What do the Rev. Martin Luther King, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former President Ronald Reagan have in common? Chances are you didn't say "sociology majors in college."
Careers in sociology can manifest themselves in diverse forms -- from determining the definition of justice in the criminal justice system to the understanding of how users manipulate electronic devices. Somewhere in-between are jobs like First Lady, civil rights leader, President of the United States, and thousands of others. The largest demand for sociologists is in the criminal justice system, but not all sociology positions involve government work. Bachelor's degrees in sociology can open doors to jobs in non-profits or for-profits, spanning fields such as IT, publishing, research, library science and sales management.
According to the American Sociological Association, sociology is "the exploration of social change and a lens into the complexity of the causes and consequences of human behavior." Through that lens dozens of interests are organized into areas like gender, politics and behaviors. The ASA describes sociology degrees as a pathway to 21st century careers that require creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, not to mention a great deal of mathematics and science.
Outlook for sociology careers
Bachelor's degrees in sociology qualify you to seek roles in social science research and related fields, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typically, a master's degree is required to enter the career of sociologist. In 2010, the yearly median salary for research assistants in social sciences was $37,230, the BLS reports, while sociologists earned median wages of $72,360.
The BLS projects that jobs for sociologists will grow 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average of all occupations. That increase is tied to higher demand for studies of the sociological impact of advanced technologies and social networking on human interaction. The results of these studies, the BLS says, will help drive future public policy.
Technology plays an important role in social sciences, in the subjects for study and the methods used for research. The Department of Labor's O*NET website notes that social science research assistants manage vast databases, prepare tables and graphs, and perform statistical analyses using specialized software programs. Online studies would make sense for a sociology program using high-tech tools to examine the impact of digital culture on human life.