Are you fascinated by the way the human beings interact, curious about the complex forces that keep civilization in balance, interested in the various religious, political, cultural and ecological factors that can throw that balance into disarray? If so, you could be a good candidate for a degree is Sociology.
Sociology is the study of the systems and structures that govern the way we interact with society, within communities, and with one another. As a student of sociology, you’ll learn about the history and evolution of civilized interaction, about how social movements and revolutions can alter that interaction, and about determinant impact of conditions like economic disparity, criminal deviance, and armed conflict.
Sociology is a far-reaching and nuanced field, which means you’ll also interact with various relevant disciplines, including anthropology, political science, linguistics, philosophy and psychology, among others. This diversity of academic perspectives will also prepare you for a wide range of professional possibilities. A degree in sociology can qualify you for a career in human services administration, counseling, journalism, public office, law enforcement, corrections, social work or education, to name just a few. It could also be a great starting point on your way to an advanced degree in psychology or public research.
If you already know what you’re looking for, go ahead and jump to our ranking of The 25 Best Online Bachelor's of Sociology Degree Programs.
You might also be interested in checking out the The 50 Best Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts Programs.
If you need a little more information, continue on.
Covered in this article:
- What do I need to know about accreditation?
- What kinds of Sociology degrees are there?
- What can I do with a Sociology degree?
- How much can I make with a Sociology degree?
- What Professional Sociology Associations or Societies should I join?
Let’s start with the one thing you absolutely must be sure of before you proceed: accreditation.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on a degree that won’t be taken seriously by future employers. This is where accreditation comes in. As with most other higher education disciplines, accreditation is of critical importance in determining where to obtain a Sociology degree.
Only accredited colleges or universities are eligible for financial aid. And this accreditation must be granted by an accrediting agency that is formally recognized by the Department of Education. Accreditation typically indicates that an institution is not only maintaining its standards but that it continues to advance and remain current within its field. As you proceed in your search, you’ll find both institutional accreditation and program accreditation. The former refers to school wide accreditation and the latter refers to the accreditation conferred upon your specific discipline and degree program.
Regional Accrediting Agencies
The institutional accrediting sector is divided into regional and national accrediting agencies. Generally, regional accrediting agencies confer greater credibility and merit. When you’re investigating a college or university, you’ll want to look for the “stamp of approval” from one of the following regional accrediting agencies:
- The Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Be sure that whatever school you choose to attend, and whatever level of degree you pursue, one of the above accreditors has given its stamp of approval.
When it comes to nationwide programmatic accrediting agencies, reputations may vary. In some cases, program specific accrediting agencies may hold a great deal of importance. Some professions and places of employment will require that your degree has been conferred by a course of study with program specific national accreditation. In general, sociology is offered as a liberal arts program for which no program-specific accreditation is required. However, some related career paths may require program-specific accreditation.
For instance, if you believe that you will ultimately move toward a career in social work, it is critical that your program be accredited by The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This is the preeminent accrediting agency in the social work field. Your degree program must have the CSWE stamp of approval if you hope to eventually land a job in the field.
That said, a study in sociology could be a great jumping off point for any number of careers that do not demand program-specific accreditation, provided that the institution at large is regionally accredited.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also take a look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
Now that you get the idea, let’s take a look at some of your degree options.
What Kinds of Sociology Degrees Are There?
Associate’s Degree in Sociology
If you’re looking for a basic introduction into the field of sociology, an associate’s degree is a good starting point. This 60-credit, 2-year program is offered at most accredited community and online colleges and will give you a ground-floor look at pertinent subjects like family dynamics, criminal deviance, and social structures. You’ll also touch on subjects like behavioral science, psychology and communications. Completion of your degree program can qualify you for entry-level work in the field as a youth counselor, case worker for the disabled, community outreach advocate or in a number of assistant positions in public services and community organization. An associate’s degree also gives you a jumpstart on eventually completing your bachelor’s degree, which can qualify you for greater career advancement and higher earnings.
*Bear in mind that if you are seeking a career in social work, you’ll need the appropriate licensing as well. View the section below on licensing and certification for more.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Introduction to Sociology
- Contemporary Social Issues
- Sociology of Family Dynamics
- Statistics and Public Policy
- Introduction to Political Science
- Cultural Anthropology
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Associate Degrees and find the best sociology program for you.
Bachelor of Sociology
The bachelor’s degree in Sociology is a popular undergraduate option because it can open up such a wide variety of professional opportunities. Full-time students taking this 120-credit program will typically finish in a minimum of four years. During this time, you’ll study introductory level courses in sociology, contemporary social issues, and political systems. In addition, you’ll also dive a little deeper on subjects like public health, race relations, criminology, anthropology and history. As you advance in your studies, you may also have a chance to hone your focus on subjects like psychology, mental health outreach, drug and alcohol addiction, public service administration and a host of other relevant disciplines. You may also have a chance to participate in an internship or community service project that reflects this focus. Your bachelor’s degree will prepare you for a wide range of careers in public health outreach, family counseling, community organization, and in the administration of justice, corrections and rehabilitation.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Sociological Perspectives
- Sociology of Crime and Violence
- Race, Gender and Social Structures
- Social Justice Movements
- Social Science Research Methods
- Sociology of the Family
- History of Political Systems and Societies
- Issues in Behavioral Psychology
*Once again, if you are seeking a career in social work, you’ll need the appropriate licensing. View the section below on licensing and certification for more.
What’s the Difference between a BA and a BS in Sociology?
A bachelor of arts (BA) in Sociology is the more popular of these options and will usually combine degree-specific courses with a selection of arts and humanities. By contrast, a bachelor of science (BS) in Sociology will pair sociology courses with more math- and science-intensive coursework. The latter option might be a good fit if you plan on pursuing work in public research, survey analysis or in any aspect of the field (and there are many) that deal in statistics.
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 25 Best Online Bachelor's of Sociology Degree Programs.
Depending on your area of concentration, you might also be interested in The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Corrections Programs. Or, if you’re seeking a more generalized program with a focus on sociology topics, consider The 50 Best Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts Programs.
Master of Sociology
In order to hold the title of Sociologist, you will need to earn your master’s degree. In other words, this advanced degree — which can occupy between one and three years of study — is for you if you envision a career in public research, administrative leadership, or even as a holder of public office. If you aspire to a career in social work or social services, you can do so with a bachelor’s degree but a master’s could give you a leg up on the competition. It could also open you up to greater opportunities for advancement in community service, public administration, and think tank organizations. You’ll deepen your interdisciplinary studies by exploring the complex entanglements between sociology and fields like economics, politics, psychology, race and religion. You’ll also likely work closely with a mentor to pursue a research thesis that explores some combination of these interwoven disciplines. The specific courses you take will depend significantly on your chosen area of focus.
PhD of Sociology
The terminal degree in the field of sociology, the PhD is for those of you interested in leading important research in the field, whether through a private research foundation, a government-funded agency, or a university. This three- to seven-year commitment will revolve around a research topic of your design. You’ll pursue a subject that at once employs important conventions in the field of study while adding new insight to your discipline. A PhD will also qualify you to teach sociology and related subjects at the university level.
What can I do with a Sociology degree?
A sociology degree opens you up to a wide range of job opportunities in public, health, administrative and human services as well as counseling, education and research. The path you choose will largely depend on how you believe you can best apply your knowledge and how you can best help others. The following are among the most common occupations open to those with a degree in sociology:
- Health Educator
- Mental Health Counselor
- Marriage/Family Therapist
- Probation Officer
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Recreational Therapist
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Social/Community Service Manager
- Social/Human Services Assistant
- Social Worker
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- Behavioral Disorder Counselor
What kind of salary can I earn with a Sociology degree?
We’ve got great news for sociology degree-holders at every level. The job outlook is fairly robust and you have a ton of options. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, career opportunities in Community and Social Service Occupations are expected to grow at a rate of 14% between 2016 and 2026. Check out the opportunities below to see what professionals are earning in some of the field’s top jobs.
- Social Science Research Assistants — Mean Pay, 2016: $46,820
- Survey Researchers — Median Pay, 2016: $54,470
- Social Workers — Median Pay, 2016: $46,890
- Sociologists — Median Pay, 2016: $79,750
- Political Scientists — Median Pay, 2016: $114,290
- Postsecondary Sociology Teachers — Median Pay, 2016: $81,600
- Administration Service Managers — Median Pay, 2016: $90,050
- Community Health Workers — Median Pay, 2016: $44,390
- Marriage and Family Therapists — Median Pay, 2016: $49,170
- Probation/Corrections Officers — Median Pay, 2016: $50,160
- Rehabilitation Counselors — Median Pay, 2016: $34,670
- School/Career Counselors — Median Pay, 2016: $54,560
- Social/Human Service Assistants — Median Pay, 2016: $31,810
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral, Mental Health Counselors — Median Pay, 2016: $42,150
- Social/Community Service Managers — Median Pay, 2016: $64,680
Are There Professional Sociology Associations or Societies I should join?
Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for Sociology associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
- American Sociological Association
- Eastern Sociological Society
- Council on Social Work Education
- International Sociological Association
- The Society for Social Research
Now that you know a bit more about how to earn a degree in Sociology, jump to The 25 Best Online Bachelor's of Sociology Degree Programs.
Depending on your area of concentration, you might also be interested in The 15 Best Online Bachelor’s in Corrections Programs.
Or, if you’re seeking a more generalized program with a focus on sociology topics, consider The 50 Best Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts Programs.