Students often ask us sociology instructors, "what can I do with a degree in sociology?" In the competitive job market of today, not only does a major in sociology provide marketable skills, it is important for students to be able to relate those skills to careers and specific jobs. This post will draw upon several videos to explore how sociological knowledge relates to particular skills and careers, and offers examples for how students might communicate these skills to employers.
In the first video, Dr Dalton Conley explains how he happened into sociology and identifies some possible career paths for sociologists. In particular, he emphasizes the unique importance of research skills for sociology majors. Students' skills working both quantitative and qualitative data are applicable to a wide variety of careers where research design, statistics, and analysis are especially important. He also notes that sociology can serve as an excellent foundation for advanced professional degrees, such as law, medicine, or education.
For this second video, Dr Joan Ferrante at Northern Kentucky University collaborated with students to reflect on how they became interested in sociology, how sociological knowledge is constructed, and how it can be applied to various careers. This informative video features several sociology students sharing their stories about how sociology relates to their own career aspirations. It encourages students to think about how their own personal experiences can guide their career aspirations and to reflect on how their real-life experiences are another asset that they can relate to particular settings and occupations. By giving many concrete examples, it highlights that sociological skills can be applied to various forms of work in non-profit, government, and private sectors.
Sociology majors also learn theories and concepts that are also helpful in preparing them to work in diverse settings, collaborate with different social groups, and understand the needs of unique populations (e.g. across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, nationality, ability, etc). These skills are highly valued in today's organizational settings, and can be applied to careers that range from international development to human resource management, organizational research to community organizing.
In addition, as shown in this Footnotes article, it is unlikely that job titles will be for a "sociologist" or that job announcements will identify "sociology" anywhere in the ad. As research for the article notes, potential applicants are more likely to find relevant jobs through searches involving terms like "data," "research," and "analysis," among others. To begin your search, try this list of job search sites from the ASA. See also additional resources available (to purchase from ASA).
In applying for a job, an important ability for students to be able to master is how to explain their skill set to potential employers through their cover letters, job interviews, and networking. Students should practice explaining how their educational background has provided them with skills necessary for a particular job, and link those skills to the specific demands of that job. You will want to pay particular attention to the job announcement and use the language there.
Do you have other resources to share for students considering jobs relevant to their major? If you have attained a job recently as a sociology graduate, what helped you be successful?