Sociologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 sociologist Jobs

  • Sociologist, Tenure-Track Faculty - Middle Tennessee State Univ - Murfreesboro, TN

  • Sociologist, Tenure-Track Faculty - Middle Tennessee State University - Murfreesboro, TN

    The start date for this position is August 1, 2018. Areas of substantive interests are open. Candidates will be expected to teach courses in their

  • Postdoctoral Research Associate - University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, NC

    The research will take place at the Carolina Population Center in close collaboration with a biodemographer and medical sociologist, Yang C. Yang

See all sociologist jobs

What Sociologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Sociologists

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 within the context of larger social, political, and economic forces. 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.

Administrators, educators, lawmakers, and social workers use sociological research to solve social problems and formulate public policy. Sociologists specialize in a wide range of social topics, including the following:

  • Health
  • Crime
  • Education
  • Racial and ethnic relations
  • Families
  • Population
  • Gender
  • Poverty
  • Aging

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, particularly those with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, often find work in related jobs outside the sociologist profession as policy analysts, demographers, survey researchers, and statisticians.

Work Environment for Sociologists[About this section] [To Top]

Sociologists hold about 2,600 jobs. The industries that employ the most sociologists are as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 43%
Educational services; state, local, and private 27
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 15

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.

Sociologist Work Schedules

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Sociologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Sociologists near you!

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many bachelor’s degreeholders find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, or public policy.

Sociologist Education

Sociologists typically need a master’s degree or Ph.D. 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.

Many students who complete a Ph.D. in sociology become postsecondary teachers. Other Ph.D. graduates often become research sociologists for nonprofits, businesses, and governments.

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

Although some graduates with a bachelor’s degree find work as sociology research assistants, most find positions in other fields. Sociology is a broad field of study with diverse application. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in sociology are often able to apply their knowledge to many different industries, including social services, human resources, and government.

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 for Sociologists

Analytical skills. Sociologists must be able to carefully analyze 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 present research results.

Critical-thinking skills. Sociologists must be able to think critically when doing research. They must design research projects and collect, process, and analyze information to draw logical conclusions about society and about various groups of people.

Writing skills. Sociologists frequently write reports detailing their findings.

Sociologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for sociologists is $73,760. 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 $36,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $145,250.

The median annual wages for sociologists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities $89,120
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 65,120
Educational services; state, local, and private 51,800

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook for Sociologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of sociologists is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years.

Nearly half of all sociologists are employed in social science research organizations, where sociologists are needed to research society and human interactions. However, this social science research is largely dependent on federal funding and grants, which have been increasingly difficult to obtain at historical levels. Employment growth in this industry is projected to decline over the next ten years, as a result of this tightening of federal spending.

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

Sociologists Job Prospects

Candidates with a Ph.D., strong statistical and research skills, and a background in applied sociology will have the best job prospects. However, Ph.D. holders can expect to face very strong competition for sociologist positions because sociology is a popular field of study with a relatively small number of positions.

Many bachelor’s and master’s degreeholders will find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, healthcare, public policy, or other areas. Although these fields require the skills and concepts that sociologists learn as part of their education, workers should face less competition for positions not specifically labeled as “sociologists.”

Employment projections data for Sociologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Sociologists 2,600 2,500 -1 0


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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