October 9, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
University of Washington
Ohio Wesleyan University
University of Miami
Northern Michigan University
Cleveland State University
Central Michigan University
Columbus State University
Boise State University
Humboldt State University
University of Nebraska at Omaha
University of California
Orange Coast College
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Allison Carey Ph.D.: Sociologists have data and research skills, including creating questionnaires, using Excel, and analyzing data; critical thinking skills, especially related to the impact of social and organizational dynamics; knowledge about diversity; and strong oral and written communication skills.
Dr. Allison Carey Ph.D.: Sociologists look critically at social patterns across groups and gain an awareness of diversity and an ability to work well and problem-solve across groups. Sociologists are also strong communicators and critical thinkers.
Dr. Allison Carey Ph.D.: Excel, SPSS, Data analysis, Gathering and synthesizing research reviews, Oral presentation/communication skills.
Dr. Allison Carey Ph.D.: Research skills, which can lead to research and policy jobs in government agencies, for-profit corporations, and non-profit organizations.
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Department of Sociology
Paul Van Auken Ph.D.: In my department, we believe all successful sociology majors should graduate with the following skills, which are in demand by employers and graduate programs of various types, making people with sociological training attractive not only for the entry-level or admission but set them up for success and advancement.
-Strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills
-Excellent people skills, strong oral and written communication
-Competence in conducting research and analyzing data
-Global perspective and ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds
-Understanding of community resources gained through community-based learning
-Leadership and teamwork skills developed through collaboration with peers and local partners
-Ability to see the big picture, identify root causes and suggest strategies to address them
This combination of skills, built upon a foundation of sociological imagination, gives sociology graduates an edge that helps them make tangible impacts and develop into people who get promoted and lead organizations. Just a couple examples would be an alum of our program who has been the executive director of a downtown development organization in a key city in our region for more than a decade, an alum who was promoted on multiple occasions at a major university in our era and then recently became the diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator for a key city in our region, and a recent alum who parlayed great success as a student in our program into a funded fellowship towards a Master's in Public Health and now serves as the epidemiological for a tribal nation in our region.
Paul Van Auken Ph.D.: In the current era, and from my sociological perspective, I reject the notion of "soft" skills because of its outdated and problematic connotations. Technical particularities can be learned on the job, but critical thinking and problem-solving skills make people adaptable to addressing change or moving on to new projects. Communicating and working well with others, skill in using inclusive language, interacting with people inclusively, and the ability to take the lead in strategically and fruitfully addressing big-picture issues are among the most important skills of any kind that employees or grad students can bring to the table on day one. And sociology trains people to do that.
Paul Van Auken Ph.D.: Some key technical skills sociologists should have include connecting theory to action, relating to and communicating fruitfully with people from all kinds of backgrounds, and competence in conducting research and analyzing data. These skills are transferable to a wide variety of applications.
Paul Van Auken Ph.D.: People don't generally go into sociology to make money. They generally major in it because of a "passion for understanding" or a desire to get at the root causes of social problems and try to make a difference. However, that doesn't mean that sociology grads cannot also make good money. I think the examples I provided above are instructive to this question, too. Particularly in the post-George Floyd era, expertise in using inclusive language and fostering belonging on the part of people from diverse backgrounds is in high demand. The ability to think strategically, understand root causes, and lead people effectively is always highly attractive and can lead to high earnings. Finally, in an era in which "analytics" are ubiquitous, and big data is everywhere, information literacy, the ability to make sense out of research and conduct one's own, is highly valued. Because sociologists are trained in both quantitative (e.g., conducting statistical analysis of survey responses or sets of big data) and qualitative (e.g., conducting interviews, engaging in participant observation, performing content analysis) research methods, they are well-suited to apply such skills for a variety of purposes. For example, a former lecturer in our department with a Ph.D. in sociology and a focus on qualitative methods recently landed a well-compensated research job with a major motorcycle manufacturer.
University of Washington
Department of Sociology
Zack Almquist: I think skills around quantitative and qualitative data analysis, research design, writing, and basic science/research skills tend to stand out to employers. Experience with survey methodology (analysis and design) can be particularly important in a lot of industries.
Zack Almquist: One can never underestimate the importance of communication through writing, presentation, or even short in-person chats (pre-pandemic, of course). Working on a team is almost always valued too.
Zack Almquist: Generally, I have found that basic skills with quantitative/statistical software like R are highly desired, as are GIS and research design skills. Qualitative research skills such as ethnography and hand-coding are also highly prized. Skills that integrate quantitative and qualitative such as structured and unstructured interviews/surveys, can be useful in market research and UX research.
Zack Almquist: Strong research skills combined with good coding/statistical skills and/or experience with ethnographies or other small n research such as focus groups.
Department of Sociology
Michelle Wolkomir Ph.D.: Our graduates often attend law school, MBA programs, MPH programs, and Ph.D. programs--almost any field. Sociology is the study of social institutions and the patterns of human activity that create and change them. We examine the consequences of those patterns for individuals, groups, and society. In doing so, students not only learn how to collect, analyze, and critique data using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, but they also know how to envision how social systems intersect and influence one another. Do they learn to see how material resources and ideological frameworks shape individual and small group behaviors and decision making? Understanding these sorts of things and synthesizing data and writing and speaking are critical skills in many fields.
As students graduate from college, they will need many of the same skills they have always needed: the ability to analyze a situation, ask the right questions to solve problems, collect and understand the data necessary to derive solutions and write and speak well. They will also need to be tech-savvy. Most critically, though, especially given the world's uncertainty with COVID, they will have to innovate and adapt to new solutions. Problem-solving will weigh heavily as systems change, and new options are necessary. In short, they will need to analyze strategies and see problems and opportunities as part of a whole system and derive new solutions in that broad context.
Michelle Wolkomir Ph.D.: Technology has become more than just a tool to allow some ease of work and varied foster communication forms. It has become THE SPACE in which work is done--quite literally the office for many folks. How this change will morph post COVID, I cannot know. I suspect some industries will continue to incorporate it because it offers cost savings. Of course, this change reduces some jobs (those that support brick and mortar structures or travel). It also changes how people can interact. Since Zoom meetings and so on are set up and limited, they do not allow for the once impromptu discussions that enabled brainstorming and camaraderie. They are isolating and change the idea of teamwork. That's one part. Otherwise, I would have to say that technological changes would vary in impact by profession, which, as I described above, varies greatly.
Paul Dean Ph.D.: First, sociology graduates should learn to talk about their skills and educational experiences as they relate to a wide range of job skills. For example, sociology graduates develop strong writing, research, analysis, critical thinking, working in diverse groups, and systems-level thinking. These skills are in high demand, and they apply across various fields. Graduates should become adept at articulating how their skills can map onto specific jobs within their career fields. They should say how their courses, papers, course projects, internships, and other applied experiences enabled them to build these skills and be useful in a specific job related to their careers.
Second, and this is cliche, but it is true, graduates must learn to network. For some graduates, they have to reorient themselves to what networking means. I was a first-generation college student who used to feel like networking was a dirty word, like using people as a means to an end. But networking does not have to be like that and can be about finding people working in a field that you're passionate about and having a conversation with them. More than most, sociology graduates should know that many career opportunities and jobs come through our social networks. So we should build those networks by attending professional events, asking people for informational interviews, finding alumni networks in our area, and asking questions about working professionals, within our field, to learn more.
When you are in a position, you should take as many opportunities as you can to develop new skills, get feedback from supervisors and colleagues (even though it means inviting criticism of ourselves), and find chances to build and demonstrate our skills. Learn to take constructive criticism graciously and know that building skills is a life-long process.
Paul Dean Ph.D.: Many careers are focused on areas such as research and analysis, communication, and education within sociology. Students who can work with data analysis software (both quantitative and qualitative) will do well within research-intensive careers. Increasingly, related jobs work with big data, sometimes harvested from social media. Coding is also a useful skill for some of this software. For communications related careers, social media skills will be essential, and some of these social media tools won't have been developed yet. And, just because students use social media in their daily lives, does not mean they are adept at using it for professional purposes -- this requires a specific skill set. Educational technology is also expanding rapidly and offers various tools for educators both inside the classroom and with remote learning.
Paul Dean Ph.D.: While some sociology graduates will enter high-paying fields, sociology, as a whole, tends to pay a little less than average. Sure some sociologists will enter fields like business and law, which can pay well. But sociology tends to attract people who want to join non-profit work (e.g., social work), government, and education because they want to make a difference.
Salary is not the only measure of success, and personal fulfillment from a career that matches one's values can be even more rewarding (so long as you can still afford to live!). Sociology also imparts a broad skill set that will support a graduate throughout their career, which will pay off in the long run. As sociology graduates advance in their careers, those skills are likely to translate into higher earnings than some who received a highly specialized degree but whose skills become outdated as technologies and jobs evolve.
Alex Piquero: There will always be a need for individuals interested in working on public safety, research, and non-profit issues. Those jobs are critical, especially those in public safety.
Alex Piquero: The continued use of big data and geospatial tools will be more meaningful and prevalent as agencies increase their computing and data analytic capabilities to make more informed evidence-based data-driven decisions.
Alex Piquero: Without a doubt, an increase.
Northern Michigan University
Department of Sociology
Alexander Stoner Ph.D.: The job market is volatile right now in large part because things are changing rapidly, and there are a lot of unknowns. However, political responses to the pandemic can increase or decrease labor market volatility, especially during an election year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many of the ways people live and work, and social justice and disparity problems have become more evident. Those seeking work in human rights organizations, non-profits, and related social justice organizations are arguably best served with a sociology degree--especially relevant for a new generation seeking progressive change amid perceived injustices. Society needs people who can think critically, work empathetically, and lead effectively. Sociology provides such training.
Dr. Barbara Hoffman Ph.D.: More than anything else, educated workers need the kinds of basic understandings of human diversity that anthropology provides. Our track record of dismantling the misinformation about what constitutes our differences (hint, it's not a race) knocks the legs out from under racism and gives our students the wherewithal to live and work comfortably and peacefully with others from all backgrounds.
Dr. Barbara Hoffman Ph.D.: Everywhere! Anthropology doesn't just train for one job; it prepares students for all jobs that require working with other people.
Dr. Barbara Hoffman Ph.D.: Technology is particularly useful in archaeology, where recent developments in ground radar have made research on former cultural groups much less invasive. Worldwide cell phone availability has made surveying in cultural and biological anthropology much more affordable. The new software is in development to facilitate linguistic analysis and language translation, two aspects of linguistic anthropology. We don't foresee the intrusion of AI into anthropological teaching or research any time soon, however. It still takes human beings to study other human beings!
Department of Sociology
Dr. Barbara Denison: Fortunately, our professional organization, the American Sociological Association, has researched this topic and provides a list of skills employers want that a sociology major will learn in a bachelor's degree program. I would summarize that list by saying the ability to analyze data and explain its meaning to a non-specialized audience is most important. This intersects the strong skills in communication employers want with the data skills every workforce area uses these days. Statistical data and other metrics are a part of every industry and public institution, qualitative analysis is used routinely, and being able to collect, analyze, and summarize findings is a key sociological skill for employers.
Dr. Barbara Denison: The same skills discussed above are necessary for the fight to oppose racism, inequality, poverty, misogyny, and every structural inequality in society. Fortunately, sociology majors are social justice fighters, and much of their employment after graduation can be found in non-profits, advocacy groups, volunteer and community agencies, and social/human services settings. That is not to say sociology majors don't work in other, more corporate, settings. Marketing and marketing research, and data warehousing, are areas where sociology majors find excellent employment options, given their data skills. The public sector, such as the US Census Bureau, state data centers, and government agencies, are also good employment resources.
Dr. Barbara Denison: Technology is already a key component; learning and using data packages such as EXCEL, SPSS, and STATA, is a component of a sociology degree. With qualitative packages of increasing sophistication, like Nvivio also making data collection easier, technology will only serve to make larger and more complex data collection and analysis easier. Learning to write effective reports and presentations, using software to enhance and insert data representations are also part of a sociology major's education, and technology continues to enhance these skills.
Cedric Taylor Ph.D.: It's not easy to predict which jobs will be in demand in the coming years precisely. However, it is likely that employers will continue to value several skills, no matter what the industry - whether a Fortune 500 company or a nonprofit.
First off, strong analytic and critical thinking skills will always be desired. Inevitably, there are going to be problems that will need to be solved efficiently and quickly. Having the ability to gather, analyze, and evaluate information, and the ability to "see" a problem from different points of view, should be valuable to employers.
Secondly, this might seem obvious, but communication skills are critical. Employers know that poor communication in the workplace can impact productivity and may even be costly.
Lastly, these days there is a lot of talk about the rise of "big data." Businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies are relying more and more on data to guide their decisions. Employees who have quantitative skills and are data literate will have a definite advantage.
It so happens that a degree in sociology provides competency in all of these areas, making its graduates some of the most well-rounded and prepared among new entrants to the workforce.
Cedric Taylor Ph.D.: Sociology is remarkably broad in its scope. This means that the discipline has wide applicability in the labor market. Opportunities can be found in academic and applied settings all over the country. It is true that many sociologists teach, but many others have successful careers working outside of academia. Many who chose not to pursue a graduate degree in the field may find jobs a public policy firm, in social services, or might land a job in marketing, advertising, or public relations. You may not see a job posting explicitly looking for a 'sociologist,' but you will still find that you are a good fit for what employers are looking for.
Cedric Taylor Ph.D.: For those who choose to go into academia, they are likely to see technology increasingly incorporated in their teaching. Online/remote teaching had been the trend for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up this process. Sociologists have also already begun to use more technology to collect research and experimental data. For some, using survey software companies to collect data on their behalf has become more feasible.
Those who go into the workforce with an undergraduate degree will likely have proficiency in data management and analysis software in order to be more competitive in the age of 'big data.'
Finally, it is likely that some sociologists will be even more preoccupied with understanding the increasing impact of technology on various aspects of social life.
Columbus State University
Department of Sociology
Dr. Cameron Williams: Before the coronavirus hit, college graduates were already entering a market constrained by the 2008 financial crisis. The coronavirus will add more pressure to a job market that was just beginning to stabilize after years of slow recovery. Governments across the world have mandated complete shutdowns of numerous sectors of their nations as a result of the coronavirus. Economic activity has stopped or slowed dramatically in these places, which is unprecedented in its impact. Many businesses will remain permanently closed because of the pandemic, like those in the restaurant industry. Additionally, a lot of companies that have laid off or furloughed employees will not bring these people back or will bring them back slowly. In previous times, recent graduates might continue on to graduate school to obtain an advanced or professional degree. Continuing on this route might be more difficult now than in the past because many graduate programs are pausing new enrollments because of the pandemic.
Dr. Cameron Williams: Despite the coronavirus, graduates with a degree in sociology do have options for places of employment. It's important for sociology graduates to be able to effectively market their skills, which aligns with an assortment of career paths. Sometimes students underemphasize the utility and applicability that sociology has to different career fields. Employers are increasingly looking for people with qualitative and quantitative analysis skills. I always recommend that students check into government jobs, which tend to be nicely distributed across the US. Nonprofits and foundations are also good options for sociology graduates. These jobs are more concentrated in metropolitan areas.
Dr. Cameron Williams: Technology should have a minimal impact on the field of sociology over the next five years. Unlike trucking, retail, manufacturing, and some other sectors, the jobs that people trained in sociology work are not as impacted by automation. Many of the jobs that people in this field enter require human interaction, like those providing social services, teaching, and even various forms of data analysis. Employers will continue to desire potential employees to be well-versed in different social media platforms and those who are proficient in their ability to use various data analysis software.
Boise State University
Department of Sociology
Dr. Arthur Scarritt: The most important skill is learning how to learn. People are fond of saying that the jobs graduates will have do not yet exist when they start school. So students must have dynamic skills adaptable to a variety of workplaces. This includes being able to learn on the job what the job requires of you. And, in order to advance, you must have the skills to make the job your own. You must have the skills to negotiate a career. Employers know this. When interviewed about what they want in an employee, the same set of skills always come out at the top. And these are not specific technical skills that are all too frequently associated with college and specialization.
Employers really do not consider majors that much. Instead, they want dynamic employees with broad skills, workers who can: work in a team, problem-solve, communicate effectively, show leadership and initiative, and are adaptable. With a degree in sociology, in particular, students can be anything they want to be: we place students throughout the labor market, with our largest concentration at about 7% in social work. Sociology provides the ability to understand differences between people - race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability, for instance - and work accordingly. Sociology enables students to understand how individual actions contribute to collective behavior - and how to engage these dynamics effectively.
Dr. Arthur Scarritt: All bets are off with the pandemic and probable recession. Look to areas with strong social institutions and the infrastructure to weather crises. Sometimes this takes the form of solid social and economic investment, such as in more progressive areas like Minneapolis, some other Midwestern areas, and the coasts. Other times, recovery forms of growth can take the shape of wealthy, mostly white, people fleeing from areas they deem hazardous to zones they regard as "safe" - meaning white-dominant. While these latter areas may be more bucolic, their recovery tends to look polarized, dominated by lower-end service jobs.
Dr. Arthur Scarritt: If you mean information technology, I really do not see much of an impact. The greatest impact will be an increase in precariousness and the demand for flexible labor. To engage this, the key is not to acquire technical skills, because these get quickly outdated and can be readily learned on the job - if you have learned how to learn. Rather, you can make yourself valuable to your employer through being a dynamic, creative, engaged, and passionate human.
Karen August: Absolutely yes, in terms of employment and grad school both...the transition we've just experienced will lead to more online employment, and our students will be graduating with many of the skills they will need to navigate an online work world. While it was unplanned, unfortunate, and created many hurdles - our students are entering a much transformed professional world that requires new strategies of communication, collaborative work, delivering services, and assessing needs and accomplishments - just to mention a few of the skill sets our graduates will need. We are striving to provide those skillsets. I do not see our lives returning to pre-pandemic ways for some time - if ever.
Karen August: Non-profits have historically welcomed many Sociology/CJS graduates, as well as many law enforcement agencies and government service agencies - all of which are nationwide. The biggest challenge I see here for students is locating an agency that is adequately funded. Areas that are home to marginalized communities are those most in need and, many times, the most underfunded. I encourage students to make the most of their 'networks' - actively seek and cultivate connections in their field while completing service learning or internships. In the past, many interns have been offered permanent employment or referrals to other agencies by the hosting agency. "Make the most of who you know!"
Karen August: Some services will return to face-to-face operations because of the nature of the work - for instance, Probation Departments, Food Banks, and such. I look for many organizations to eliminate office space as cost-cutting measures, meaning many positions will remain online. As we transitioned last semester, we saw our supporting platforms - Zoom, for example - expanding their capacity and structure to deliver the needed services. I believe technology will evolve to bring more security to our online lives and increase our productivity as we learn to let apps do things we have traditionally done manually. I look for there to be some debate around what should and should not be in the public domain and, hence, what we must finance and what is available at no charge to individuals or institutions.
Dr. Elena Fox Ph.D.: Several fields have changed, some for the better, some for the worse. If anything, this year's graduates should have an increased appreciation that the work they are doing is meaningful as the pandemic has particularly shown the importance of human rights, socialization, and social solidarity.
Dr. Elena Fox Ph.D.: Social science opportunities are all around us. Luckily social science majors encompass a wide variety of topics. One can work in a city and perhaps study urbanization, public policy, or the law; while another individual may choose to work in a more rural setting and focus on social work and caregiving. Of course, some settings are better suited for specific types of work than others, but it is all relative. I would argue what is important is the ability to put oneself out there and be willing to relocate, if necessary.
Dr. Elena Fox Ph.D.: Technology will certainly have an impact on the social sciences over the next five years. In terms of research, it may make performing it quicker, easier, and more reliable. It will also allow for faster dissemination of data to larger populations. In terms of inequalities, it may further emphasize and increase how not everyone has access to new tech or even reliable Internet. This will become particularly important as working remotely becomes the norm. Technology will not only impact how social scientists do their jobs but how we interact with each other and others on a face-to-face level and a much larger institutional level. It will also influence how we educate the next generation of social scientists, and how these individuals choose to respond to the bigger questions currently dividing our worlds, such as race, sexuality, gender, equality, and freedom.
Vice President and Dean of the College
Jill Grigsby: The impact of the coronavirus pandemic will last for several years and seems to be affecting the timing of the job market and the qualitative nature of the work itself. For example, entry-level jobs for social science data analysts haven't been widely advertised, but firms are expecting to hire. The hiring season seems to be delayed. As with many white-collar jobs, new graduates who work with data may find that they are expected to work from home, rather than in an office.
Jill Grigsby: Many of our recent graduates in sociology find work in Washington DC, greater New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, greater Los Angeles, and Chicago. These are all places that offer opportunities for entry-level jobs in policy analysis, market analysis, teaching, fund-raising for non-profit organizations. These jobs will continue to be in demand.
Jill Grigsby: More people will be working from home, rather than in an office, or spending several days a week working from home in order to keep offices less crowded, so home-offices need to have excellent internet connections and other up-to-date technologies. Most people will be spending, at least, several hours each week on Zoom, so learning how to work efficiently over Zoom will be a valuable skill. Creating and maintaining a social media presence will also become a valuable skill in the next five years.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Jay Irwin Ph.D.: I think this is yet to be seen, but I would be surprised if distance work isn't a more standard option for the workforce going forward. I would also imagine there may be more of a need for professionals with an understanding of the social impacts of health within health care settings, so a sociological or public health focus and understanding of health may become a more in-demand skill set.
I also think about the current social change era we are in as it relates to issues of policing, race, and human rights/inclusion that may also create a higher demand for systems-level or sociological training. The roots of sociology as a discipline can be traced back to times of large social change-the industrial revolution, for example-so students trained with sociological perspectives may be particularly apt to respond to quickly changing times that we are now in.
Jay Irwin Ph.D.: The employment field for graduates with an MA in Sociology is quite wide. We've seen our graduates employed in three general areas:
(1) teaching at the undergraduate level,
(2) social service sectors, including public and non-profit settings, working in areas of research and program evaluation/implementation, and (3) going on to a Ph.D. program/academic track. I would say that an MA in Sociology is actually incredibly portable to any geographic region. Preparing students to understand research and social science methodologies and approaches, combined with an increased understanding of diverse peoples and various systems at a social level, are necessary skills for professions across the United States and beyond.
Jay Irwin Ph.D.: I would imagine more remote work and utilization of remote meeting systems, so comfort with working through diverse topics in an internet-mediated medium will likely grow in importance. The ability to work in teams in this internet-mediated space will also likely grow in importance.
Judith Stepan-Norris Ph.D.: Universities are making changes in the wake of the pandemic, and these changes will have an impact on graduates. A prominent issue is the uncertainty universities face about their futures. Nobody knows what our environment will look like next month, in 6 months, or a year from now. That means that universities have to make contingency plans (which take additional time and effort) while facing another fiscal crisis. Their financial situation is worsened due to loss of revenue streams and increased costs due to the necessarily quick distance learning transition. In uncertain times, universities use caution in making long-term commitments, like hiring new faculty members. I would expect there to be fewer jobs advertised this year in all areas. This means that recent graduates will need to look for alternate employment opportunities outside academia or hold off on graduating one more year.
Judith Stepan-Norris Ph.D.: While many industries are suffering, others have boomed. These include on-line-related industries like mobile/streaming, teleconferencing, social media platforms, on-line retail, and various apps; delivery and logistics; food-related and at-home fitness industries; pharmaceutical, medical and sanitation supplies, and biotech; and Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. Sociology PhDs usually look for employment in academia, various government agencies, and research firms. But they also may find that their skills are translatable to sizeable social media/search engine companies and different types of non-profits. Institutions that need input on social processes could have positions that Sociology PhDs could be competitive for.
Judith Stepan-Norris Ph.D.: I think more education will be delivered remotely in the future. This was a trend before the pandemic, and the epidemic will speed this trend because now distance learning is not an abstract concept for faculty members. Now they all have experience delivering their classes remotely and have had a chance to see what works and what doesn't. They have also invested in transitioning their courses to online formats and therefore have sunk costs (development time) in that format. While face-to-face courses will continue to be preferred by students and faculty alike, I think we will see more distance-learning classes even after the pandemic ends.
Department of Sociology, Social Work, Criminal Justice, & Family Science
Dr. Tammy Reedy-Strother Ph.D.: I would advise everyone, not just recent graduates, to keep learning. Learn what changes are taking place or are emerging in their fields, learn common platforms or software used (whether they anticipate needing it or not), learn how to sell their skills and experiences. Build networks with others in their fields, not just to have those connections to help them, but also to learn from and contribute to others' lives. I would also encourage them to learn more generally, develop new skills, take up new hobbies, and don't stop growing. Those things will help improve not only the quality of their lives but may help them in their fields in unexpected ways.
This would be best explored before graduation, but I would also recommend that they seek out and talk with others who have the type of careers they believe they would like to have themselves. Ask them about the nature of the work, and what the recent graduate should be doing early in their career to prepare for where they want to go. What are the downsides of the work? Where do they see the field going in the next few years? What do they wish they had done differently earlier in their careers? If they were where the recent graduate is, how would they proceed?
Dr. Tammy Reedy-Strother Ph.D.: I would expect continued growth in the use of technologies like Zoom and similar software. I believe this pandemic has fundamentally changed how many industries work and has created new avenues to accomplish goals, both professional and personal. I think it's imperative that we learn how to teach (and learn) more effectively virtually because, I believe that will be increasingly common, at all levels of education, with both excellent and poor results. I also think it's vital that we study the impact of those technologies on us, and find ways to limit the more negative aspects. For those of us in social sciences, this has given us a lot of new ground for research, and I expect we will learn a lot about the impact of these technologies on us as individuals and as a society.
Dr. Tammy Reedy-Strother Ph.D.: Yes, I think there will be an enduring impact on all of us. My kids are 10 and 12, and this will be a cultural marker in their lives. There is no way to know the full impact, and we are still in the middle of the pandemic, but I expect this will be a significant moment in world history when nearly everything changed in some way. Some of my students missed out on internships because they were canceled due to COVID, and others didn't get to go to interviews for the same reasons. Some, now, can't afford graduate school or had to move back to their parents' homes because their summer jobs fell through. On a more general level, families are losing jobs and homes, businesses are closing, and loved ones are getting very ill. Perhaps for the first time, some students consider their mortality and that of their loved ones. It is undoubtedly a tough time.
Orange Coast College
Rachel Ridnor: I love sociology because it is the type of field that you can do so much with and take in so many different directions. I think the most important thing I can tell you, from my personal experience, is to try to go in the direction that you feel the most passion for. Perhaps, you loved learning about gender inequality, stratification, racial inequality, research methods, statistics, sexuality, the family, globalization, health inequality, etc. - take the areas you loved learning about, and use that to guide the career or continuing education path you go into, and also the impact you can make on the world. Sociologists make a difference in any field they go into because they understand the interconnections within society and, most importantly, can understand the reflexive relationship between institutions and the individual.
Rachel Ridnor: It is hard to say what new technologies I see becoming more important or prevalent. I do not see recent events changing much, except for expanding the use of video conferencing.
Rachel Ridnor: I think that graduates can make substantial institutional changes positively because COVID has, at least, brought to the public's attention many issues that sociologists have been talking about for years, but that the general public has not focused on. As one learns in social problems, once problems have gone through the emergence stage, this is a prime time to do something about them and start making proactive and reactive solutions. I see sociology graduates leading the charge for change on a plethora of issues, both in their careers and personal lives.