification in education (elementary or secondary), and M.A. or M.S. to become permanently certified.

In recent years, several sociology majors have become teachers, especially in urban schools. They report that their sociology background is very useful in the classroom.

Recommended courses:

  • Teaching certification program (pre-K - 6), including one semester of student teaching
        or
  • Teaching certification program (7 -12) in social studies, including one semester of student teaching


Lobbying / Social Advocacy / Political Staff

Requires initiative and creativity more than specific degrees.

Some sociology majors have gone to work for lobbying, social advocacy, or nonprofit groups dealing with issues such as domestic violence, women's rights, prisoners' rights, child advocacy, the environment, racial and religious discrimination, disabilities, health care reform, and family planning. A related career option is to work in the office of an elected official. The curriculum appropriate for these jobs will vary according to the type of issue or organization with which you would like to work. By reading the College Bulletin carefully and talking to faculty, other students, and the Career Services staff, you can make up your own list of courses relevant to your interests. Don't overlook Directed Studies courses to study issues that are not covered by existing courses!

 Recommended courses:

  • One (or even two) internships with agencies in your area of interest
  • An interdisciplinary minor (if one exists) in your area of interest (e.g., Women's Studies,
        Environmental Studies)
    OR
  • Electives in sociology and other departments that relate to your area of interest [e.g., for family
        planning advocacy, Sociology of the Family (Socl 210), Human Fertility (BIOL 107), Political
        Parties and Interest Groups (PLSC 211), Psychology of Women (PSYC 308), etc.]


The Law

To be an attorney requires a J. D.; to be a paralegal usually requires a paralegal certificate (approximately 6 months beyond the B. A.)

Preparation for law school does not require any particular major.

Recommended courses:

  • A minor in Legal Studies (including legal internship)
  • Writing (Engl 100, 200) and Logic (Phil 111) Additional recommendation:
    A preparatory course to prepare for the LSAT exam, particularly if you have difficulty with standardized exams.