The basics
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Why study sociology?

Intrigued by how society works? How did the ideas of right and wrong come to be accepted? Read all about sociology in our guide below.

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What is sociology?

Have you ever watched a television show and wondered how society came to be? Why do they behave in a certain way? Why some things are accepted and others are rejected? If you’ve always wanted to understand how a society thinks, the way it processes inequalities and differences, then sociology is definitely the field for you.

 

Study route

Sociology degree programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. levels to prepare graduates for careers in academics, social services and research.

Sociology degree programmes are taught at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. A bachelor’s degree will take four years to complete and will cover the basic modules and have a few specialisations that you can take. You will be introduced to the main theories and methods of sociological research and analysis. Students will also take courses from other social science departments such as economics, philosophy, psychology, economics and statistics.

A master’s degree in sociology will explore advanced theoretical models and research techniques. Master’s degree programmes place great emphasis preparing students to become sociology educators. To qualify for a master’s programme, you will need a bachelor’s degree. While possessing a bachelor’s in sociology would be best, most universities accept students with other undergraduate degrees. If you don’t have a degree in sociology, you would need to have taken basic coursework in social theory and statistics. A master’s will require students to come up with a thesis based on original research. Modules often covered in a sociology MA will often be:

  • Rational choice theory
  • Exchange theory
  • Ethnomethodology
  • Advanced statistics
  • Sociological data analysis

For those intending to go into advanced research or teach sociology, you will need a Ph.D in sociology. Students often select a specialisation in a sub-discipline such as gender studies, immigration or urban sociology. You will need a master’s degree in sociology to qualify for this course. The Ph.D programmes will involve both advanced coursework in theory and highly specialised coursework in the student chosen area of specialisation. Students will come up with a doctoral dissertation which contains research that contributes to the field of sociology. Typical modules covered in Ph.D programmes for sociology include:

  • Comparative theories in sociology
  • Cultural sociology
  • Media and gender
  • Contemporary issues in social theory

 

Entry requirements for a sociology degree

 

Students interested to pursue a bachelor’s degree in sociology will need good A level grades or a high school diploma. In some cases, students might need to attend an interview as part of the selection process. During this interview, you maybe given a task to complete, such as a short essay or questionnaire.

International students who hail from a country where English isn’t the first language will need to take the IELTS and achieve a minimum of 6.5. Applicants who don’t meet the requirements can take an English course with the university.

 

Modules covered in a sociology degree

The typical modules covered in a sociology degree at the bachelor’s level would include the basic tenets of sociological theory from the different theories such as Durkheim and Weber and research methods. Other common modules that are covered in a sociology degree will be:

  • Basics of sociological theory
  • Sociology of self and everyday life
  • Social divisions
  • Deviance
  • Social history
  • Global societies
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Sociology of race and ethnicity
  • Modern political thought
  • Poverty, wealth and inequality
  • Social theory and social policy
  • Sociology of the family
  • Sociology of education
  • Postmodernism
  • Creation of identity and self
  • Social psychology
  • Introduction to sociology
  • Functionalist theories
  • Conflict theories
  • Symbolic interactionist theory
  • Statistical techniques in sociology

 

There are many specialisations that you can opt for, from crime and punishment, law, ethnology, social psychology, deviance and many more. We highly recommend that you think about what you want to do once you finish studying and look into specialising in that area to grant you an edge over your competitors.

 

Skills developed from a sociology degree include:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills (the ability to communicate well with different types of people)
  • Analytical skills
  • Research and project development skills
  • The ability to challenge and evaluate common beliefs
  • Better understanding of the way society works

 

Placement opportunities for sociology students

Most, if not all universities today offer plenty of internship and placement opportunities for their students. Several have strong ties to the industry and students can work with those partners. For instance, the University of California, Berkeley, has many study abroad opportunities for their students. Students can choose to study abroad with partner institutions all around the globe, such as in Norway.

Alternatively, you could also opt to seek independent internships on your own. To find out more information regarding the kinds of internship programmes that universities or college have, we suggest that you contact them directly. We highly recommend that students to complete at least one internship or placement before graduation to better your employment chances in a highly competitive job market. Internships and placements not only provide you with invaluable job experience, they also are the perfect platform to network with industry experts. Who knows, your internship might turn into a full-time job once you graduate!

 

Career paths in sociology 

As a sociology major, there are many doors open to you thanks to the far-reaching nature of the field. You can pursue a career in social services, health services administration, consumer research, law enforcement, corrections or rehabilitation management and many more. Both the public and private sector have jobs for you. It will also make it easier for you to enter your chosen field if you chose a specialisation during your course of study.

 

Most of your peers tend to delve into the realm of social work upon graduation. This sector is perfect if you want to help the disadvantaged in your society and make a difference. You can choose to work in a non-governmental organisation, within the government itself, community groups and charities. Roles can vary from research, organisation and management, administration or speaking to the disadvantaged directly. Key issues that you’ll be dealing with as a social worker would be mental health problems, substance abuse, homelessness, physical and learning disabilities, child protection and school attendance.

 

Another popular option would be a counsellor. As a counsellor, you will be involved in providing one-on-one or group consultations that will help you clients talk through their problems and challenges. Most counsellors specialise in a certain field, for instance, relationship counselling or addiction counselling.

 

If law enforcement is where you want to be, then you can take up a probation or prison service job. You can either be in charge of administration or be put in direct contact with offenders.  As a prison officer, you will work within the prison itself to supervise daily activities while a probation office will work with offenders recently released from prison. You could be providing training and advice to them or reviewing the risk of re-offence. Graduates with a specialisation in crime and punishment are more likely to be employed in law enforcement.

 

Yet another industry that sociologists excel in is business. The potential is endless. Business is an important part of any sector and you can enter any of these roles- marketing, research, statistics, public relations, human resources, recruitment and many more.

 

A strong knowledge of the complexity of human societies and behaviour is extremely helpful for those who want to build a career in marketing. Marketers create targeting messaging to different sections of the society, identifying the needs of different demographics and acting accordingly. You will need to craft well-thought out material to attract your target audience. Your ability to categorize and analyse the different subsections within society will help tremendously. Furthermore, the statistical and analytical skills gained during your degree will put you ahead of others wanting to work in the field of market research.

 

For those who want to make the society better on the policy level, you can consider going into being an activist or dive headfirst into politics. The knowledge that you’ve gained during your study is vital in understanding society’s ills and questioning the status quo, present in issues such as race, class and gender equality.

 

How much does a sociologist earn?

On average, according to the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistics, sociologists earned $73,760 as of May 2015.

 

Best places to study sociology

These are some of the countries that have strong environmental law programmes:

Australia

University of Melbourne

University of Sydney

Monash University

University of Queensland

 

US

Harvard University

Columbia University

University of Chicago

Stanford University

 

UK

University of Oxford

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

University of Cambridge

University of Edinburgh

 

Contemplating studying abroad? Check out the courses available here.

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About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.