Careers in Industrial Sociology: Options and Job Requirements

Oct 02, 2019

The subject of sociology in an industrial setting is multi-faceted. Consequently, careers can range from dealing with hands-on interpersonal relationships as a human resources specialist to the investigation and analysis of those relationships as a sociologist or a market research analyst. Though generalists approach the field with an all-encompassing overview, opportunities for specialization are numerous.

Essential Information

Industrial sociology courses teach students to examine the relationships between coworkers, management and employees and analyze how those relationships affect the work environment. There are not many degree programs specifically in industrial sociology, but courses in this field can be found in other majors, such as sociology or human resources management. Market research is another career field that uses industrial sociology concepts. Although human resource professionals may only need bachelor's degrees to find employment, sociologists and market research analysts conduct significant research, so they may need graduate-level degrees.

Career Titles Human Resource Specialist Sociologist Market Research Analyst
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Master's or doctoral degree Bachelor's degree or higher
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) +5%* +9* +20%*
Median Salary (2018) $60,880* $82,050* $63,120*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Options

Human Resource Specialist

Human resource professionals investigate worker complaints, allegations of misconduct on the job and issues between employees. There are many different types of human resource specialists, though. Generalists deal with everything, including recruiting, policy administration, payroll, benefits, and employee relations. Other professionals may choose to specialize in any one of these areas. For example, some specialists work only as recruiters. These workers often conduct employment interviews to assess the job candidate's skills and personality, as well as determine whether a prospective employee fits into the organization's culture.

Since there are so many different types of human resource specialist positions, education and experience requirements vary. Most professionals who specialize in any area require bachelor's degrees and some field experience. A few entry-level positions may only require applicants to hold the equivalent of high school diplomas, provided that those individuals have industry experience. Human resources trade organizations offer several certification credentials to professionals who possess enough experience and who can pass the necessary exams.


Sociologists examine the behaviors and interactions of different social groups. Those who focus on industrial sociology may work as consultants to businesses, and these professionals often provide business leaders with recommendations on how to improve organizational teamwork and communication. Sociologists may also work as policy analysts, where they provide expertise and recommendations to various officials. Policy analysts interpret public opinion of current policies, which often involves analyzing surveys and other datasets. Analysts then prepare recommendation reports and forecast trends based on their findings.

To achieve the job title of sociologist, individuals will require graduate degrees within the field. Master's degree programs in sociology usually fall under one of two design structures: programs that prepare graduates for the workplace, or programs that prepare students to advance into Ph. D. programs. Programs designed to prepare graduates for entering the workforce may have more real-world training and internship requirements, whereas programs designed to prepare students for doctoral studies tend to focus more on theoretical academic research. Sociologists are not required to be licensed or certified, although some employers, such as government agencies, may require sociologists to submit to background checks as part of the hiring process.

Market Research Analyst

Industrial sociology students may consider becoming market research analysts, who are professionals that review market trends to determine patterns that may be beneficial to various organizations. These analysts may apply their knowledge of human behavior to developing marketing strategies for sales promotions, packaging methodologies, or social media networking.

At the bare minimum, market research analysts require bachelor's degrees. Some employers may prefer job candidates who hold master's degrees, especially for organizations that conduct a lot of independent research. After gaining work experience, market research analysts can pursue voluntary certification from various trade organizations, such as the Marketing Research Organization who offer analysts the opportunity to earn the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) designation.

Salary and Employment Outlook

In May 2018, the BLS reported that human resources specialists earned a median annual salary of $60,880. Market research analysts had a higher median of $63,120, and the median for sociologists was $82,050, the BLS noted.

The BLS predicted that human resource specialists would see a growth of 5% in employment between 2018 and 2028. In comparison, market research analysts were expected to see 20% growth, while sociologists could see little or no growth during that same period.

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to secure a position as a human resource manager or a market research analyst, while sociologists require a master's degree or doctorate. It's interesting to note that while a position as a sociologist requires the most education and pays the most, employment opportunities are expected to grow little or not at all through 2028. Meanwhile, employment opportunities for human resource managers and market research analysts are projected to grow at about the same rate and at a much faster rate than the average for all occupations over the same time period.

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