Sociologists

Summary

sociologists image
Sociologists design research projects to test theories about social issues.
Quick Facts: Sociologists
2014 Median Pay $72,810 per year
$35.01 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 2,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2014-24 0

What Sociologists Do

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Work Environment

Most sociologists work in research organizations, colleges and universities, and state and local government. They typically work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Sociologist

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many bachelor’s degreeholders will find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, healthcare, or public policy.

Pay

The median annual wage for sociologists was $72,810 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of sociologists is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Sociologists can expect to face very strong competition because sociology is a popular field of study with a relatively small number of positions.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for sociologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of sociologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about sociologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Sociologists Do

Sociologists
Some sociologists conduct interviews for their research.

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Duties

Sociologists typically do the following:

  • Design research projects to test theories about social issues
  • Collect data through surveys, observations, interviews, and other sources
  • Analyze and draw conclusions from data
  • Prepare reports, articles, or presentations detailing their research findings
  • Collaborate with and advise other social scientists, policymakers, or other groups on research findings and sociological issues

Sociologists study human behavior, interaction, and organization within the context of larger social, political, and economic forces. They observe the activity of social, religious, political, and economic groups, organizations, and institutions. They examine the effect of social influences, including organizations and institutions, on different individuals and groups. They also trace the origin and growth of these groups and interactions. For example, they may research the impact of a new law or policy on a specific demographic.

Sociologists often use both quantitative and qualitative methods when conducting research, and they frequently use statistical analysis programs during the research process. 

Administrators, educators, lawmakers, and social workers use sociological research to solve social problems and formulate public policy. Sociologists specialize in a wide range of social topics, including the following:

  • Health
  • Crime
  • Education
  • Racial and ethnic relations
  • Families
  • Population
  • Gender
  • Poverty
  • Aging

Sociologists who specialize in crime may be called criminologists or penologists. These workers apply their sociological knowledge to conduct research and analyze penal systems and populations and to study the causes and effects of crime.

Many people with a sociology background become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers. Most others, particularly those with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, often find work in related jobs outside the sociologist profession as policy analysts, demographers, survey researchers, and statisticians

Work Environment

Sociologists
Sociologists often collaborate with colleagues on research projects.

Sociologists held about 2,600 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most sociologists were as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 43%
Educational services; state, local, and private 27
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 15

Sociologists typically work in an office. They may work outside of an office setting when conducting research through interviews or observations or presenting research results.

Work Schedules

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Sociologist

Sociologists
Sociologists analyze data on sociological issues in order to test theories.

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many bachelor’s degreeholders find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, or public policy.

Education

Sociologists typically need a master’s degree or Ph.D. There are two types of sociology master’s degree programs: traditional programs and applied, clinical, and professional programs. Traditional programs prepare students to enter a Ph.D. program. Applied, clinical, and professional programs prepare students to enter the workplace, teaching them the necessary analytical skills to perform sociological research in a professional setting.

Many students who complete a Ph.D. in sociology become postsecondary teachers. Other Ph.D. graduates often become research sociologists for nonprofits, businesses, and governments.

Courses in research methods and statistics are important for both master’s and Ph.D. candidates. Many programs also offer opportunities to gain experience through internships or by preparing reports for clients.

Although some graduates with a bachelor’s degree find work as sociology research assistants, most find positions in other fields. Sociology is a broad field of study with diverse application. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in sociology are often able to apply their knowledge to many different industries, including social services, human resources, and government.

Other Experience

Candidates with a bachelor’s degree may benefit from internships or volunteer work when looking for entry-level positions in sociology or a related field. These types of opportunities give students a chance to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting and develop skills needed for the field.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Sociologists must be able to carefully analyze data and other information, often using statistical methods to test their theories.

Communication skills. Sociologists need strong communication skills when they conduct interviews, collaborate with colleagues, and present research results.

Critical-thinking skills. Sociologists must be able to think critically when doing research. They must design research projects and collect, process, and analyze information to draw logical conclusions about society and about various groups of people.

Writing skills. Sociologists frequently write reports detailing their findings.

Pay

Sociologists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Sociologists

$72,810

Social scientists and related workers

$71,030

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for sociologists was $72,810 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $127,890.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for sociologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities $79,820
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 68,710
Educational services; state, local, and private 55,140

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook

Sociologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Social scientists and related workers

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

Sociologists

-1%

 

Employment of sociologists is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024.

Nearly half of all sociologists are employed in social science research organizations, where sociologists are needed to research society and human interactions. However, this social science research is largely dependent on federal funding and grants, which have been increasingly difficult to obtain at historical levels. Employment growth in this industry is projected to decline from 2014 to 2024, as a result of this tightening of federal spending.

Sociologists will also be needed to apply sociological research to other disciplines as well. For example, sociologists may collaborate with researchers in other social sciences, such as economists, psychologists, and survey researchers, to study how social structures or groups influence policy decisions about health, education, politics, criminal justice, business, or economics.

Job Prospects

Candidates with a Ph.D., strong statistical and research skills, and a background in applied sociology will have the best job prospects. However, Ph.D. holders can expect to face very strong competition for sociologist positions because sociology is a popular field of study with a relatively small number of positions.

Many bachelor’s and master’s degreeholders will find positions in related fields, such as social services, education, healthcare, public policy, or other areas. Although these fields require the skills and concepts that sociologists learn as part of their education, workers should face less competition for positions not specifically labeled as “sociologists.”

Employment projections data for sociologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Sociologists

19-3041 2,600 2,500 -1 0 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of sociologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Anthropologists and archeologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

Master's degree $59,280
Economists

Economists

Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Master's degree $95,710
Political scientists

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Master's degree $104,920
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $70,790
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $70,700
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $45,500
Statisticians

Statisticians

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

Master's degree $79,990
Survey researchers

Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data. Surveys are used to collect factual data, such as employment and salary information, or to ask questions in order to understand people’s opinions, preferences, beliefs, or desires.

Master's degree $49,760
Urban and regional planners

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

Master's degree $66,940
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Sociologists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm (visited February 09, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015