Job Profile: Sociologist

What is a sociologist?

With the increasing popularity of the study of sociology, many might find themselves asking, “What is a sociologist?” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “[s]ociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions and processes that people develop.” Sociologists primarily work at their desks, where they perform research and write about their conclusions. Sometimes for work, they might travel beyond their offices to complete field research or present their own and share in other sociologists’ findings. Sociologists often work in higher education, research and development divisions of companies or foundations and in government agencies, though they may not technically be labeled “sociologists” in such cases. In some positions, they might instead be labeled as professors, researchers, statisticians, demographers, analysts or other titles, albeit with educational and professional backgrounds in sociology.

Degrees and Training

Working in sociology requires the completion of higher education, as well as applied training during education. While a bachelor’s degree may be enough for some to find work as research assistants in the field, positions in social services and marketing are more common for those without a doctorate or master’s degree. Advanced degrees are typically required of sociologists because the field is multifaceted and requires its students to choose among specialized paths of study that are dependent on whether the student wishes to pursue a career in post-secondary education or applied research, though many courses overlap between the two paths. More broadly, becoming a successful sociologist requires that one be analytical and possess excellent critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. The ability to communicate well, both verbally and through writing, is also imperative, as sociologists frequently publish their works and contribute to their peers’ studies.

How much does a Sociologist make?

Fully qualified sociologists typically receive salaries, which range from over $130,000 to under $45,000 annually, with the average income of sociologists being just over $72,000 a year. Those in the highest pay bracket largely have several years of experience and have completed advanced degrees.

Future Prospects

The future of employment in sociology is predicted to be bright, though competitive. Positions in the field are expected to grow at the average rate of 18 percent over the time period between 2010 and 2020, with 4,000 positions in the field in 2010. That number may be misleading though, as many people with a background and education in sociology accept positions that do not make them, in the strictest of senses, “sociologists,” as previously mentioned. Regardless, future positions are most likely to be seen in the business and political realms, as sociologists are equipped to evaluate and respond to a variety of social issues that influence those two fields. Some positions in collaborative research will also likely be available, as specialized knowledge of societal workings can benefit projects in a wide range of fields. Fittingly, sociology, a complex study of a multi-layered subject, finds applicability in almost every other field imaginable, and will grow alongside those fields. In the future, the question will not be “What is a sociologist?” but instead, “What is a sociologist not?”