February 18, 2010

Sociology Majors on the Job Market

new karen 1 By Karen Sternheimer

If you are one of the many people seeking a job right now, you know that the market is pretty tight. With unemployment rates still close to ten percent nationally—and even higher in some areas—a job search can be pretty discouraging.

Some of you might not quite be at the job search stage, but find that you are really interested in sociology and wonder what kind of career it could lead to, aside from being a sociologist.

The American Sociological Association (ASA) published a report in January 2008 that details the jobs held by sociology majors who graduated three years prior. The largest proportion (26.5%) went on to have social service related jobs, while others became teachers, managers, or worked in sales or public relations. Some of my former students have also gone into the criminal justice field, advertising, law school, and medical school. According to the ASA study, of those reporting that their job was closely related to their major, 67.7% said they were “very satisfied” with their jobs.

In reality most undergraduate majors today do not necessarily provide clear vocational paths. Not all psychology majors become psychologists, not all business majors become entrepreneurs, and not all biology majors go on to medical school. Some people might be on a traditional career trajectory only to discover that they really don’t like the work it entails, so they change careers.

Sociology majors can leverage their unique expertise to be successful in many different kinds of careers. As you look for a job, it’s important to remember that you are your best asset; your skill set is only as attractive as your ability to market yourself. Each type of job will require different skills and experiences. For those of you who might not have a lengthy job history to draw from, you can use your resume to demonstrate how your sociology degree can enhance your qualifications. Here’s my advice for how to market the skills you learn earning a sociology degree:

  1. Emphasize your data collection skills

If you have taken a research methods class, chances are you have conducted your own research project. Think about what skills you developed in the process and translate them into resume language. Did you develop, distribute, and collect surveys? If you conducted interviews, you likely composed questions and clip_image002[4]learned to build rapport with others.

Potential employers will like to know that you can create a work plan and follow through with your plan systematically. They would also like to know if you work well with others. If you completed any group projects, you might emphasize your leadership, negotiation, and teamwork abilities.

  1. Emphasize your ability to analyze data

Along with collecting data, sociology students learn how to analyze information they collect. If you have taken statistics, you have developed tools that many employers will find useful. Knowing how to use a basic spreadsheet and do simple kinds of number crunching (calculating averages, graphing trends, creating charts) is very useful in many different industries. And if you are comfortable using software like SPSS or STATA that’s an added benefit (I have gotten several jobs and job offers for having these skills).

Sociology majors also learn to interpret information they collect. Even if a prospective job doesn’t require you to do any calculations, you can highlight your ability to interpret statistical findings. And if you are currently or will soon be taking a statistics class, pay close attention—what you learn there could be your edge in getting a job over someone who is afraid of numbers.

  1. Emphasize your familiarity with diversity issues

As the ASA report mentioned about notes, a large proportion of sociology majors go on to work in social service kinds of jobs. These kinds of jobs require an awareness of and sensitivity to many forms of diversity. If you have studied issues of social stratification, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration you can note you have familiarity with diversity issues. This is especially important if you apply for work in human resources or in any kind of service profession. Your awareness of cultural differences and the problems of ethnocentrism can set you apart from others without this background.

  1. Note how sociology promotes leadership skills

clip_image002[7]At its core, sociology is about the study of people in both large and small groups. If you have studied organizations, social psychology, urban sociology, or any other focus on group dynamics, you can emphasize how this training has prepared you for a management-track position (be patient--you might not get hired as a manager right away). Sociologists also learn to think critically. Learning about a variety of sociological theories, social problems, and social inequality gives you a background in how to consider a variety of different viewpoints, recognize, and solve problems.

As a job seeker, the burden is always on you to demonstrate how your unique skills and experiences can benefit a potential employer. Many people aren’t exactly sure what sociology is all about (I still have to remind some people that I’m not a psychologist), so it’s your responsibility to inform prospective employers what special skills sociology majors can bring to their work.

You might even create a section of your resume listing these skills—just as a good research report explicitly highlights its specific findings, you should clearly delineate how your sociology background will make you an outstanding employee.

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Comments

As a social media PR firm, we're alway looking for sociology majors. In this growing industry the knowledge set of a sociology major is a valuable asset. a good place to look for jobs and internships is probably a place like mashable.com where social media firms check in daily... or send us your resume! soelsewhereconsulting.com

Wow, it seems like presenting yourself is just as important as being educated in the work force of today's society.

I like how you very well stated that knowing how to analyze the data you come up with is very important to the researching of a specific topic.

As I wish to be a psychology major in college, I greatly relate to your blog. I have been told by several people and have browsed information on the internet regarding my major, and a lot of people tend to veer off into careers that are actually quite different than "psychogist." I wish to become a clinical psychologist myself or, perhaps, a psychology professor, so I plan on sticking with the major and "walking the well-lit path." On the other hand, if I ever decide, somewhere along my educational path, that becoming a clinical psychologist or professor is not right for me, I will be glad to know that I have other options, such as management. A lot of companies seem to be interested in sociology and psychology majors, which makes them so much more desirable to be.

Very interesting. Sociology is not so narrow, no wander people wander off to different jobs and not just sociologist or something close to the point.

I always thought that Sociology was just the study of human behavior. I did not know that Sociology had so many fields. I'm taking a Sociology class right know. It is quite interesting.

I think that people don't realize that their career doesn't have to be based off of their college majors. There is a lot of diversity in the are of sociology, and people can do many things once they graduate.

Once you have the job, however, you can't do anything but be the best.

Some of the best advice I've received is that you should never care about the type of work or the pay. So long as you're the best everything works out.

Have the people who contribute to this site done any writing on structured poverty

Very interesting, the tips marketing yourself as a sociology degree holder, especially on learning more to analyze datas.

The market is full of strategies and still it is uncovered with many opportunities as well..

The choice of a career or career transition from one to another can be a daunting task. However, some thoughtful career planning, you can start the work in the open or make the transition to another career field is a minimum of fuss.

There is a danger faced by the undergradaute soc major. Courses like research, interview, behavior, inequality, public policy won't compete by title with courses like accounting, calculus, marketing, economics, distribution, computer networks. When the soc graduate markets those sociology courses, a competing graduate of an applied major says "I did that too (in reference to your study of research, interview, case management), and I have this (an applied specialization that develops interest)....."

Sociology studies alot of what but little how. Its a broad foundation for the graduate work with little applied study until you have your master's. If you choose to bear the curse of the soc graduate, you need a certification that will stand on its own perhaps HR, Marketing, some specialized certification in another field. Otherwise, it's going to be hard to market those theories of stratification and group behavior.

I think all those advises you are giving to sociology graduates apply to almost all the other fields. Companies are looking for people who could adopt to their environment. Even you work in a job closely related to what you studied you still need to adopt to changes in the technology and society. I guess sociology students are better prepared for this.

This blog has to do with Sociology majors and the job market related to these fields. It covers the availability of jobs in this specific market and also talks about how sociology majors can use their unique expertise to be successful in many different kinds of careers. It helps to make this complicated information a little bit easier to understand.

Thank you for the article. There are many person searching about that and now they will find enough resources from your post. My niece is one of the Sociology graduate puzzling about her future too.

At first I was nervous, feeling as though I wasn't as prepared as others who graduated with different majors, but then when I got creative with all that I had learned, I found I became super employable, find several sociology topics and master them, and watch the competition crumble

I think all those advises you are giving to sociology graduates apply to almost all the other fields. Companies are looking for people who could adopt to their environment.

I LIKE THE ARTICLE,I AM A SOCIOLOGY POST GRADUATE.I WORKING IN GOVT, NOT SOCIOLOGY RELATED JOB . I AM NOT SATISFACTORY IN MY WORK .WHAT CAN I DO? .

Very interesting. Sociology is not so narrow, no wander people wander off to different jobs and not just sociologist or something close to the point.
+1

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