Sociologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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

Sociologists examine various aspects of the human experience. Usually academic professionals, sociologists engage in research that may affect social policies and provide a better understanding of what it means to be human. A graduate degree is typically required in order to work as a sociologist.

Essential Information

A sociologist studies humanity on various levels, putting a strong emphasis on political systems and how human beings respond to change. He or she also explores race, ethnicity and sex and what role these play in political systems. Through quantitative, qualitative and comparative research, sociologists gather data. The minimum education requirement is a master's degree in sociology, although prospective employers may prefer candidates to have a doctoral degree.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -1%
Median Salary (2015)* $73,760

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Sociologists

A sociologist studies humanity on all levels with a strong emphasis on political systems, behavior in political systems, how humans respond to change and the development of power systems. By examining culture, race, ethnicities and organizations, sociologists learn how humans respond and spread crime, wealth, poverty, technology, social and cultural movements--and many other aspects of humanity. Sociologists compare and contrast findings from a nation's various areas, communities and classes.

Additional Duties

Sociologists start research by organizing several methods of analysis, which includes a historical perspective of the topic, considering period-affected factors such as wealth, poverty or racism. The sociologist might try to understand what the past conception of the topic was throughout America. He or she then sets up a comparative analysis, in which they might compare racism in the countryside with racism in an urban environment. Next, the sociologist compiles quantitative research in the form of statistics, or polls. The sociologist also compiles qualitative research, which is data coming from individuals who live in the areas wherefrom the sociologist is gathering information.

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Educational Requirements

Those interested in becoming a sociologist can start by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from an accredited university. Within this course of study, students learn about social problems, statistics and research methods in sociology. They also learn about minority groups in the United States and discuss racism, sexism and how these themes affect social class. This degree can be achieved in four years.

Most sociologists hold a graduate degree, such as a Master of Arts in Sociology. While in graduate school, one can choose to specialize in sociology and criminology, sociology and businesses or social psychology. The graduate program is designed to hone in on writing and research skills, allowing the student to develop strong research abilities. Students are expected to complete a thesis at the end of the graduate program.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities for sociologists will shrink by 1% throughout the 2014-2024 decade. Given the relatively few positions available, however, competition is expected to be stiff; candidates with advanced degrees are likely to see the most favorable job prospects.


In 2015, the BLS listed the median annual salary for sociologists as $73,760. State governments, scientific research organizations and social advocacy groups paid the most at that time, offering sociologists average salaries of $63,300, $97,920 and $86,450 per year, respectively.

A master's degree is the minimum education required for a sociologist, though job prospects may improve with a doctoral degree. Sociologists must be excellent research scientists and may need to address ethical issues when researching certain aspects of human behavior, such as criminal behaviors.

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