One of the most common questions students ask me is what they can do with a sociology degree. My answer: It’s only a useful degree if you plan to work with people. Or work alone, but with clients. In other words, a degree in sociology provides many useful applications ato career.
Any degree provides a set of skills, and often the skill sets you develop through one foundation are quite overlapping with others. Rather than thinking of a degree as training for a specific career (ie being a sociology major is for those who want to be a sociologist), the degree helps you develop your unique skills and interests for a career that will likely change significantly. with time. Based on 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, 1957-1964. born people worked an average of 12.4 jobs during their working life.
Where your career will lead is often a mystery that you probably won’t be able to predict far in advance. As I discussed in this post a decade ago, your interest in the subject should guide your chosen major. A career application is the next step to consider.
Let’s apply sociology to several career options. This detailed infographic shows how sociological concepts relate to a wide variety of jobs. What sociology classes have you taken (or hope to take) that you find most interesting? Look at the larger circles in the infographic and see the jobs described in the smaller connecting circles.
Courtesy of WW Norton
You may already have some work interests that you are considering. What big wheels do those jobs involve? Large circles can help indicate courses you might consider that will be particularly relevant to your career interests. You can also independently read a sociological text on the topic or familiarize yourself with interesting research in the field. (Your Introduction to Sociology book will have a long list of references for each chapter to help you get started with further reading.)
Sometimes years later, I hear from students and learn a little about their career trajectories. Some entered politics after being part of advocacy organizations hoping to create social change (one of my former students ran for mayor of a major metropolitan city!). Others have become organizers, registering people to vote and advocating for specific causes.
Sometimes students come to my classes with a clear path in mind (law school, medical school are some of the top choices) only to find that it doesn’t quite fit them there. One former student became a lawyer and noticed the huge inequality in the high-powered law firm he worked for and decided to specialize in human resource management in the legal profession. His skills in observing and identifying various forms of inequality were honed in sociology courses, but he didn’t know how he would put them to use until years later.
You may start out focusing on one of the job circles, and later, as your interests and career develop, you’ll fall in love with another. In my later years of study, I thought I would end up focusing solely on research, either working in a think tank or in private industry. As a graduate student teaching assistant, I graded hundreds of blue book essays and knew I would never want to do that again. I was a research assistant in graduate school for a few years and knew this was going to be my path.
And yet I started teaching straight out of school (but never had students write essays in blue books), and I to teach research methods. Although I have done quite a bit of research over the years, my interest in teaching came after leaving school and has developed since then.
Your career is likely to evolve into. Getting to know your interests and honing your many tools is an important first step you can take as a sociology major.
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