Sociology Degree

The study of sociology is the study of how humans and societies interact with one another. It seeks to find explanations for these interactions and the way that human behavior manifests in various groups. Sociology is an extensive subject area that encompasses many fields, disciplines, and studies, including examining the assumptions that operate in the background of human group dynamics, the theoretical aspects of sociology and the methods used to study sociology. Subfields range from rural sociology to urban sociology, gender inequality to global social relations and so much more.

A sociology degree program serves as the foundation for a career in one of the many fields in the discipline. You learn the history of social issues, work in sociology, take courses where you practice methodologies and explore theories, and round out your liberal arts education. Whether you choose to pursue a career in criminal justice, social work, business, market research, journalism, nonprofits or some other area, a sociology degree will help you on your path.

What Can You Do with a Sociology Degree?

With a bachelor’s degree in sociology in hand, you gain access to an expansive variety of jobs and careers. Your options are numerous, including jobs in criminal justice, human services and public health. Other potential fields include research, government, nonprofit organizations and education. The average salary of someone with a sociology degree can vary significantly depending on which career path they choose. Your skills and education set you up to work in many different industries and to serve every facet of society.

There are so many ways that you can use a major in sociology to help individuals and communities, whether you choose non-profit work, charities, municipal jobs or private employment. Some of the most common jobs you can get with a sociology degree include:

Correctional Treatment Specialist

One of the most common educational backgrounds for correctional treatment specialists is sociology. If you understand how to connect with people even in the worst situations, you have the skills to help those who need support and guidance in correctional rehabilitation programs. You will serve as a case manager for inmates who are on the cusp or in the middle of improving their lives through things like probation and release from correctional institutions. Your work as a correctional treatment specialist is extremely important because it helps your clients avoid recidivism.

You will serve as a counselor, educator and guide for those who want to get their lives back on track. Your understanding of the structural difficulties and other inherent challenges they will face will help you advise them on the best path forward, even if it may take multiple attempts for them to reach their goals.

Guidance Counselor

Making your way through the education system can be challenging. Guidance counselors help students navigate the process by providing knowledgeable feedback and direction in the context of school. As a guidance counselor, you will use your understanding of counseling, education and career paths to assist students in identifying where they want to go and how they will get there.

Your work will involve more than just school counseling. Students often struggle with life issues as well, issues that may make focusing on school difficult. Problems like substance abuse, bullying and relationships are all subjects you may encounter as a guidance counselor. You will need to draw on your education in sociology and continue to educate yourself on current issues related to the students you serve to ensure you are capable of meeting their counseling needs.

Police Officer

Many law enforcement officers have a bachelor’s degree in sociology. Being an effective police officer requires understanding the expectations of the law and the way that society is impacted by those laws. Structural issues in society and those affecting certain segments of the population can make it challenging for police officers and those communities to work together. A foundation in sociology can help you see things more clearly so that you can better connect with those you are trying to help.

The way you come to understand how group dynamics function in your schooling will help you identify potential difficulties and work to avoid them before you even start to address crimes. And when you do find yourself in the middle of hard situations, your ability to model behavior and take on other perspectives will make you better at your job.

Probation Officer

Many probation officers have a background in sociology. As a probation officer, you typically work with those who were convicted of lesser crimes to help them manage their obligations to the state or the federal system. You coordinate the requirements of the probation agreement and the system you are employed by with the realities of the lives of your clients.

Although convicts are no longer being held by the prison, they are still considered to be in the custody of the state so they need someone to help them adhere to their probation requirements. As a probation officer, you provide advice, guidance, counseling and structure so that they can succeed in meeting the terms of their probation and eventually be released from probation.

Social Worker

During your sociology education, you will learn about social dynamics and the frameworks that people form, maintain and participate in as part of modern life. Your knowledge and practice in these areas make you an ideal fit for this work because you have the ability to understand the issues faced by your clients and to identify the most practical solutions for those issues related to your organization.

As a professional in this career, you may serve different communities based on your career path and your personal passions. This career path can take you into the medical field, child and family-focused organizations, substance abuse treatment centers, military organizations, political policymaking organizations and many more.

Benefits of a Sociology Degree

A sociology degree offers multiple benefits, both career-oriented and personal. It sets you up to start down a variety of career paths – and it is difficult to overstate the importance of career opportunities for most degree-seekers. With your degree in hand, you will be ready to pursue numerous jobs because you will have a strong foundation in social structures, communication, society, group values, human behavior and more.

Giving so much of your time to the pursuit of a degree and the skills it offers should be a life-changing experience as well. Studying sociology helps you see the society you live in with an objective eye so that you can remove bias and assumptions to get closer to the truth. Society is complex and is changing constantly. Being able to see how it all comes together and affects different groups is valuable on a personal level. It helps you understand yourself better and those around you.

Earning an undergraduate degree in sociology is certainly challenging, but it is something you can definitely do. Learn more about sociology classes, study a sociology dictionary to better grasp key concepts, consider a degree program and then pursue the one that is right for you. With time, effort and perseverance, you will earn your degree.

Career Opportunities

The hard truth about careers is that the one you pursue when you get out of school may not be the one you stay with over the long-term. Studies have shown that many in the job market switch careers at least a few times over their lives. A background in sociology is an excellent fit for the truths of the job world. Instead of pigeonholing you into a narrowly defined career that does not transfer well to other career paths, sociology gives you a broad, stable foundation that can be adapted to many different career paths.

People with degrees in sociology work in multiple sectors and industries, including government at the local, state and national level, private organizations in the corporate sector, educational institutions, the criminal justice system, mental health, community organizations, nonprofit organizations and many others. When you have your degree, you can follow your passion in an industry that fits your personality and values. But if after a time you decide that you want to try something new, your degree will serve you well because it will allow you to transition to a different industry.

Communication & Critical Thinking Skills

Communication can be hard even when you are highly motivated. There is often confusion and misinterpretation as one person tries to communicate with another. One of the major benefits that come from studying sociology is the improvement in your communication skills that you gain. You will spend significant time expressing how you feel and what you think in both written and verbal form. You will also learn how to grasp the essence of what someone else is trying to communicate, even when your immediate response may be confusion or frustration. The end result is that you are better at communicating than many who have not received such training – something that can be used in both your professional and personal life.

Critical thinking skills are vital for navigating the professional world. Employers need you to be able to see through the fog and discern what is really going on and find an answer to the problems you are presented with. Critical thinking is a skill that you learn in your sociology studies. You will be required to examine problems that have confounded many societies and individuals and to study the best possible solutions that those societies and individuals were able to come up with. It is not easy for a person to clear away the emotional and social static to think critically. It is something that must be trained. Fortunately, such training will be a major part of your studies.

Understanding of Diverse Perspectives

One of the most valuable lessons you learn in sociology is that your perspective is not necessarily the same as the perspective of another individual or group. There are seemingly countless variations in values and approaches to life depending on the background of an individual or group. For the untrained individual, it can be difficult to understand the different perspectives of other genders, racial groups, ethnic groups and class groups. But your sociology education teaches you how to set aside your assumptions and see things from other perspectives, even when doing so is emotionally challenging.

Having improved sensitivity to the differences and alternate perspectives of others can make you better at your job and better at many types of interpersonal relationships. In work, you can see where other people and organizations are coming from, which means you can identify the best way to achieve favorable outcomes in your interactions with them. In your personal life, you can keep a more open mind and recognize where miscommunication is stemming from so you can better connect with those that you care about.

Pursue an Advanced Field of Study

Sometimes, your career goals and/or educational goals require you to pursue an advanced degree in graduate school. With a bachelor’s degree in sociology, you lay the foundation for many different post-graduate degrees depending on your preference. The obvious next step would be to get a master's degree and then possibly a doctorate in sociology, but you do not have to stick to the same discipline if you do not want to.

If your advanced field of study is based on a career goal, you can determine which type of degree will help you achieve that goal. A sociology degree gives you the skills to pursue many other types of degrees in graduate school. You learn critical thinking, analytical abilities, research, verbal and written communication and many more abilities during your studies. You may decide to pursue an advanced degree after spending some time in the workforce or you may make the decision while you are still in school for your bachelor’s. Either way, by the time you earn your undergraduate degree in sociology you will be well-equipped to pursue an advanced degree.

Courses for a Sociology Degree Program

As a sociology major, you will take courses that teach you all about how people act in groups. Whether it is personal friendships, community groups or whole countries, there are courses that pertain to how those groups behave. You will begin by taking more generalized sociology and liberal arts coursework to meet your general education requirements and to lay a foundation in subjects like criminal justice, social change and social stratification. As you move further into your degree, you will be able to specialize in areas that interest you most, ranging from human resources to criminal justice, or anything else you can relate to your studies.

Your degree may require you to seek internships and/or do fieldwork to complete the program. These opportunities vary by institution and program, so as you research your options for an online sociology degree or another program, be sure to learn about what internships and fieldwork may be required.

Typical coursework in an online sociology degree program or local college program will likely include:

Principles in Sociology

Every social science has core concepts that must be learned and sociology is no exception. The course you take that covers the principles of the discipline will cover the fundamentals of what sociology is. It will teach you some of the biggest ideas and skills in the discipline and the core lessons that have been learned so far by researchers, including things like how culture is formed, how humans socialize and how and why social deviance develops.

Sociological Methods

Developing sound sociological theories and understanding requires using clear, well-defined methods both in research and in quantitative analysis. You may learn both of these skills in one course or you may find that research and analysis are broken up into two different core courses. You will learn how social scientists conduct research using a foundation established in social sciences and you will learn the basic methods those scientists employ to analyze the data they collect.

Sociological Theory

A theory is what you use to understand your world. You develop theories regularly to account for the things you observe. A course in sociological theory will help you understand some of the basic theories that social scientists have developed to explain things like how a family interacts with one another, why humans engage in war and how romantic relationships between humans form

Crime and Justice

In a crime and justice course, you will learn about how the criminal justice system is formed and how it operates. The course will cover basics like common laws, policing, courts, crime and how correctional facilities operate. If you choose to focus more heavily on criminal justice, you can pursue further coursework that goes into more detail about each facet of the system.

Social Policy

Social policy looks at how and why social policies are developed and how those policies play out in the real world. When a need is identified in society that the government can address, policies must be created to solve the problem. Sometimes those policies work well and sometimes they do not. A social policy course will have you examine both successful and unsuccessful social policy.

Health, Illness, and Society

This course looks at how social policy impacts public health and illness. It examines how health differs by social group and what kind of policies are created to address these differences. The goal of this course is to help you see how sociology approaches public health. If you are planning on moving into a career that involves public health, this course will serve as a starting point for further study in subjects related to forming public policy and the impacts of those policies on the health of various demographics and social groups.

Top Sociology Degree Programs

It makes sense to try to find the best education you can when pursuing a sociology degree. You can get a BA in sociology from numerous sources, including online education programs, local colleges and universities. There are plenty of popular sociology degree programs out there, including online sociology degree programs and brick and mortar institutions. However, it is important to know what you want out of a program before you make your final decision.

There are a few things worth considering when you choose a program. You want to verify that you are getting a degree and learning skills from an accredited college or university so that your degree will be accepted by employers and educational institutions if you pursue an advanced degree. The best job prospects are only available if you get a degree from an accredited institution. If you are planning on going further with your education, such as master’s degree programs, you may consider whether the institution you choose offers such a degree to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Another big question you have to ask yourself is what kind of learning environment is ideal for your needs. Many people choose online education because it fits with their busy lifestyles. Online courses are more flexible, which could be a major selling point for your needs.

Best Online Sociology Degree Programs

If you decide the flexibility of online education is perfect for your needs, the next thing you have to do is choose the best online sociology degree program. There are many online education programs available today that position graduates to pursue their dreams by providing the highest quality education, so know that choosing the option of online learning does not mean you have to sacrifice anything. You can find a school that exceeds your expectations.

You have plenty of options for online degree programs. You can get a full, four-year degree in the right program. Or, if you prefer to start out with a two-year associate's degree to get started and want to transfer into a four-year program, you can do that as well.

Online sociology degree programs are available from well-known educational institutions with brick and mortar campuses – and from institutions that specialize in online education. Look for a college that has a proven track record of producing successful sociology majors and offers the kind of education that fits your personal requirements.