Major Spotlight: Sociology
IvyWise intern Sarah discusses majoring in sociology
Want to learn about how social structures and institutions create belief systems, resource distribution, and identity formation? What better way to prepare for the professional world than by knowing how it works and recognizing where it needs reforming! Learn how systems of operations work, and become more conscientious of the world around you in the process by majoring in sociology.
Contrary to popular belief, a degree in sociology does always equate to social worker. In fact, at schools like Princeton University, the majority of sociology grads actually go on to work in the for-profit sector. While social workers do generally need a social research background, sociology can serve as the foundation to a variety of professions. By taking advantage of your undergrad experience to explore different social institutions, issues, and dynamics, you may begin your career with a unique perspective.
Sociology departments tend to have pretty flexible course requirements, covering a broad range of subtopics. Because sociology overlaps with so many other fields, there is plenty of room to explore a diverse set of interests. Many schools offer joint programs or require students to take courses in specific subfields. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, concentrating in Analysis and Research lets those interested in quantitative research focus on data analysis. At the University of Oxford, students can study sociology in conjunction with Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in preparation for a career in law, government, or finance. Harvard University also offers diverse areas of focus like Health, Medicine, and Society, which can lead to a medical career. At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, sociology students can major in traditional sociology or in Management and Society, which prepares students for a future in office management or human resources.
Aside from maybe one or two classes, most sociology courses are going to involve elements of other academic concentrations. Think you’ll be a lawyer? Take a course on law and society to learn how law functions in daily operations. Interested in becoming a doctor? Find a course on public health to learn about unique epidemics that will affect different societies around the world. Are you a future teacher? Sociology of education classes can help you communicate and reinforce students in a positive and constructive way in a classroom environment.
While most sociology programs still require some familiarizing with classical theory, they also tend to emphasize more empirical approaches. Sociology students read, analyze, and gather quantitative (numbers-based, measurable; i.e., statistics) and qualitative (descriptive, observable; i.e., interviews and ethnographies) research, then interpret the data to figure out meanings behind these statistics, encounters, and perceptions. Many schools require students to write an original senior thesis, which demands hard work, creativity, resourcefulness, and time management skills.
These kinds of methodological and analytical skills translate into basically any professional environment. Additionally, sociology crafts an appreciation for diversity and social justice that can contribute to a fair, well-rounded workspace. In an increasingly globalized and diversified world, these sensitivities come in handy.
Nearly 30,000 undergraduate students in the US major in sociology, a number that has grown over the past few years. The need for accountability and social responsibility among professionals in all industries has become increasingly apparent. Studying sociology not only prepares students for careers and adulthood, it also emphasizes the importance of making positive contributions to the global community so students can better the world around them.
So, when you’re developing your college list, visiting schools, and considering different majors, take a look some sociology departments and consider the benefits of a degree in sociology.
Some notable sociology programs include University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, University of Notre Dame, and New York University.