Career Questions for Sociology Majors
Sociology Networking Resources
What Skills do Sociology Students Acquire?
Interviews conducted by the American Sociological Association (ASA) with several major corporations and small businesses confirm that employers look for the following skills when they screen entry-level candidates. Many of these are skills that sociology graduates should have acquired at least to some extent. These are functional skills and can be transferred from one setting to another:
Communication skills, or the ability to express yourself in both verbal and written form. Employers are looking for people who are "comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas in clear, concise, and meaningful language." If you have written term papers, given class reports, or participated in group projects, you can state that you have developed and refined your communication skills.
Interpersonal skills, including the ability to share leadership and responsibility, work cooperatively, and get along with co-workers. Employers seek graduates who can work on task forces and self-managed task teams, but are also capable of initiating ideas and pursuing a project independently. Many organizations stress a consumer-oriented approach that involves "people who will be good at networking and affiliating."
Leadership skills, or the ability to influence people. Being able to recruit and motivate others toward their top performance is a plus. Leadership includes "tenacity, flexibility, tolerance for risk-taking, and the ability to function well in undefined situations." Employers value those who help other employees adapt to changing priorities within an organization and who can anticipate change."
Analytical skills, particularly problem-solving ability and sharp, critical thinking. These skills are a plus for all kinds of duties and projects.
Statistics and research design, especially for in-house research. Organizations value an employee who can work with others to define a problem or research question, design a study to find answers, design the appropriate instruments, code and analyze the data, report (orally and in writing) on the findings, and make recommendations based on the findings. Being able to conceptualize a project from inception to conclusion is the key.
Computer literacy, including familiarity with word processing, data analysis, and graphics. Most organizations will train you on their own systems--what they really want is employees who are not computer-shy.
Cross-cultural understanding, especially regarding racial, ethnic, and gender differences in values, perceptions, and approaches to work. Employers need workers who can understand and operate within the context of cultural and other diversities. According to several executives interviewed by ASA, corporations increasingly seek employees "who hold a global perspective and have a high degree of intercultural awareness and more sensitivity in race relations". A global outlook is valued: "We need people who are free of traditional stereotypes."
Business sense, especially in combination with technical training and good interpersonal skills. Employers need employees who have "business savvy" and knowledge of advanced quality processes and general principles of performance management.
In addition, the desires to achieve, work hard, and function ethically are increasingly held by employers as important attributes.
In addition to basic functional skills as listed above, a sociology B.A. provides more specialized transferable skills that can be highlighted in your resume. For example:
Classical and Contemporary Theory courses provide training in analytical thought and tighten your grasp on central sociological concepts and theories.
Statistics, Applied Sociology, and computer-based Social Data Analysis courses contribute to your ability to conceptualize problems and develop research strategies. Such courses help prepare you for working in government research offices, public opinion polling agencies, marketing firms and other research or program development settings.
Group Process, Social Psychology or Social Structure courses increase your understanding of team dynamics and informal organization; they also help you develop such interpersonal attributes as empathy and tolerance toward diversity in interpersonal styles and group roles.
Social Problems courses contribute broadly to many careers, as they address the most critical issues facing North American society today, including crime, substance abuse, violence against women, poverty, homelessness, and AIDS.
Minority Groups and Race Relations courses help to develop a keen understanding the complexities of diversity in modern society. This will benefit you generally in any position and specifically if you are seeking employment in the human resources department of a firm or agency with a multiracial work force and/or a multicultural clientele, or plan to work in ethnically diverse communities.
Urban Sociology, Community Sociology, and Sociology of Education courses can be put to good use in an urban planning agency or working with youth.
Criminology, Sociology of Law, Women and Justice, Sociology of Adolescence, Crime and Criminal Justice offer valuable preparation for jobs in agencies that deal with criminal justice, probation, parole, juvenile delinquency, gangs, crime statistics, and policing.
Other areas: If you are planning a career in business, it might be advantageous to supplement your sociology courses with a few courses in economics, management, marketing, accounting, and so forth. Computer science courses are also useful, especially if they enhance your data analysis skills. If you are interested in a career in the social service sector, a few psychology courses can be an asset. Political science is useful if you are considering a career in public administration.
(Reference: American Sociological Association)
In defining your skills, remember that quality is more important than quantity. Do not spend time worrying about whether your skills are varied enough. Effectively highlight those you have. It is worthwhile to be inventive in describing your skills, but never misrepresent yourself. Above all, do not leave it up to prospective employers to define the virtues of a sociology background. Tell them in detail, by clearly spelling out your skills and knowledge areas. For example, if you have taken courses in Social Research Methods or participated in research projects, you can state that you have acquired analytical skills as a result.
For help in defining your skills, developing a resume and writing cover letters, use the resources available to you at the Career Services Center. Be sure to check their workshop schedule.
FAQs for Sociology Graduates
See Employment Status of Recent Graduates. Sociology grads have taken jobs as Juvenile Rehab Counselors, Police Officers, Customer Service Managers, Job Training Coordinators, Social Science Researchers, and more.
Many students choose to attend Graduate School. Sociology provides a broad liberal arts base for professions such as law, public policy, student affairs administration, international relations, education, human development, and social work.
Check our Department Newsletter for alumni news, announcements and upcoming events.
You have a competitive advantage in today's information society. The solid base you receive in research design, data analysis, statistics and sociological concepts enables you to compete for positions in research, policy analysis, program evaluation, and other social science endeavors. Given the breadth, adaptability and utility of sociology, you'll find a wide variety of opportunities open to you. You also have a strong foundation for Graduate School.
See these links:
Job Search Strategies
- Visit the Career Services Center for a wide variety of in depth resources
- Get work experience: volunteer or internship positions (these sometimes lead to paid positions)
- Know what employers want
- Network with people; about job possibilities; leave resumes'
- Follow-up regularly; keep people informed about your interests and availability
- Use job search web sites; know what's available
- Contact agencies, companies or organizations you would like to work for and see if they're hiring; ask for referrals to similar companies or agencies
- Check with the state employment opportunity office
- Check local newspaper classified ads, especially on Sunday
- Try employment/temporary placement agencies
- Be willing to start with entry-level positions, temporary or part-time
- Go where the jobs are
- Be persistent! Hang in there
Use these sites to find job possibilities. Rather than post your resume on job boards, we'd recommend that you apply directly through individual companies' web sites if at all possible.
- Criminal JusticeJobsHelp
- Criminal Justice Profiles
- JobBank USA
- Western's Job Opportunity Bulletin Board
- Law Enforcement Jobs
- True Careers
- Western's On-Line Resources
- Criminal Justice Profiles. Criminal justice careers, job search, salary info and more.
- Fire Science. Criminal Justice Degree Programs and Careers.
- PayScale.com. Compensation trends by industry, metro area or company size.
- SalaryList.com provides real job salary information based on companies, job titles, and locations.
- Salary.com A broad salary-comparison site. Its Salary Wizard allows you to pick a job category and a region and to quickly find median salaries by position.
- SalaryExpert.com A free comprehensive salary site offering salary, benefits and cost-of-living information. Find salaries quickly by selecting Job Title and Zip.
- NationJob This data-base for job seekers allows you to search by salary level.
- Acceptancerate.com. Institutional acceptance rate data.
- Accredited Online Colleges and Universities. Includes Masters and Doctorate Programs.
- Affordable Colleges online. Online criminal justice degree programs, scholarships and resources.
- American Sociological Association. Comprehensive look at career options in sociology
- Career Guide to Industries. Career information by industry for over 42 industries
- Criminal Justice Career Center. Criminal justice, law enforcement
- Criminal Justice Careers at a Glance. Criminal Justice career resources
- Criminal Justice Degree Schools. Careers, programs, current trends
- Criminal Justice Degree, College, Career Blog. Includes law enforcement careers
- Criminal Justice Profiles. Criminal justice careers, job search, salary info
- Criminal Justice Programs. Directory of accredited schools
- CriminalJusticePrograms.com. Features multiple areas of criminal justice
- Criminal Justice Programs Online includes masters and doctorate programs
- DiscoverCriminalJustice. Comprehensive guide to criminal justice programs
- Fire Science. Criminal Justice Degree Programs and Careers.
- Go Criminal Justice Schools.com. Online and campus college degrees
- Law.com. A plethora of criminal justice-related career resources; see also Jobs Section
- Online Colleges Guide. Search online universities
- Online College Options. Comprehensive college rankings focused on affordability
- Online Schools and Colleges. Complete list of accredited online programs
- PayScale. Career Planning Resources
- Social Work Licensure. Specific requirements by state.