Sociologist Job Description
Sociologists study groups of people. They analyze the groups and institutions that people form, as well as the social behavior of the people who belong to those groups. By studying the groups, they are able to develop theories that explain human social behavior.
In a world with so many cultures, religions, organizations, and other groups, this is a very broad field. Because it’s impossible for any one person to learn everything about everything, most sociologists choose to specialize in studying one particular type of group. Groups can be divided many different ways. For example, some sociologists study groups based on income level, while others may study groups based on their education or religious leaning.
Sometimes, sociologists specialize in studying groups within a group. For example, they might study the approach that a certain culture takes towards raising children, and how the approach might impact their likelihood of being arrested at one point in their lives.
Sociologists use many different methods to gather their data. Sometimes they rely on observational methods and interviews, while other times they use aggregated statistical data that includes information about demographics, income levels, illness rates, or other data.
The nature of the work that sociologists do depends largely on their employer. Many work for colleges and universities, where they teach and perform research. Others work for government and social services agencies, where they may help lawmakers understand more about issues impacting poverty, drug use, crime, or other social issues.
Sociologists spend most of their time working in an office environment, where they perform their research and write reports. However, they sometimes need to do fieldwork that includes interviewing and observing groups of people related to their studies.
Most sociologists work full time, and are normally able to keep a regular working schedule. Working overtime is sometimes required as project deadlines approach.
How to Become a Sociologist
The first step to becoming a sociologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Sociologists come from many different academic backgrounds, but some of the most common degrees for people in this profession include sociology, statistics, English, and psychology.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, you will need to enroll in a graduate program and earn either a master’s degree or a Ph.D. The type of degree that you pursue should depend on what your professional goals are.
A Ph.D. is required to work as a professor or researcher at a college or university. Some research positions with the government and other organizations also require a Ph.D. If you want to have a lot of employment options in your career, getting a Ph.D. is the safest bet.
Not all positions require a Ph.D., though — there are many employment opportunities for those with a master’s degree. There are two types of master’s degree programs in sociology, and each serve a different purpose. Traditional programs are designed to prepare students for a Ph.D., while applied programs teach students the skills that they need to find employment.
Both types of programs are valuable, but the type of program that you enroll in should reflect your long term goals. It’s an important decision, and one you shouldn’t take lightly.
If you’re still in high school and you’re considering a career as a sociologist, it would be helpful to take as many math and computer science courses as possible. Sociologists work with large amounts of electronic data, and a strong background in those fields can make it easier to process.
There are currently 4,000 sociologists in the United States, with 180 new sociologist job openings created each year.
Sociologist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Sociologist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most sociologists make between $56,200 – $96,100 per year, or $27.04 – $46.19 per hour.