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Careers in Medical Sociology: Options and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a medical sociologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, training, job duties, interesting aspects of this field to find out if this is the career for you.

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A bachelor's degree in sociology can lead to an entry-level position in medical sociology, although an advanced degree and a healthcare background is recommended. Options for medical sociologists include working at universities and colleges, or working in scientific research and development for private labs or research centers.

Essential Information

Medical sociology is a specialized field of study that equips professionals to work together to improve systems and policies for the betterment of healthcare experiences for all. A variety of opportunities exist for those with advanced degrees from one of the many universities that offer concentrations and majors in the field. While there is no particular licensing requirements for this position opportunities exist for those willing to put in the classroom hours. A medical sociologist can earn anything from a bachelor's degree all the way up to a Ph.D. A career in medical sociology may appeal to an individual interested in themes such as poverty, socio-economic status, ethnicity, among other factors using statistics and other methodologies as applicable to the medical field.

Career Sociologist, general Sociologist, scientific research and development Sociologist, universities and colleges
Education Requirements Master's degree recommended* Master's degree recommended* Master's degree recommended*
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -1% -1% -1%
Average Salary (May 2015)* $82,100 $97,920 $56,310

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Options

Sociology involves the study of every facet of society. Medical sociology views the healthcare system as a type of society and studies and serves it by improving upon all social facets of it. A background in medical sociology can launch a career in healthcare leadership, academia or research.

Individuals with a Ph.D. in Sociology are known as sociologists or social scientists. Those concentrating in medical sociology can teach in universities, write for scholarly journals and do outside consulting work. Data-minded medical sociologists design and conduct research studies, independently or as a member of a team. They also present findings, write articles and books and give public speeches for the purposes of advancing their field of study and improving health systems. Private laboratories, foundations and research centers also offer opportunities to medical sociologists.

The work of hospital administrators, policy analysts and human resource directors involves human, environmental and systematic issues that one can process, manage and improve upon through the use of a sociological framework. Leadership of medical centers, skilled nursing facilities and health-related social service agencies with a background in medical sociology apply their in-depth knowledge of social contexts to the management of the institution in a way that continually improves the level of care given to their patients and the degree of effectiveness of that care. These high-level positions are often filled by individuals with a graduate education in medical sociology in addition to medical training, experience and licensure as a nurse, doctor or other healthcare professional.

At the bachelor's level, opportunities in medical sociology may be limited to entry-level positions in hospitals, clinics and social service organizations. Upon graduation, they may find roles such as patient advocates, intervention specialists, discharge planners and hospice workers to be of interest.

Educational Requirements

Individuals interested in a career in medical sociology can choose a bachelor's program in sociology with a concentration in medical sociology. Those wishing to further their education will want to carefully review the prerequisites of their preferred graduate program. Requirements vary; some universities insist upon an undergraduate education in sociology or a closely related field, while others accept students with training in nursing, public health and other disciplines.

Students can expect their course content to include themes related to environmental health, international policy, illness and poverty, aging and disability, bioethics and disparities in healthcare relative to gender, ethnicity and sexual. Doctoral students can expect their studies to include courses in statistics and research, in addition to the core medical sociology courses. Ph.D. candidates may have teaching requirements to fulfill in addition to passing a comprehensive examination and successfully defending their dissertations.

Career Info

Sociologists in general can expect a decrease in job opportunities of about 1% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The reason for the decline is that a high percentage of sociologists are funded through government grants, and those grants have been reduced in number and become harder to get. The BLS also reported that sociologists earned an average of $82,100 in May 2015. Those in scientific research and development earned $97,920, on average, and those who worked in universities and colleges averaged $56,310 year (www.bls.gov).

The focus of medical sociologists is the improvement of the healthcare experience, and they work in clinics and social service organizations, or as intervention specialists or patient advocates. Professionals in this field hold at least a bachelor's degree in sociology, and may also need training in nursing, public health or a medical field. Sociologists, in general, are expected to see a decline in job opportunities through the year 2024, as much of their funding comes from government grants, which have become competitive.

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