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What Can You do With a Sociology Degree?

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Sociology is a social science which helps to make sense of the way in which society works. Those who study sociology will become adept in understanding and analyzing sociological issues and devising potential solutions and improvements, perhaps by addressing social inequalities relating to factors such as class, gender, race and poverty.

Sociologists don’t just study their own societies; they look at the far reaches of human society both past and present, gaining insight into how societies develop and organize themselves. Topics covered on a sociology degree can be incredibly wide-ranging depending on your interests. Through the lens of sociological theory, those who study sociology will learn about the social causes and consequences of common human experiences and issues, including love, religious faith, identity, morality, gender, race, family, prejudice and discrimination, poverty, war and peace, education, economics, and the various relationships between the individual and the state. This knowledge can then be used across multiple sectors, from politics to social welfare.

So, what can you do with a sociology degree?

With this broad foundation in mind, the question remains: what can you do with a sociology degree?! Thanks to the far-reaching nature of the subject, students can often choose the direction their sociology program takes, particularly if it’s possible to specialize in a particular field of interest after the first year of study.

Bear in mind that the specializations you take during your sociology degree will not only help you focus on a particular area, but could also help make you more employable within specialized fields. Sociology careers in rehabilitation, for instance, may be easier to pursue with a specialization in crime and punishment.

Read on for insights into common (and less-common) careers in sociology, with information on what to expect in each sector.

Sociology careers in the community and youth work

Community and youth development are common yet incredibly important fields in which to pursue sociology careers. The focus here lies with social welfare amongst young and vulnerable people as well as the wider community, on both a local and a national scale. Often these roles have close involvement with social politics, particularly in regards to social care, education, community involvement, poverty, rehabilitation and healthcare. Studying sociology will help develop the broad knowledge needed to work in community development, including awareness of how laws and regulations affect society and strong interpersonal skills. Common roles in community and youth work include: community officer, social worker, carer, youth worker, equality and diversity officer and sports development officer.

Sociology careers in counselling and therapy

If you’d like to work within your community in a more intimate capacity, studying sociology could provide a way in to counselling and therapy careers. While a psychology degree is a more typical route into professional psychology careers, counsellors and therapists can come from numerous backgrounds. The main attributes required are strong interpersonal, communication and critical thinking skills. and an ability to empathize without judgment. Counselling and therapy roles can mean working closely with a diverse range of people – individuals, couples and/or groups – helping them to talk through and overcome an array of problems. Issues for which people seek counselling and therapy can include alcohol and substance abuse, relationship/family problems, depression, addiction, eating disorders and other psycho-social issues. Bear in mind that a professional qualification may be needed to develop further in this industry, and a medical qualification should be considered for anyone who wants to pursue a career in mental health.

Sociology careers in education

What can you do with a sociology degree in the education sector? Well, that depends on the education level you want to work at. For careers in primary and secondary education, a sociology degree could provide you with relevant knowledge of education in society, as well as the child development process, and even the laws of the playground. Although a background in sociology provides a solid foundation for careers in education, a professional teaching qualification is also often required, usually taking one year to complete.

For careers in higher education, postgraduate qualifications are often a prerequisite – you’ll typically need at least a master’s degree, and often a PhD. At this level you’ll likely be working within your own specialization in a teaching and/or research capacity. Job roles include lecturer, tutor and researcher; many of those working in academia combine several of these functions, while focusing on writing papers for publication in journals.

Sociology careers in public services

Careers in public services often focus on similar issues to those addressed in community development roles. Potential public services jobs for sociology graduates include roles in social and welfare services, public health services, the voluntary sector, criminal justice, probation and prison services, rehabilitation and housing services. Social researchers are also needed to track societal developments across the public service sector. Skills needed within this industry differ depending on the role but, generally, employers look for analytical and critical thinking skills, cross-cultural understanding, ability to collate and present complex information, awareness of current laws and regulations in the sector and solid interpersonal skills.

Other careers with a sociology degree

Careers in business

Combining a background in sociology with a career in business opens up a huge range of potential career paths and sectors. Business careers span every industry, incorporating roles in marketing, statistics, research, public relations (PR), recruitment, human resources (HR) and more. Those who study sociology are likely to have the strong analytical skills needed to make it in the business world, as well as the critical thinking skills needed to make connections and find solutions to business issues.

Careers in marketing

A good knowledge of the complexity of human societies and behavior is extremely helpful for those pursuing careers in marketing. Marketers focus on targeting messages to different sections of society, identifying the needs of different demographics and acting accordingly. An understanding of how to categorize and analyze different subsections within society will help with the creation and targeting of marketing campaigns, with the statistical and analytical skills gained during a sociology degree providing an excellent background for effective work in this field.

Careers in politics, activism and the charity sector

In grouping these three career paths together, I hope to make the point that although careers in sociology are often found very much within ‘the establishment’, they can also be very anti-establishment. As Karl Marx famously once said, “philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it.” Sociologists’ knowledge is important in order to question the status quo in society, in matters such as race, class and gender equality. If you want to use the skills and knowledge gained during your degree to make society better, you could consider careers within the charity sector, local and national politics, or by becoming a political activist.

For some entry-level roles in professional politics you may require a relevant postgraduate degree. But many roles are available to bachelor’s graduates who can demonstrate their passion for the sector alongside skills in conducting research and analyzing complex data, awareness of current affairs and the ability to argue, reason and persuade.

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“What Can You Do With a Sociology Degree?” is part of our “What Can You Do With…” series. We have also covered artbiologybusinesscommunicationscomputer scienceEnglishengineeringfashionhistorygeographylawmarketingmathematicsperforming artsphilosophypolitics, psychologychemistryeconomics and physics.

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Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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