Summary

sociologists image
Sociologists design research projects to test theories about social issues.
Quick Facts: Sociologists
2016 Median Pay $79,750 per year
$38.34 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 3,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 0% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2016-26 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

Sociologists typically work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Sociologist

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Pay

The median annual wage for sociologists was $79,750 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of sociologists is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Sociologists can expect 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 About this section

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. 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.

Their research may help administrators, educators, lawmakers, and social workers to solve social problems and formulate public policy. Sociologists may specialize in a wide range of social topics, including, but not limited to:

  • education and health;
  • crime and poverty;
  • families and population;
  • and gender, racial, and ethnic relations.

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 find work in related jobs outside the sociologist profession such as policy analysts, demographers, survey researchers, and statisticians.

Work Environment About this section

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

Sociologists held about 3,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of sociologists were as follows:

Research and development in the social sciences and humanities 31%
Educational services; state, local, and private 21
State government, excluding education and hospitals 13
Self-employed workers 11
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 6

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 About this section

Sociologists
Many sociology programs offer opportunities to gain experience through internships or by preparing reports.

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Many bachelor’s degree holders 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.

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

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 examine 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 write and present research results.

Critical-thinking skills. Sociologists design research projects and collect, process, and analyze information to draw logical conclusions about society and various groups of people.

Pay About this section

Sociologists

Median annual wages, May 2016

Sociologists

$79,750

Social scientists and related workers

$75,280

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for sociologists was $79,750 in May 2016. 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 $41,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $146,860.

In May 2016, 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 $101,460
State government, excluding education and hospitals 82,980
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 67,300
Educational services; state, local, and private 56,610

Most sociologists work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Sociologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Social scientists and related workers

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Sociologists

0%

 

Employment of sociologists is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026.

Sociologists will continue to be needed to apply sociological research to other disciplines. 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.

A projected decline in research and development in the social science and humanities industry, an industry employing nearly one third of sociologists in 2016, is expected to limit the employment growth of these workers. Sociologists’ research in these organizations is often dependent on and limited by the availability of outside research funding, including federal funding.

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 strong competition for sociologist positions because sociology is a popular field of study with a relatively small number of positions.

Employment projections data for sociologists, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Sociologists

19-3041 3,500 3,500 0 0 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
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 $63,190
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 $101,050
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 $114,290
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

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

See How to Become One $75,430
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

See How to Become One $75,230
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $46,890
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 $54,470
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 $70,020
Geographers

Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

Bachelor's degree $74,260
Historians

Historians

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and write about the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Master's degree $55,110
Mathematicians

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, or other fields.

Master's degree $81,950
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Sociologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm (visited November 24, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.