Sociologists are concerned with the social interactions between people. Though they might study small interactions within particular groups, sociologists are most interested in the bigger picture in the ways that social groups interact within themselves and with one another as well as the ways that societies are formed, function, and fail.
Sociologist Careers & Degrees
Sociologists study both the good and the bad: family groups and religious organizations are examined in the same manner as crime and terrorism. Only by looking at the full range of human interaction, the sociologist claims, can we begin to understand why we do the things we do.
Sociologists like to have data to back up their claims. They may gather data themselves through field work: interviews, surveys, and observations. They may also analyze data gleaned from government or other organizational reports.
By crunching the numbers, as it were, sociologists look for patterns to our seemingly chaotic behaviors and, as they find them, make suggestions on how we can better handle situations that typically elicit such behaviors in the future.
Because of this ability, they are in high demand from governmental organizations that craft legislation or set public policy. In fact, many sociologists specialize in politics and are known as political scientists.
Sociologist Careers Path
Sociologists need at least a Bachelor’s degree for the most basic positions, but typically need a Master’s degree should they wish to enter higher level positions. Because so much of their work is quantitative, sociologists should spend their time in college becoming skilled in statistics and research methods.
Internships are particularly helpful for young sociologists as they offer them the chance to participate in real research and field work. Sociologists who wish to teach generally need to earn a Ph.D.
Sociologist Careers: Compatible Personality Traits
Highly analytical, excellent oral and written communication skills, creative, intellectually curious, interested in big ideas, patient, good with people, willing to work odd hours, willing to travel to conduct research, works well with others.
Sociologist Careers: Salary Expectations
The average salary for a sociologist is $72, 360 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Sociologist Careers: Job Outlook
The job outlook for sociologists is very good in the coming years, in the academy, government, and private sector. The field is projected to grow by 18% by 2020, which is as fast as the average career growth. There will a need in universities and colleges to replace the many sociology professors who are set to retire in the coming years.
Competition for tenured positions will be high, but there should be many opportunities for part-time faculty. In applied research areas, sociologists will be in demand to fill positions in the government as well as in large companies.
For all positions, sociologists with the highest levels of education and most research experience will have the best chance of finding work.
Margaret Poloma is an American sociologist, professor, and author who is known for her research on the Pentecostal movement in American Christianity. She is herself a charismatic Roman Catholic. She is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Akron.
Poloma is married to fellow socioloist T. Neal Garland. In 1970 they did a study of...
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