You don’t necessarily need a PhD to do similar jobs if you find them interesting. Here are some careers for sociologists:
- Technical Industry Research
Michael A. Miner describes how his work at Facebook (now Meta) began with an invitation to a summer internship. In current position:
I lead quantitative research for Instagram’s ratings team, which focuses on understanding and measuring how people’s attitudes, beliefs, or stated needs are formed and how they relate to their actions or behaviors over time. In consultation with partner disciplines such as engineering and data science, I identify ways to build more fairness, integrity and trust in rankings and algorithms. With one foot in academia and the other outside of academia, I aim to forge stronger and more valuable connections between these two worlds.
A typical researcher in the technology industry helps teams develop, clarify and test hypotheses. They also facilitate the communication of findings to expert and lay audiences, so their research often has a larger and broader impact.
He explains some of the most rewarding aspects of his work:
Place and salary were high among them. The benefits of industry far outweighed the potential benefits of academic appointments. Special attention was paid to the possibility of choosing where to live, rather than the need to move somewhere for work. I also felt that my research could have a broad and immediate impact. Seeing my referral sections quickly turn into positive changes has been professionally gratifying. There was also the opportunity to work across disciplines in a collaborative and supportive culture.
Matt Rafalow is YouTube’s head of research on new experiences and, like Miner, started his career with a summer internship at Yahoo!Labs that taught him how to work with non-social scientists on research projects. He helped found TechnoSoc, an online community for sociologists interested in working in technology, which is a useful resource if you want to learn more.
- Financial planning
Ervin (Malik) Matthew writes about how financial planning became a career where he could directly impact the lives of underserved communities. Additionally, one of my former students with a degree in sociology has opened a tax preparation business and helps low-income clients tap into resources they may not know about, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Matthew explains that his understanding of the financial industry’s history of abuse in minority communities, as well as his training in demographics, helps him connect with clients in a way that others might not be able to. He notes:
My approach to work is mission-driven and informed by an understanding of how social and economic inequality affects life chances, both by itself and in interaction with other personal characteristics… play a role in increasing said inequality.
In some cases, Matthew challenges insurers’ “non-adverse decisions” to help clients get loans or insurance after they’ve been denied. His knowledge of patterns of discrimination is particularly useful in serving and advocating for clients of color. As he details, helping clients manage their finances has direct, real-world implications for creating social change:
As someone for whom social stratification and social mobility are very important, both in my personal history and in my research specializations, I was excited about the new opportunity to connect the sociological perspectives I have acquired in my academic career with new tools that can make a direct impact. I care about results.
- Government agencies
Christopher Steven Marcum, associate director of Open Science and Data Policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, explains how his work influences public policy at the federal level. He has held many positions, including one at the National Institutes of Health, using quantitative training and applying it to his interest in health during a pandemic. He notes:
Sociology provides a valuable framework from which to build many careers in government science and policy. In my work, sociological thinking and imagination, research methodological expertise, compassion for the diversity of human experience across the lifespan, and a deep understanding of inequality are the disciplinary strengths that I draw upon for my science policy perspective and influence. my decision making process.
Similarly, Sidra Montgomery discusses how research insights can help military leaders integrate gender into the recruitment and training process through qualitative research:
It is impossible to understand recruitment training without participating social in a significant way. Effective policy recommendations require close observation of what people do (and don’t do); why they do it; how people shaped what was done; and what meanings are created, shared and sacred in this process. A policy that ignores the people who implement the policy and those affected by the policy (in this example, training instructors and staff, respectively) will ultimately succumb to failure. Sociology pays attention to what cannot be ignored: people, their relationships, social nuances and cultural habits.
She also describes how other projects she has worked on contribute to policy decisions:
I provide research support to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, one of the longest-standing federal advisory committees to the US Department of Defense (DoD), which provides annual recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on the recruitment, retention, employment, integration, welfare, and treatment of servicewomen. I conduct research at the Naval Health Research Center identifying risk and protective factors for military spouses and families using longitudinal data from the Millennium Cohort Family Study. I also do research and policy work for the DoD Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.
Many other social scientists work on research that informs public policy, as Nelson Lim, senior social scientist at the RAND Corporation, describes: “My clients vary in size and mission, from the US Department of Defense to the US Department of Homeland Security and federal and local law enforcement agencies. for fire services”. Henry H. Brownstein has worked in academia, state and federal criminal justice agencies, and private investigative organizations throughout his career.
These are just a few examples of careers for people with sociology degrees. Other sociologists wrote Footnotes on work in diversity, equity and inclusion and academic administration. We hope these stories inspire you to think about how you can use your sociology degree to find meaningful work for you.
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