Connecting Sociology and YOU!

So . . . You’re a Sociology Major. What Are You Doing After Graduation?

Glue graphic of a person thinking.Take a moment to imagine: You’re home for the holidays, catching up with family whom you haven’t seen in a long time. “Hellos” and “Welcomes” abound. “How are yous?” zing across the room. And, of course, the question is asked, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” The question heard ’round the world (or, at least by college students worldwide). For many students, this question is easy to answer. “I’m going to be a doctor,” or “I’m going to be an engineer,” or some other career option that is predetermined way before a student finishes school, especially considering that many college majors inherently funnel students toward a specific career path; however, if you are a sociology major, it is often difficult to determine your “endgame.” Unlike many other majors, sociology does not offer a one-size-fits-all answer due to its broad scope and reach. So, what can you do with your sociology degree? What is the “right path” for you? Thankfully, the answer can be easier to discover than one may believe.

Since the scope of sociology is so encompassing, studying it provides an ample breadth of possibilities. So, where can you go with your sociology degree? Academics? Yes! Government? Sure thing! Education? Absolutely! Anything involving people? Without a doubt! According to the American Sociological Association (ASA), in their 2012 Social Capital, Organizational Capital, and the Job Market for New Sociology Graduates Survey, 23% of graduates pursued work in social services and as counselors, 14% went into sales and marketing, 14% went into administrative support, 12% began careers as teachers, and another 12% went into service occupations, among other fields. As we hope to shed more light upon in this blog series, your sociology degree will open up many doors for potential career opportunities, which will help you better understand and discover different ways to make a meaningful impact in the world!Graphic of a person standing on blue arrows trying to make a decision.

So, where do you start? Answering this question might be the most arduous part of the journey, as it can be overwhelming to establish which path to take. However, afterward, it becomes much easier to determine the next steps. A wise starting point on this journey would be to consider what drives your passion. What initially drove you to begin your sociological studies? Recently, the ASA produced a brochure on sociology being a “21st Century Major,” and during the development of this brochure, the ASA interviewed sociology students in the workforce, asking them why they decided to study sociology. Respondents represented a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, including urban planning and healthcare, among other fields, but interestingly enough, almost all shared that they wanted to study sociology because they desired to gain new, different perspectives. One respondent argued that “studying sociology is like seeing the world through a new pair of glasses, and I don’t think I could be an effective health care provider without having studied it, especially considering my interest in global health.” Another respondent said, “I chose sociology because I felt that sociology would give me the most freedom to explore multiple career paths. As a rising city planner, I am able to see how my understanding of socioeconomic disparities operate in an urban context. I know that in the future, I will be able to effectively create solutions in local distressed communities.” These are just a few of the many experiences that one could have while studying sociology, but regardless, once you figure out what that interest is or interests are, you will be able to more effectively determine which specific career path(s) on which you would like to embark.

As alluded to in the student testimonies, one of the most integral factors in developing an interest in studying sociology is the desire to contribute to society. As noted in a recent article in U.S News & World Report regarding the impetus for sociological studies, “Students interested in social justice are also the right fit [for sociology]. Not only do sociology majors analyze what works within society, but they also seek to understand what doesn’t work. They identify and try to solve social issues confronting society, such as crime, poverty, or inequality.” Inherently ingrained in the discipline, the study of people, social institutions, and social phenomena helps reveal the social nature of issues that plague everyday life. As you should remember from your Introduction to Sociology class, we would call this the “sociological imagination,” a concept developed by sociologist C. Wright Mills in his seminal work The Sociological Imagination. As Mills describes, the sociological imagination is “the vivid awareness of the relationship between experience and the wider society.” Using the sociological imagination, students can apply their knowledge of concepts, ideas, and theories to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. For example, many people have an interest in educating others about social issues and how the social world operates. It is only natural to want to become an educator, a professor, an instructor, or something to that effect. Perhaps you have an interest in building interpersonal relationships. So, it might only be natural for you to consider a career as a therapist, a counselor, or a social worker. Maybe you are interested in governmental affairs. You could consider a job as a politician, a policy analyst, or a lobbyist. Maybe you are interested in advocacy and raising awareness in communities near and far. If so, non-profit work may be the path for you. No matter which path you ultimately choose (and perhaps your path will take twists and turns during the span of your life), your sociology degree will open up a wide range of opportunities for you to consider in the future.

Graphic of three question marks.

While it is not essential, it is highly recommended that once discover your specific passion, you should build up your credentials and experience in that field. So, for example, if you are interested in teaching and research, seek out opportunities to conduct research with your school’s professors, or perhaps seek out an opportunity to become a teaching assistant. If you are interested in social work, seek out volunteer opportunities through your school or community. Depending on the type of social work in which you are interested, see if it is possible to get experience with those particular populations. If you are interested in governmental affairs, for example, check out your school’s career center and see if there are opportunities available to intern with your local congressperson, or perhaps even more locally, with local politicians in your school’s jurisdiction. To learn more about how to find such opportunities for professional and academic growth, be sure to contact your professors, your career center, and advisors, who can help you find fitting and fulfilling career paths to begin using your sociological knowledge in meaningful ways. Until next time, use your sociological imagination to explore the myriad possibilities available to you!Graphic of people connected by lines.

Burkat is a Guest Contributor for  UITAC Publishing. UITAC’s mission is to provide high-quality, affordable, and socially responsible online course materials.

Images in this blog:

  1. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  2. Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay
  3. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
  4. Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay\


About Author

Walter Burkat

Mr. Burkat received his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology & Sociology and French, as well as a minor in Mandarin Chinese from Lafayette College. Furthermore, he received his Master of Arts in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, focusing on Sociocultural Anthropology. During his undergraduate studies at Lafayette College, Mr. Burkat had the opportunity to work on several anthropological/sociological inquiries, including, but not limited to racial formations of Muslims in 21st century Denmark; social memories of Danish Jews during World War II; media constructions of women in American crime dramas; ethnographic research of Easton, Pennsylvania’s long-lost “Syrian Town”; sociolinguistic identities of Senegalese diaspora members in the United States. While at the University of Chicago, Mr. Burkat completed specialized work on West African ethnographies (primarily those based in the People’s Republic of China), focusing on linguistic analyses, migration studies, and economic/human development investigations. In his Master’s thesis, he explored the effects of Westernized neoliberalism on racial constructions of African migrant traders and Chinese internal migrants living in various Chinese cities (e.g., Guangzhou; Hong Kong; Shanghai; Yiwu). Currently, he works as a high school French teacher in New Jersey, as well as an adjunct instructor of Sociology at Centenary University.

Read About Us

Sociology in the News