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What Sociologists Do About this section

Sociologists
Some sociologists conduct interviews for their research.

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Duties

Sociologists typically do the following:

  • Design research projects to test theories about social issues
  • Collect data through surveys, observations, interviews, and other sources
  • Analyze and draw conclusions from data
  • Prepare reports, articles, or presentations detailing their research findings
  • Collaborate with and advise other social scientists, policymakers, or other groups on research findings and sociological issues

Sociologists study human behavior, interaction, and organization. They observe the activity of social, religious, political, and economic groups, organizations, and institutions. They examine the effect of social influences, including organizations and institutions, on different individuals and groups. They also trace the origin and growth of these groups and interactions. For example, they may research the impact of a new law or policy on a specific demographic.

Sociologists often use both quantitative and qualitative methods when conducting research, and they frequently use statistical analysis programs during the research process.

Their research may help administrators, educators, lawmakers, and social workers to solve social problems and formulate public policy. Sociologists may specialize in a wide range of social topics, including, but not limited to:

  • education and health;
  • crime and poverty;
  • families and population;
  • and gender, racial, and ethnic relations.

Sociologists who specialize in crime may be called criminologists or penologists. These workers apply their sociological knowledge to conduct research and analyze penal systems and populations and to study the causes and effects of crime.

Many people with a sociology background become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers. Most others find work in related jobs outside the sociologist profession such as policy analysts, demographers, survey researchers, and statisticians.

Work Environment About this section

Sociologists
Sociologists may work outside of an office setting when conducting research through interviews or observations or presenting research results.

Sociologists held about 3,000 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of sociologists were as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 37%
Educational services; state, local, and private 19
State government, excluding education and hospitals 17
Self-employed workers 11

Sociologists typically work in an office. They may work outside of an office setting when conducting research through interviews or observations or presenting research results.

Work Schedules

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Sociologist About this section

Sociologists
Many sociology programs offer opportunities to gain experience through internships or by preparing reports.

Sociologists typically need at least a master’s degree to enter the occupation. Bachelor’s degree holders may find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, or public policy.

Education

Sociologists typically need a master’s degree or Ph.D. to enter the occupation. There are two types of sociology master’s degree programs: traditional programs and applied, clinical, and professional programs. Traditional programs prepare students to enter a Ph.D. program. Applied, clinical, and professional programs prepare students to enter the workplace, teaching them the necessary analytical skills to perform sociological research in a professional setting.

Courses in research methods and statistics are important for candidates in both master’s and Ph.D. programs. Many programs also offer opportunities to gain experience through internships or by preparing reports for clients.

Jobseekers who have a bachelor's degree in sociology may find entry-level positions in related fields, such as social services, education, or public policy.

Other Experience

Candidates with a bachelor’s degree may benefit from internships or volunteer work when looking for entry-level positions in sociology or a related field. These types of opportunities give students a chance to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting and develop skills needed for the field.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Sociologists must be able to examine data and other information, often using statistical methods to test their theories.

Communication skills. Sociologists need strong communication skills when they conduct interviews, collaborate with colleagues, and write and present research results.

Critical-thinking skills. Sociologists design research projects and collect, process, and analyze information to draw logical conclusions about society and various groups of people.

Pay About this section

Sociologists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Sociologists

$92,910

Social scientists and related workers

$80,890

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for sociologists was $92,910 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $60,770, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $135,420.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for sociologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $105,120
Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 99,640
Educational services; state, local, and private 64,670

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Sociologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Social scientists and related workers

7%

Sociologists

5%

 

Employment of sociologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 300 openings for sociologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Sociologists will continue to be needed to apply sociological research to other disciplines. For example, sociologists may collaborate with researchers in other social sciences, such as economistspsychologists, and survey researchers, to study how social structures or groups influence policy decisions about health, education, politics, criminal justice, business, or economics.

Employment projections data for sociologists, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Sociologists

19-3041 3,000 3,100 5 100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in sociology, visit

American Sociological Association

O*NET

Sociologists

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