Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Studying in the field
As the world becomes ever more complex and societies more and more interrelated, the work of sociologists grows in importance. These professionals who engage in "the study of society and its parts, and the social sources of human behavior... [as well as] study the structure of societies, groups, organizations, and social institutions and how people interact in these settings," provide the rest of us a unique insight into the ways in which societies change and interact (University of Delaware). As a result of their work, politicians, the news media, advertisers, and corporations, to name but a few, all are afforded the opportunity to better reach their desired audience, and to more completely understand them. In essence, then, sociology provides the lens through which we can look at and understand ourselves.
In order to accomplish this, however, there is understandably a great deal of training and study that is required. After all, sociologists must possess a variety of skills to successfully understand that which they study. Therefore, the coursework of graduate students in sociology includes classes in sociological theory, social psychology, research skills and methods, statistics, and politics. But because there are many specialized areas of sociology, graduate students may also engage in coursework as varied as women's studies, gerontology, and classes on the law and various other legal issues that affect people. Essentially, the exact nature of the work for sociology graduate students depends on what specific area of the field they choose to pursue. And though there are basic courses that all graduate students in sociology must take, those are merely jumping-off points from which to begin an exploration of those areas of greatest interest.
Because the field of sociology is so broad, graduate students are usually asked to focus on one specific area of study. In this sense, the education is not terribly different from the one pursued by doctors or lawyers, who also must focus on one particular area in the field. Potential professional directions include specialization in "geographically-bounded communities, including crime patterns, maintenance of ethnic and racial diversity, provision of quality social services, homelessness, domestic violence, and demographic trends in metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas...the sociology of work and occupations, the sociology of family life, and the sociology of gender..." and the sociology of religious institutions (Loyola University Chicago). In other words, it is possible to specialize in any area of the field that interests you.
Job opportunities in the field
Because a degree in sociology affords graduates an understanding of people and society that is far greater and incisive than most others, the job market is literally wide open. Job opportunities include work in sociological research, teaching at both the secondary and post-secondary levels, community-based positions including those in schools, hospitals and psychological clinics, and politics. However, while those are areas in which sociology graduates may be expected to work, there are other applications for sociology as well, including positions in sales and marketing, communications, and community development. Indeed, with a degree in sociology, the choices are limited only by your imagination and your willingness to explore all your options.
Check out: Sociology Graduate Programs