Research · Teaching · Social Change
For information about majoring or minoring in sociology at Temple, including requirements, forms, & course descriptions, click here.
For information about undergraduate student services in the department, click here.
To make an appointment to speak with an undergraduate advisor, email Catherine Staples or call her at (215) 204-1494.
Undergraduate Chair · Professor Michelle Byng
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WHAT CAREERS CAN I PURSUE WITH A MAJOR IN SOCIOLOGY?
The sociology major prepares students for many careers and graduate programs by providing them with a broad sociological perspective and specific research, statistical, and analytical skills. Sociology students study human group interaction, institutions, and societal values and norms through courses in contemporary social issues, social movements, family, urban life, health and health care, organizations, political life, law, race, class, and gender. The sociological perspective develops students' awareness of both others' views and experiences and the relationship of individuals and groups to each other, to institutions and organizations, and to the larger society.
Along with the sociological perspective, sociology majors acquire research, critical thinking, and analytic skills highly valued by both graduate schools and employers. Through research methods courses, research-intensive substantive courses, and specially designed internships, students gain experience in fieldwork; interviewing; developing, administering and analyzing surveys; statistical analysis; and writing research reports. These skills will enable you to pursue careers in many different areas. Temple sociology majors work in a variety of interesting fields in a range of exciting settings. Our recent graduates have successfully secured employment with their bachelor's degrees in the non-profit sector, community planning, social work, market research, education, law and business. For those interested in furthering their education, sociology provides an excellent background for entering professional schools in law, business, and medicine, as well as for pursuing advanced degrees in sociology or related academic disciplines. Students interested in careers in the health care industry may select the Health Track in Sociology, a program focused on the sociology of health and health care.
By providing broad perspectives on the complex issues of our time and the critical and analytic tools needed to address them, the sociology major at Temple gives you the knowledge and skills you need to be successful academically and professionally.
A substantial number of our sociology majors choose careers in professions such as law, dentistry, and medicine. Sociology is a popular major for students planning futures in law, and each year Temple sociology majors apply to and are admitted to law schools. Other sociology majors have been accepted to medical, dental, physical therapy, or nursing programs. Being a sociology major can actually help you get into the health professions, all other things being equal. The reason for this is that many of these schools want students who are not already narrowly focused and they recognize that individuals who understand why people behave the way they do will make excellent medical practitioners. Sociology majors interested in one of these fields must take several additional science courses during their undergraduate career.
In general, graduate programs in almost every field take the best people they can get regardless of their undergraduate majors. If you are a sociology major and have a good record, you can apply to graduate programs in many disciplines besides sociology and gain admission. In some disciplines, such as business administration, you may actually have an easier time gaining admission to elite programs than undergraduate business majors.
Many sociology majors choose careers in business. Sociology majors are able to complete on at least an equal footing with business majors for jobs in industry. Most business employers who are looking for long-term, promotable personnel are interested in individuals who speak, write, calculate, and think well, and are willing to train such individuals to perform necessary business tasks. As noted above, a liberal arts degree provides these basic intellectual skills best. And training in sociology also has many direct applications to business. It helps you to understand the behavior of your fellow workers, your firm's customers, and a variety of other social institutions and interest groups which modern firms must deal with to operate effectively. Sociological training also gives you insight into the workings of a firm's formal and informal organizations. In addition, it offers a range of research techniques which can be applied in marketing research, the determination of client satisfaction, or in the analyses and interpretation of many other types of business data. Sociology graduates in the business world tend to concentrate in marketing, sales, market research, personnel administration, data management, and labor relations.
While it is true that business majors have an easier time getting their first job in business, sociology majors and, more generally, liberal arts majors may fare better in the long run. Many businesses are now finding out that their liberal arts graduates do better in many ways than those who concentrated on business or technical skills. In one national study conducted by the Bell Labs, their liberals arts graduates were promoted faster, were rated higher in administrative skills, and were found to have more management potential than business or technical graduates. They were rated superior particularly in preparing for planning and in decision-making and management skills. This examination of Bell Labs managers over a 20-year period found that 46 percent of those who majored in the humanities and social sciences such as sociology had potential for promotion to higher management, compared with only 31 percent of the business majors and 20 percent of the engineering majors. Other companies such as General Motors and the American Can Company have reached the same conclusion.
The best graduate business schools have been aware of this fact for many years. These schools train many of our business leaders with the Harvard Business School, for instance, numbering nearly 10,000 corporate presidents among its graduates. These schools admit far more undergraduate liberal arts majors than business or technical majors.
Incidentally, the value of social science and sociological training for management is also indicated by the large number of social science-type courses offered and required at business schools such as the Harvard Business School.
OTHER SOCIOLOGY-RELATED OCCUPATIONS
Sociology is the study of how groups are organized, how they change, and how they affect individuals. Sociology students are trained to understand and make sense of social relationships, to know how organizations and power structures work, and to create, interpret, and manipulate large data sets which describe various social processes. As a sociology major, students learn research methods, statistics, interviewing skills, data management and analysis skills, program evaluations skills, social survey techniques, and report writing. For these and other reasons there are employment opportunities in a wide range of fields for individuals with sociological training.
There are five major categories of the labor force where individuals with sociological training find employment, in addition to the business category. Each of these, however, is rather broad. The following areas absorb a large number of those who major or minor in sociology:
- Human Services (including social work, counseling, recreation, community work, public administration, and environmental planning).
- Criminal Justice (including police service, juvenile and adult corrections, and service to the courts).
- Education (including teaching, educational research, and administration).
- Research and Data Management (including public and private research positions, programming, and systems analyses).
- Communications (including library work, information management, journalism, and public relations).
All of the above are in one way or another people-oriented activities. Some represent fields where a knowledge of sociology plus another field -- journalism or economics, for example -- provides an especially strong background.
A few sociology majors become so interested in the discipline that they decide to become professional sociologists. To be a professional sociologist, one must complete graduate study to at least the Master's Degree. There are several areas where sociologists engage in professional employment. These include teaching in a range of academic institutions as well as carrying out applied research and human services in various organizations.
There are tremendous differences among sociologists in what they do and study. There are criminologists, demographers, social psychologists, social psychiatrists, methodologists, social theorists, clinical sociologists, and those specializing in other subdisciplines. So professional sociology is an umbrella covering many different types of jobs, and students are often more interested in preparing for a career in one of these subdisciplines than in sociology as a whole.
Temple University offers excellent graduate sociology programs at the Master of Arts and Ph.D. levels. Any undergraduate at Temple can apply for admission to these programs, although students who do not have an undergraduate sociology degree may have to take undergraduate courses before they can begin.
Incidentally, a considerable fraction of our graduate students receive tuition and living stipends. Some, but not all of these grants, have research or teaching obligations attached to them. While these fellowships and assistantships will not permit you to live "high on the hog," they can finance your way through graduate school.
While it is possible to argue that sociological training is relevant in some way to almost every occupation, some sociology majors choose occupations which do not directly utilize their sociological training. For instance, sociology graduates have been known to become farmers, professional athletes, home appraisers, postal carriers, armed forces pilots, and so on. Many of these individuals simply choose sociology as their subspecialty within their liberal arts curriculum because sociology is a very interesting major. Other students changed their career objectives away from more sociology-related careers during or after college. However, what is clear from the list of non-sociology related careers is that majoring in sociology was not an obstacle to attaining them. Remember, sociology majors can do almost anything even if it has nothing to do with sociology.
The fact is that there is a wide range of occupations open to those who have studied sociology. Many of these occupations, such as environmental planning, data management, and market analysis, did not even exist a generation ago. Although there is less need for sociology teachers at the secondary and college levels than there was a decade ago, new fields in sociology are continually being developed. For example, we are all living longer, and there is concern about increased numbers of older people in our society. These trends have led to new job opportunities in the area of gerontology. Students with a background in sociology may combine this with courses in human development and find work opportunities in programs developed for senior citizens. These may involve recreational activities, supplementary health care, or various types of counseling. Both courses and research activities in gerontology are rapidly increasing in number.