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Graduate Programs in Sociology with Career Information

Master's degree in sociology students typically select an area of focus, further refining it at the Ph.D. level. Earning either of these degrees can lead to a range of employment options in consulting, management and education, among others.

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Essential Information

Sociology is an academic discipline that uses empirical and statistical analysis to study human culture and society. Some common areas of focus in sociology include sex and gender, religion, race, communities and social inequality. The skills and knowledge developed in sociology master's and doctoral degree (usually at least 3 years) programs can be applied to career tracks including academia, social service work, public service and public policy development. Admissions requirements are pretty standard, but specific majors may be preferred. Some sort of comprehensive research project is necessary to meet graduation requirements.


Master of Arts in Sociology

The Master of Arts (M.A.) is the most common master's degree awarded in sociology, though some master's-level sociology programs may award a Master of Science (M.S.) degree. Students typically choose a specialization and produce a research project based on this focus.

Many master's degree programs accept qualified applicants from any undergraduate major, but preference may be given to applicants who majored in sociology or a related social science discipline.

The curriculum is comprised of core classes in addition to taking seminars specific to their area of interest. Programs generally take about two years to complete their required coursework and thesis. Common study areas include:

  • Social research
  • Qualitative methods
  • Statistics
  • Social theory
  • Social data collection and analysis

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Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest academic qualification for sociology. Graduates can use their skills and knowledge for careers in academia, government, businesses or the nonprofit sector, or they can earn additional academic credentials in areas like law, public health, counseling and management.

Though some programs consider applicants who have not earned a master's degree, it is generally preferred that prospective sociology Ph.D. students have earned a master's degree prior to enrollment. Some programs accept students with master's degrees in disciplines other than sociology, particularly social science disciplines like anthropology or history. All applicants to these programs are expected to have earned a bachelor's degree and must generally meet minimum GPA requirements.

Curricula for sociology doctoral programs are usually similar to those for sociology master's programs in their inclusion of sociological method and theory along with the study of topics specific to a student's area of interest. Students are usually encouraged to focus their coursework on subjects that will assist in the completion of a dissertation. Classes available to sociology Ph.D. students generally involve intensive study into subject areas like:

  • Social stratification
  • Globalization
  • Societal structures
  • Race and ethnic relations
  • Organizational theory

Popular Career Options

Graduates of sociology master's degree programs are not limited to work in the field of sociology, which is primarily an academic discipline. Depending on a graduate's area of focus, they may work in careers like:

  • Nonprofit management
  • Law enforcement
  • Human resources
  • Social issues consulting
  • Community college teaching

Sociology doctoral graduates are eligible for a wide variety of careers, often steered by the focus of their studies. For instance, a graduate whose sociology Ph.D. dissertation and coursework focused on criminology and the sociology of crime might find work in law enforcement as a consultant or parole officer. Possible career tracks for a Ph.D. in sociology include:

  • Legal studies
  • Public policy analysis
  • Academic research and university teaching
  • Journalism
  • Human services management

Graduate sociology students can typically choose to concentrate on a topic within the field while expanding their knowledge of other sociological studies. These programs can prepare students for careers in academia as well as fields such as journalism, human resources, public policy, and more.

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