A sociology degree allows you to study the systems and structures that govern the way we interact with society, within communities, and with one another. Are you fascinated by the complex forces that keep civilization in balance? Are you interested in the various religious, political, cultural and ecological factors that can throw that balance into disarray? If so, you are a good candidate for a degree in sociology.
A sociology degree focuses on the study and explanation of society and human interaction and prepares graduates to work in fields like education, research, journalism, government, and more. As a sociology student, you’ll learn about the history and evolution of human civilization, how social movements and revolutions create change, and the impact of economic disparity, criminal deviance, and armed conflict on society. If you’re wondering what to do with a sociology degree, then keep reading to learn about the many sociology careers available.
Sociology is a far–reaching and nuanced field, which means you’ll interact with other disciplines like anthropology, political science, linguistics, philosophy and psychology. This diversity of academic perspectives will prepare you for a wide range of professional possibilities. Sociology major jobs include careers in human services administration, counseling, journalism, public office, law enforcement, corrections, social work or education. A sociology degree is also a great starting point for an advanced degree in sociology, psychology, or public research.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.
For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?
- What is Regional Accreditation?
- Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
- The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
- What Is National Accreditation?
- National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.
To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.
For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.
- What is Programmatic Accreditation?
- Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
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, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
What Kinds of Sociology Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in Sociology
If you’re looking for a basic introduction into the field of sociology, an associate sociology degree is a good starting point. This 60–credit, two–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 sociology degree program can qualify you for entry–level work in the field as a youth counselor, case worker, community outreach advocate, or several assistant positions in public services and community organizations. An associate sociology 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 in a Sociology Associate Program?
- Contemporary Social Issues
- Cultural Anthropology
- Introduction to Political Science
- Introduction to Sociology
- Sociology of Family Dynamics
- Statistics and Public Policy
Bachelor of Sociology
The bachelor’s in sociology is a popular undergraduate option because it can open 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 in sociology 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 in a Sociology Bachelor’s Program?
- History of Political Systems and Societies
- Issues in Behavioral Psychology
- Race, Gender and Social Structures
- Social Justice Movements
- Social Science Research Methods
- Sociological Perspectives
- Sociology of Crime and Violence
- Sociology of the Family
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.
Master of Sociology
In order to hold the title of sociologist, you will need to earn your master’s in sociology 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 in sociology degree 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.
Ph.D. of Sociology
The terminal degree in the field of sociology, the Ph.D., 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 employs important conventions in the field of study while adding new insight to your discipline. A Ph.D. will also qualify you to teach sociology and related subjects at the university level.
What Can You Do With a Sociology Degree?
A degree in sociology opens you up to a wide range of sociology 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 toward helping others. Sociology degree jobs can include work for public, private, and non–profit organizations. The following are among the most common sociology careers open to those with a degree in the field:
- Behavioral Disorder Counselors
- Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Health Educators
- Marriage/Family Therapists
- Mental Health Counselors
- Probation Officers
- Recreational Therapists
- Rehabilitation Counselors
- Social/Community Service Managers
- Social/Human Services Assistants
- Social Workers
- Substance Abuse Counselors
What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Sociology Degree?
We’ve got great news for sociology degree–holders: the job outlook is robust, and you have tons 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. The following list shows median annual salaries by profession as of 2018.
|Social/Human Service Assistants||$33,750|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral, Mental Health Counselors||$44,630|
|Community Health Workers||$46,080|
|Social Science Research Assistants||$46,640|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$50,090|
|Social/Community Service Managers||$65,320|
|Postsecondary Sociology Teachers||$74,140|
|Administrative Service Managers||$96,180|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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 sociology career path you take. Look for sociology associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
- American Sociological Association
- Council on Social Work Education
- Eastern Sociological Society
- International Sociological Association