To The Change Makers : Go Get That Sociology Degree

What is Sociology?

A general definition of sociology is the systematic study of human society, culture, and relationships on a group level. Studying sociology involves continuous interplay between matters of concern in society and theories of society. The requirement to reason and critically analyse the workings of society makes sociology an effective medium of intellectual development.
Sociology studies different ideas for what might create an ideal society. It asks, ‘How is culture created, and how is it passed down from one generation to the next? It studies the similarities and differences of race, ethinicity, gender, economic backgrounds etc. Moreover, sociology studies social institutions like families, schools, and political organisations.

Skill Set For Sociologists

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Students of sociology typically develop the following skills:

1) Ability to recognize trends and patterns- Sociology students develop a keen eye for detail and can find relationships between pieces of information, leading to important discoveries and understandings throughout their careers.
2) Ability to create concise reports and essays- Students learn how to modulate their writing for different audiences.
3) Strong critical thinking skills- Sociology degree programs challenge students to build their analytical skills through a series of increasingly challenging assignments over the course of their studies.
4) Oral presentation skills- In addition to powerful writing skills, sociology majors must develop the ability to speak comfortably and clearly in front of crowds. This skill can be utilized for presenting information to government agencies, funding panels, or for professional conferences.
5) Interpersonal communications skills- Students learn early in their degree programs to conduct effective interviews with key subjects.
6) Research skills- Students learn to conduct personal interviews and mass surveys in order to generate their own sets of raw data for analysis.
7) Planning and organizational skills- Because most sociologists work on time-sensitive projects, students learn how to plan and arrange their tasks to save time and to work as efficiently as possible.

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Careers In Sociology

Innovative employers value people with a critical mind who can think laterally. However, for various reasons, there is a public culture out there which devalues sociology, an opinion held by many employers unfortunately, but also which others reject. The notion that sociology isn’t about ‘the real world’ is obviously false considering that it is precisely about the real world. However, the negativity about sociology for my mind comes from the fact that many (although far from all) sociologists have traditionally been involved in the critique of the status quo and have sought to overturn the way the world is. Think about Marx’s dictum that the point is to change the world. As such, sociology has been held in suspicion by those who benefit from the way things are, especially in a capitalist society.

These are just really few of the many areas of interest for the budding sociologist within you –

1) Business: The truth is that no one with any kind of degree is going to walk into a job. Most of us think that sociology is non-vocational, but it simply equips you for most vocations. The problem with vocational courses is that economic sectors wax and wane. A degree in tourism and hospitality is fine until the currency fluctuates or the summer is washed out, or the regional development agency closes down. But having transferable analytical skills allows you to move between sectors, making connections between the different situations that you’ve studied and spotting patterns.
So sociology is extremely good for a career in business, probably better than business studies in fact.

2) Administration: Those working with administration typically work within a team handling payroll, records management, scheduling, and reception services. Often times, administration oversees tasks completed by an office or staff.

3) Public Policy: Many sociology majors go on to work with jobs involving public policy. Public Policy is the act of working with the formation and structure of public laws and policies, especially with the lobbying of those laws that have not yet been created.

4) Advertising and Marketing: Sociologists can research and decide how to direct different advertisements toward specific demographics and how to make those advertisements useful.
Sociologists can also direct different marketing strategies to the targeted demographics that will most likely be influenced by them.

5) Law Enforcement: Law Enforcement typically includes police officers, lawyers, and judges. Professions such as lawyers and judges require further education, thus many undergraduate Sociology majors go on to law school in order to achieve these careers.

6) Journalism: With a discursive subject like Sociology, you’re practiced at writing to time and to word limits, you’re used to being presented with a brief (an essay title) and researching the background. It would equip you well for writing features, analysis and ‘think-pieces’ which can help you specialise in commenting on social affairs, social change and so on.

7) Social Service Agencies: There are many types of social service agencies. These agencies can include adult services, aid programs (food stamps, cash management assistance, etc.) family services, and many others. Working with a Social Service Agency can include working directly with individuals and families to help find the resources that they need help obtaining.

8) Human Resources: Human Resources is a term that is often used to describe administrative tasks along with planning or carrying out projects and tasks. These tasks can include hiring and firing, training, and other administrative tasks that deal directly with employees and the overall organization of a company or organization. Often times, those who are interested in Human Resources complete an Industrial/Organizational Psychology degree as well as their Sociology degree.

9) Education and Research: Many students who complete a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology go on to earn a Graduate degree in Sociology or other fields of interest. With a Graduate degree in Sociology, many go on to teach in high schools or universities.
Research can be done on anything, anywhere. A health services research study might involve different techniques available for dieting, exercise, or overall healthy living.

Now, all of this doesn’t necessarily help when it comes to getting a job. For those suspicious of sociology, which often for some reason seems to epitomise the useless ivory towers, their opinion will probably not change. It is up to you as graduates to channel the skills you learned during your degree – power of analysis, the ability to summarize complex ideas, presentation skills, writing skills, team work, qualitative and quantitative research methods, interviewing, running focus groups, and so on – and show employers how these could be transferred for use at the workplace. Interestingly, the most innovative employers these days are not looking for one-size-fits-all employees but want people with a critical mind who can think laterally. Sociology’s commitment to critiquing the status quo and developing solutions to social problems can be invaluable.

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