November 18, 2010

Sociology Majors: Four Years Later

KS_2010a By Karen Sternheimer

If you are contemplating majoring in sociology, you might wonder what people with sociology degrees do after graduation.

The American Sociological Association (ASA) recently published a report based on a study of the class of 2005 four years later. The purpose of the study was to determine what kinds of jobs people got after graduation with a sociology degree, and how they used their skills in the workplace.

 

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As you can see from the above graph, the number of people earning sociology bachelor’s degrees has increased steadily since the mid-1980s, while the number of postgraduate degrees has remained steady.

Most people will go on to do something other than work as a practicing sociologist, but many of the class of 2005 went on to do some form of graduate work. The largest proportion, 18%, earned an advanced degree in social work; 13% earned an advanced degree in sociology; 8% earned a law degree; and another 8% earned a degree in a health-related field. Also popular were advanced degrees in education, psychology, business, and criminology.

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For those who enter the job market right after graduation, a large proportion get work in sales, management, administration, and social services. These are jobs that require “people skills,” which sociology majors build on through the study of groups, organizations, and human interactions.

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As you can see in the graph above, knowledge of diversity issues was the number-one skill that sociology degree holders report using in their jobs. Working with people as a manager, case worker, teacher, or other kind of professional that involves people (just about anything) requires being able to understand people’s different perspectives. This might make it easier to communicate well with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

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Those of you currently in sociology courses who will soon be looking for a job might be interested to know what concepts from your classes you are likely to use frequently after graduation. And if you are likely to need certain skills, employers might be more inclined to hire you if you let them know you have training in this area. Diversity, teamwork, doing research online, and writing are all skills you are probably going to use regularly on the job. (Another good reason to work hard when you are working on a group project!)

Sociology degree holders say that they seldom used skills from their statistics courses on the job—but that doesn’t mean learning about statistics is unimportant. Statistics classes help us learn to analyze data, which is always a valuable skill. Graduates wished they had more training in networking and grant writing, and would have liked their professors to be more helpful in advising them on possible careers beyond academia.

Overall, sociology graduates reported that they were most satisfied with their ability to help others and make a positive contribution to society in their jobs. Perhaps not surprisingly, they were far more likely to be satisfied with their degree in 2007 than in 2009—when high unemployment rates made it less likely for new college grads to get jobs in their chosen field.

Because so many sociology majors go on to do work that involves working with diverse groups, the report recommends that sociology programs focus even more on “human capital” skills training, or providing real-world examples of working with diverse populations and the challenges this may bring. This includes using group projects in classes when possible, and involving service learning projects that allow students to interact with people in their local communities, not only in the classroom. The report also recommends that universities work to create networks of students, faculty, and alumni to assist students entering the job market.

For those of you about to enter the job market, think about how you might enhance your expertise in working with diverse groups of people, both in your coursework and through volunteering and internships. Also consider how you might translate some of the core issues from your sociology classes into line-item skills for your resume. You have many skills employers will value—it’s just a matter of communicating them clearly.

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Comments

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Here are your potential skills in the future baby!

Interesting blog. I'm also a sociology major, currently pursuing my doctorate. I love this "Queen of Sciences" (Comte) so much that I needed to continue after a Bachelors. Indeed Sociology is not just for book knowledge or for the sake of getting a degree, but its applicability in the 'real world' opens our minds to a much greater understanding of societal issues impacting and affecting us. I would urge anyone who pursues this degree to apply its fundamental ideologies in better understanding everyday life.

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