You can study sociology at every degree level, from programs that result in an associate degree to doctoral programs where you’ll conduct advanced sociology research. You can also study online or offline at most levels of sociological study, which allows you to choose the program that best fits your needs.
Students looking at graduate programs are better off in traditional programs, as faculty access is invaluable when conducting research. Graduate programs are almost entirely focused on conducting and applying sociological research, so it is not a good idea to pursue online sociology master’s or doctoral degrees.
Typical Sociology Student Profile
Sociology students need a wide range of skills and interests to succeed. The ideal sociology student has some mathematical skills for performing statistical analysis, an inquisitive mind, and a knack for designing research projects or experiments that answer societal questions. More generally, sociology students should have an interest in doing research, as most jobs specific to sociology degree holders require a lot of research.
Keep in mind that sociology is not a good fit for every student. Students who are not interested in mathematical and statistical analysis will have difficulty with the data analysis required for sociology. Remember that even if you excel in math, sociology is not the right program for you if you are not interested in cross-cultural interaction and examining changes in society.
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Whether you study sociology offline or online, you will take courses on other cultures, statistics, research methods and social problems, in addition to completing a capstone project.
Associate Degree in Sociology
An associate degree is a good starting place for students who are interested in sociology but are still figuring out if it is a good fit for them.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2 years
- Employment prospects: entry-level sales or marketing
Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology
A bachelor’s degree is a good choice for students who are more committed to sociology,and is usually pursued by students who go to college right after high school.
- Credit hours/length of study: 4 years
- Employment prospects: Sociology bachelor’s degree holders typically find jobs in sales or marketing firms, or pursue employment in bureaucratic positions.
Master’s Degree in Sociology
A master’s degree is open only to students with a bachelor’s degree in sociology or a related field like psychology.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2-3 years
- Employment prospects: Those with master’s degrees typically work as sociologists and sociology research assistants, and often move on to PhD programs.
Doctoral Degree in Sociology
Doctoral programs follow bachelor’s or master’s degree programs and are intended for students who are committed to sociological research, as these programs take four to seven years to complete.
- Credit hours/length of study: 4-7 years
- Employment prospects: Graduates from sociology doctoral programs often work as sociologists or sociology professors, performing advanced research.
Licensing and Professional Certification
Although not all sociological professions require licenses, those who want to use their degree to teach social science classes need to meet the licensure requirements of their state department of education. These licensing requirements typically include the completion of a bachelor’s degree as well as a teacher preparation program, with other criteria varying from state to state. Teaching licenses do not always carry over from state to state, though many are part of reciprocity agreements, so be proactive and contact the local education department for more information.
Sociologists perform research regarding the behaviors of societal groups, cultures, and organizations. Their findings help organizations improve the effectiveness of their operations and make it easier to change behaviors in a culture or organization. Their research is used by organizations interested in promoting healthy behavior, educating people, or addressing social issues like poverty and discrimination.
These professionals start by devising research questions and designing projects that will provide answers to those questions. These projects usually involve collecting data through surveys, interviews, or other methods, followed by analysis and interpretation of data. After drawing conclusions from the data, these researchers report their findings and consult with organizations that would like to use their data in other contexts.
Most sociology graduates who receive master’s or doctoral degrees seek employment as sociologists or sociology professors. The job markets for these professions are small but are growing at about an average rate compared to all other professions. Both sociologists and post-secondary teachers earn more than $62,000 per year. The states with the most sociologists are Michigan, California, and Pennsylvania, whereas post-secondary teachers are employed in reasonable numbers all across the country.
A degree in sociology can qualify you, depending on degree level and experience, for jobs in several fields including:
- Public Policy
- Public Relations & Marketing
The most generous sociology scholarships, fellowships, and grants are for students who are completing a master’s or doctoral degree, or who are working on post-doctoral research. These awards provide tens of thousands of dollars, with some offering more than $70,000 per year. Some sociology scholarships are only intended for those undertaking specific research or working in particular areas of sociology. If you do qualify for these awards, then you won’t have to compete with too many other students, so be sure to apply.
Very few scholarships for undergraduate sociology students are exclusively available to sociology majors. Most are part of broader liberal arts, social sciences, or mental health programs, meaning the potential pool of applicants is likely to be larger than average. You should make sure that all of your scholarship materials are in order before applying for each of these broad scholarships to ensure that you have a solid chance at each funding opportunity. Use the directory to find as many scholarships as you can, and apply for any you believe you qualify for in order to maximize your potential return.