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Working as a Sociologist

What Does a Sociologist Do

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

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 within the context of larger social, political, and economic forces. 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. 

Administrators, educators, lawmakers, and social workers use sociological research to solve social problems and formulate public policy. Sociologists specialize in a wide range of social topics, including the following:

  • Health
  • Crime
  • Education
  • Racial and ethnic relations
  • Families
  • Population
  • Gender
  • Poverty
  • Aging

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, particularly those with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, often find work in related jobs outside the sociologist profession as policy analysts, demographers, survey researchers, and statisticians. 

How To Become a Sociologist

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many bachelor’s degreeholders find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, or public policy.

Education

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.

Many students who complete a Ph.D. in sociology become postsecondary teachers. Other Ph.D. graduates often become research sociologists for nonprofits, businesses, and governments.

Courses in research methods and statistics are important for both master’s and Ph.D. candidates. Many programs also offer opportunities to gain experience through internships or by preparing reports for clients.

Although some graduates with a bachelor’s degree find work as sociology research assistants, most find positions in other fields. Sociology is a broad field of study with diverse application. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in sociology are often able to apply their knowledge to many different industries, including social services, human resources, and government.

Other Experience

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

Analytical skills. Sociologists must be able to carefully analyze 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 present research results.

Critical-thinking skills. Sociologists must be able to think critically when doing research. They must design research projects and collect, process, and analyze information to draw logical conclusions about society and about various groups of people.

Writing skills. Sociologists frequently write reports detailing their findings.

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Average Salary$82,458
Job Growth Rate9%

Sociologist Jobs

Average Salary for a Sociologist

Sociologists in America make an average salary of $82,458 per year or $40 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $173,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $39,000 per year.
Average Salary
$82,458

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range84k - 185k$125k$124,768
Salary Range82k - 175k$120k$120,389
Salary Range77k - 167k$114k$113,710
Salary Range77k - 166k$113k$113,467
Salary Range76k - 165k$113k$112,509
Salary Range67k - 159k$103k$103,490
$52k
$185k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Sociologist
Sociologist
Pacific Research and Education Institute Inc.
Pacific Research and Education Institute Inc.
07/29/2019
07/29/2019
$70,32507/29/2019
$70,325
Sociologist
Sociologist
Desai Foundation
Desai Foundation
03/18/2019
03/18/2019
$60,00003/18/2019
$60,000
Sociologist
Sociologist
Powerbuild Construction, LLC
Powerbuild Construction, LLC
03/08/2019
03/08/2019
$83,50003/08/2019
$83,500
Immigration Sociologist
Immigration Sociologist
Alcozer & Associates P.C.
Alcozer & Associates P.C.
01/29/2018
01/29/2018
$36,60801/29/2018
$36,608
Immigration Sociologist
Immigration Sociologist
Alcozer & Associates PC
Alcozer & Associates PC
01/03/2018
01/03/2018
$36,60801/03/2018
$36,608
See More Recent Salaries

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Sociologist Demographics

Gender

female

57.8%

male

36.7%

unknown

5.6%

Ethnicity

White

77.0%

Hispanic or Latino

9.9%

Asian

5.7%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

29.4%

German

11.8%

Amharic

11.8%
See More Demographics

Sociologist Education

Majors

Degrees

Masters

40.0%

Bachelors

24.0%

Doctorate

22.0%

Top Colleges for Sociologists

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Tuition and fees
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

2. SUNY at Albany

Albany, NY

Tuition and fees
$10,011
Enrollment
13,434

3. University of California, Irvine

Irvine, CA

Tuition and fees
$13,700
Enrollment
29,722

4. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

5. San Diego State University

San Diego, CA

Tuition and fees
$7,488
Enrollment
30,018

6. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD

Tuition and fees
$10,595
Enrollment
30,184

7. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

Tuition and fees
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

8. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO

Tuition and fees
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

9. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Tuition and fees
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

10. Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Tuition and fees
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Sociologist

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
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Top Skills For a Sociologist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 45.8% of sociologists listed sociology on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and critical-thinking skills are important as well.

  • Sociology, 45.8%
  • SRI Lanka, 8.3%
  • Program Evaluation, 6.9%
  • Ngos, 6.9%
  • Project Activities, 6.9%
  • Other Skills, 25.2%
  • See All Sociologist Skills

Best States For a Sociologist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a sociologist. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Sociologists make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $131,902. Whereas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, they would average $118,019 and $117,046, respectively. While sociologists would only make an average of $116,048 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Massachusetts

Total Sociologist Jobs:
19
Highest 10% Earn:
$210,000
Location Quotient:
2.98
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Connecticut

Total Sociologist Jobs:
6
Highest 10% Earn:
$207,000
Location Quotient:
2.48
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. New Jersey

Total Sociologist Jobs:
16
Highest 10% Earn:
$204,000
Location Quotient:
2.72
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Sociologist Employers

1. Mississippi State University
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$43,552
Sociologists Hired: 
2+
2. TAL GLOBAL ALLIANCES
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$28,805
Sociologists Hired: 
2+
3. Boston College
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$54,216
Sociologists Hired: 
2+
4. Associations
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$53,953
Sociologists Hired: 
1+
5. The Family Health Centers of Asheville
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$78,264
Sociologists Hired: 
1+
6. KDDI
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$82,345
Sociologists Hired: 
1+

Recently Added Sociologist Jobs