Sociologist Careers


Bachelor of Science in Sociology


Industrial Sociology








$72,360 /yr

$34.79 /hr

All Stats from

Sociologists study large-scale social behavior—the behavior of cultures, groups, social institutions, organizations, and societies—and determine the way social pressures, institutional behavior, and other factors influence the dynamics of societies, communities, and groups. Their job duties include designing experiments and projects to test social theories; administering surveys, giving interviews, observing, and otherwise collecting data, which they analyze; and preparing reports, presentations, and papers explaining their findings.

Some sociologists serve in a consulting role, working with companies, government policymakers, and others, providing insight regarding sociological subjects.

Many sociologists specialize—with options for focus including health and policy, criminal behavior, education, racial and ethnic issues, families, gender, poverty, aging, and more.

Most sociologists work in colleges and universities in an academic setting—and their jobs include teaching as well as research. Some work as survey specialists, policy analysts, demographers, and statisticians. A few work for private consulting firms and the federal, state, or local governments.

How to Become a Sociologist

Earn a postgraduate degree. Because most people working in the field of sociology work in an academic setting, a Ph.D. is usually required—although some non-academic employers may hire employees with only a Master’s degree. If you decide to earn a doctoral degree, you essentially have two options: a traditional Ph.D. or an applied, clinical, or professional program. The Ph.D. is most suited to a career in academia, but those earning the professional doctorate often go into nonprofit, business, or government work.

Earning a Bachelor’s degree in sociology may lead to a position as a research assistant in a sociology-related field. However, most people who don’t go on to earn more advanced degrees usually wind up working in related fields such as social services, administration, sales and marketing, and other areas.

Sociologist Salary

Sociologists earned a median annual wage of $72,360 as of 2010, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Those on the low end earned approximately $44,000, while those at the top earning brackets took home more than $129,870.

Job Outlook for Sociologists

The Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts employment in this field will grow 18% in the coming decade, keeping pace with the average for all occupations nationwide. However, there are relatively few academic research positions available—and sociology is a field that attracts many people pursuing advanced degrees. Because of this, competition for research positions at colleges and universities is expected to be fierce.

However, the competition is expected to be less strong for positions in related fields such as public policy, education, and social services. These fields draw on many transferable skills that students learn in their sociology studies.

Becoming a Sociologist With an Online Degree

It’s difficult to become a sociologist with a degree from an accredited online college. Most sociological research positions are with academic institutions, and these tend to be fairly conservative when it comes to acceptance of online degrees.

Many academic institutions care about the reputation and rank of the college where you earned your degree—and if you’re competing with applicants who earned their sociology degrees from high-ranked traditional schools, you will likely have difficulty landing a job.

Sociology is a popular field, with more students graduating than open positions in academia—so it’s realistic to assume that competition in this area will be fairly fierce.

If you’re set on studying online, it may be best to look for a hybrid degree program at a traditional school that offers some lecture-based classes online. This is becoming more and more common, even at highly-ranked schools—and is less likely to be held against you in the job market.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Sociologist

Becoming a sociologist requires a Ph.D. in most cases—making it a field that requires considerable up-front investment in time and money. Growth is projected to be fairly steady, but competition is fierce in this area and the actual number of jobs available in academic research fields is small. So job opportunities for most new graduates in this area may be more limited than those numbers imply.

However, your prospects will be better if you’re open to considering positions in related fields. These fields are less popular and in-demand, tend to value those with sociology-related skills, and face less competition.

For Further Research:

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Sociologists

Where to Find Sociologist Jobs: