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Thinking About Skills and Careers

No matter how much you love your major, obviously, it’s important to think about the future. After all, who wants to spend money on a degree that doesn’t help pay the bills?sociologyimage

The good news for sociology majors is that what you learn in the classroom will help you develop the skills you need for a successful 21st century career. So pay attention in class!

Remember, sociologists study social life, social change, diverse communities and their interactions, and we use scientific methods to find empirical answers to complex social questions. So studying sociology can help foster creativity, innovation, critical thinking, analytic problem solving and communication skills. All those skills give you a foundation for better understanding and engaging with the globalizing world. Our job is to equip you with the tools to make sense of the shifting social world and contribute solutions to difficult social problems.

Skills in Sociology

Indeed, study after study after study show that the skills gained with your sociology degree match with what employers state they are looking for in a worker:

1. Communication and Writing Skills- Anyone familiar with liberal arts knows that sociology students write literally dozens of papers and make numerous presentations during their college career. In fact, there are few other majors that can match the extent and depth of writing and communication experiences. 

2. Conceptual-Critical-Analytical Skills- Sociology is about ideas. It is about how ideas make sense of the world around us. It is about understanding the world and the workplace as systems and structures and how different parts fit together as well as how conflict can hold us apart. It is about seeing the world in a different way -- without making taken-for-granted assumptions -- and seeing the possibility for alternatives. General Sociology, Employment Relations and Diversity and Social Justice offer students a special set of skills which equip them with the ability to conceptualize workplace and employment problem/issues, critically analyze them and make recommendations for change.

3. Problem Solving/Research Skills- These are the skills in the methods of scientific inquiry, that is how do we find out about workplace issues and problems, and how can we best test our ideas so we have valid knowledge to solve problems and create change. Being able to design a research project, collect data- by conducting surveys or interviews, through field observation or examining records and documents - and analyzing data using appropriate statistical techniques, are a special set of sociological skills.

4. Group Coordinating and Problem Solving skills- Sociology focuses on the relationship between the individual and the group as a way of understanding human behavior- this knowledge and skill are especially helpful in participating in and facilitating systematic small group, team-building activities designed to solve problems and create change.

5. Diversity Skills- Applying knowledge and awareness concerning the diverse backgrounds of participants based on cultural, gender, racial, class or sexual differences- provides skills in preventing and managing conflicts, and providing opportunities to empower and for equal opportunity in workplace activities.

Given the breadth, adaptability, and utility of studying Sociology, employment opportunities abound for graduates. The following list of possibilities is only illustrative – many other paths may be open to you and additional education or training may be required. Employment sectors include:

Careers in Sociology

  • Community Work: Fund-raising, planning, and development for social service organizations, nonprofits, child-care or community development agencies, or environmental groups.

  • Social Services: Rehabilitation, case management, group work with youth or the elderly, recreation, or administration.

  • Criminal Justice: Law enforcement, probation, parole, or other criminal justice work.

  • Government Services: Federal, state, and local government jobs in such areas as transportation, housing, agriculture, equal opportunity, and labor-management relations.

  • Business: Advertising, marketing and consumer research, insurance, real estate, personnel work, training, or sales.

  • College Settings: Admissions, alumni relations, residential life, or placement offices.

  • Health Services: Family planning, substance abuse, rehabilitation counseling, health planning, hospital admissions, and insurance companies.

  • Publishing, Journalism, and Public Relations: Writing, research, and editing.

  • Foundation for Graduate Studies in Sociology, Women’s Studies, African American Studies, Criminology/Criminal Justice, Law, and other areas of masters and doctoral work.

  • Many Other Occupations which require an understanding of diversity, research methods and statistics as well as public speaking skills, program evaluation, critical thinking skills, and problem solving techniques.

Source:  American Sociological Association (2006).Job Prospects for the BA Graduate. Online at

Career Related Links

American Sociological Association -- The ASA has links to job opportunities
SIUE Career Development Center - Information on employment opportunities and career related assistance from SIUE's career experts.
What to Do with a Sociology Degree -- Different career paths descriptions and the skills needed.

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