Career, Salary and Education Information

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. 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 for Sociologists[About this section] [To Top]

Sociologists hold about 3,500 jobs. The largest employers of sociologists are as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 31%
Educational services; state, local, and private 21
State government, excluding education and hospitals 13
Self-employed workers 11
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 6

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 degree holders find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, or public policy.

Education for Sociologists

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.

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.

Other Experience for Sociologists

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 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.

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

Salary Calculator

Entry Level Experienced

The median annual wage for sociologists is $79,750. 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 $41,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $146,860.

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 $101,460
State government, excluding education and hospitals 82,980
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 67,300
Educational services; state, local, and private 56,610

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.

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 economists, psychologists, and survey researchers, to study how social structures or groups influence policy decisions about health, education, politics, criminal justice, business, or economics.

A projected decline in research and development in the social science and humanities industry, an industry employing nearly one third of sociologists, is expected to limit the employment growth of these workers. Sociologists' research in these organizations is often dependent on and limited by the availability of outside research funding, including federal funding.

Job Prospects for Sociologists

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 strong competition for sociologist positions because sociology is a popular field of study with a relatively small number of positions.

Employment projections data for Sociologists, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Sociologists 3,500 3,500 0 0

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

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