Sociology Degree Programs and Career Information

Sociology degrees can be earned at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree levels. Take a look at the various programs offered, courses, career outlook, and salary.

Essential Information

Sociology degree programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. levels to prepare graduates for careers in academics, social services and research.

Bachelor's-level students get a foundational knowledge of sociology theory and research methodologies. In addition to the general education courses required of all bachelor's degree students, courses in a 4-year undergraduate sociology program usually cover conflict theory, social stratification and statistics for sociological research. Program specializations include gender studies, immigration, urban sociology and more. Many programs call for an internship that gives students research experience working with various population. Online courses are available for a sociology degree.

At the master's level, students develop their teaching skills and usually gain practical experience through student teaching. These programs also emphasize research and analysis skills and often require the completion of a thesis. This study continues in doctoral programs, which allow students to focus on research or on teaching at the college level and requires a dissertation.

Bachelor's Degree in Sociology

Bachelor's degree programs in sociology introduce students to the main theories and methods of sociological research and analysis. Often drawing upon multiple disciplines, undergraduate sociology degree programs teach students to evaluate people and groups using qualitative methods grounded in history and psychology, as well as quantitative methods grounded in mathematics and statistical analysis. Sociology undergraduate degree programs often include direct interaction with populations through internship research experiences. Applicants to sociology bachelor's degree programs are required to possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Most programs require students to submit ACT or SAT scores.

Coursework in undergraduate sociology degree programs includes a broad selection of introductory classes in sociology as well as courses from departments such as philosophy, economics, psychology and statistics. Comprehensive curricula for bachelor's degrees in sociology include:

  • Introduction to sociology
  • Functionalist theories
  • Conflict theories
  • Symbolic interactionist theory
  • Statistical techniques in sociology
  • Race, ethnicity and gender

Master's Degree in Sociology

Master's degree programs in sociology introduce students to advanced theoretical models and research techniques. In master's degree programs that emphasize preparing sociology educators, students learn teaching methods in sociology, and student teaching is often a component of these programs. Many master's degree sociology programs directly prepare students for doctoral study. Master's degree programs in sociology require applicants to possess a bachelor's degree. While an undergraduate degree in sociology is helpful, many programs will accept candidates with other undergraduate degrees. Most programs require students to have completed some basic coursework in social theory and statistics prior to beginning graduate study.

An M.S. in Sociology requires a thesis with original research using observational and historical methods. In addition to student teaching, students in master's degree programs in sociology take classes covering:

  • Rational choice theory
  • Exchange theory
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Advanced statistics
  • Sociological data analysis

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sociology

The terminal degree in the discipline, a Ph.D. in Sociology is intended for students interested in teaching sociology at the college level or performing advanced research. Students often specialize in a subdiscipline, such as urban sociology, gender studies or immigration. A master's degree is required for admission to a Ph.D. program in sociology. For students without a master's degree in sociology, coursework is often required prior to admission. Applicants are often required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

Core study in sociology Ph.D. degree programs involves both advanced coursework in theory and highly specialized coursework in the student's area of focus, preparing a student for the research and writing necessary to present and defend a thesis. A doctoral dissertation incorporates original research that contributes to the field of sociology. Seminars cover:

  • Comparative theories in sociology
  • Cultural sociology
  • Media and gender
  • Contemporary issues in social theory

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree in sociology prepares students for careers working directly with groups of people and understanding how people interact. Graduates with a B.S. in Sociology can pursue careers in:

  • Social services
  • Health services administration
  • Sales research
  • Law enforcement
  • Corrections

A Ph.D. in sociology prepares graduates for work involving teaching, data analysis, social research and statistics. In addition to an academic career as a sociology professor and researcher, graduates with a Ph.D. in Sociology may start careers in:

  • Government services
  • Criminal justice
  • Marketing
  • Consumer research
  • Social services management
  • Rehabilitation management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Earning a master's degree in sociology can lead to work as a sociologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of sociologists is expected to have negative job growth of 1% between 2014 and 2024, which is below average compared to other occupations. Competition for jobs will be strong - there are very few available positions in the field. As of May 2015, sociologists earned a median salary of $73,760, reports the BLS.

In conclusion, students looking for a degree in sociology have a few options at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. Depending on the type of degree you get, there are multiple career options including careers in social services, corrections, criminal justice, and rehabilitation management.

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