Careers in Sociology
As a college student deciding whether to choose sociology as your major, your first question is likely to be about career options: "What can I do with a degree in sociology?" The answer to this question lies in one unique fact about sociology: It is an extremely diverse discipline that can lead to a variety of successful careers.
As a field dedicated to scientific study of the social world, sociology provides insights into a wide array of social situations and environments. Wherever people interact, sociology is relevant, and the skills developed by sociology majors prepare them for the flexibility needed to adapt to a changing, global economy.
But what do sociologists do?
The vast majority of sociologists do not teach, although some do. Many sociologists work for government agencies conducting research or as staff members in policy areas dealing with social issues, e.g., health care or crime. In 1988 the U.S. Office of Personnel Management established a position classification for sociology, and the government notes that sociology is an appropriate degree for work in areas such as public health, consumer safety, employee relations and civil rights.
You will find sociologists employed by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institutes of Health. Other sociologists work for private businesses, such as AT&T, General Foods, The Gallup Organization and American Express, as well as media organizations like NBC and CBS. Still others work for nonprofit groups directly dealing with social problems — poverty, women's rights, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and others. Sociology is clearly a uniquely diverse field, and students of sociology are well-prepared for success in a variety of career paths.
What can I do to improve my chances of finding a good job after graduation?
Regardless of your major, you can take steps as a student to make yourself a strong job candidate.
Study hard and excel in your coursework. The ability to think critically, solve problems and communicate effectively (in writing and orally) are essential to occupational success. The sociology curriculum is designed to foster these skills in students.
Gain practical experience that illustrates your ability to work in fields that interest you. In sociology, we encourage our students to do volunteer work in community organizations or to seek out internships related to careers. For instance, a student might work in a local business, spend time in a nonprofit community organization, or intern in a government agency. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact USM's Office of Community Service Learning, R.C. Cook Union, Room 221, 266-5074.
Develop contacts that can aid in locating and obtaining good jobs. Joining organizations both on and off campus can be a good way to form such important networks.
I am still concerned about job options . . .
What can I do?
- Talk with your professors in sociology.
- Spend some time in the library or on the internet (see links below for a place to start) exploring what kinds of work sociologists do.
- Contact the Office of Career Services. They can provide career counseling, job search assistance, internship and co-op program information, and other services.