Career Pathways

JOBS AND CAREERS FOR SOCIOLOGY MAJORS

The Sociology Skill Set

A degree in sociology provides several skills that can be the basis of a successful career in many fields:

The basic requirements of the sociology degree include:

  • Sociology majors are trained to weigh controversies and develop complex analyses of social and organizational problems, a skill that is important in many careers, especially those that involve leadership positions.
  • Sociology majors understand how to review the social science literature on a problem, assess the direction of the literature, and provide thoughtful and well-written summaries and analyses. The capacity to digest, analyze, and synthesize a diverse set of sources is valuable in a wide range of careers.
  • Sociology majors are trained to translate research into policy analysis and develop policy based on research.
  • Sociology majors are trained in hypothesis generation and testing, data analysis, and both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  • Sociology majors gain a broad understanding of our rapidly changing world and graduate well-equipped to adapt to new career circumstances and to help organizations adapt to changing economic, political, and social environments.

Pathways after Graduation

Based on our surveys of graduating seniors, approximating half of our graduates pursue graduate or professional education and half go directly into jobs. Several take one year off before going on to graduate study. You can also find out what alumnae and alumni are doing by going to the Sociology’s Department alumnae and alumni site. Students from our program have been admitted for graduate study in some of the most prestigious universities in the country, including University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Emory University, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stanford University, the University of Texas, Tulane University, and Vanderbilt University.

There are four main areas of career pathways based on surveys of recent graduating classes:

The strong methods sequence and theoretical training in the sociology program provides excellent preparation for graduate school and careers as educators and researchers. One student in the class of 2012 is going on for PhD in sociology, another plans to pursue graduate work in Latin American Studies, and another student will be in the Mississippi Teachers Corp.

The Sociology Department has a large group of medical sociology faculty, and the department offers an exciting sequence of courses for students with a pre-med and pre-health career path. Three recent students plan to attend medical school, one will enroll in a graduate program in health services administration, and one will enter a program in social work. One student has a job in human resources and recruiting in a health software company.

Another strength of the department is the study of politics, law, and institutions. The sociology degree provides rigorous preparation for law school, and four students in the class of 2012 will attend law school. Another student will be working in a nonprofit organization for a year and then plans to return to school to earn a master’s degree in nonprofit management.  One student is headed to Washington, DC, to work in a nongovernmental organization; she then plans to pursue graduate study in social policy. Another student has chosen a career in journalism.

The focus on politics, law, and institutions, plus the methods sequence, is also good preparation for careers in the private sector. A combination of sociology and economics led one student to find a job in an economics consulting firm that focuses on public policy and business strategy.  Students also accept offers for jobs in public relations, advertising, development and alumni relations, and training for management.

Sample Career Pathway: Research and Teaching

Each year several students go on to masters and doctoral programs in sociology and related fields. The Ph.D. degree can lead to positions in college and university teaching as well as in nonprofit organizations, consulting firms, and government agencies where there is a need for research and analysis. All of the sociology courses offered in the department are good preparation for this career pathway, and our theory, methods, and statistics courses provide students with core knowledge and skills that will prepare them well for a doctoral program in sociology. For students interested in pursuing a PhD in sociology, we strongly recommend that they also take Soc 296 Honors Research, where they will spend one or two semesters on an in-depth research project of their choice. Such independent study makes our students highly competitive as they apply for admission to graduate programs. The Vanderbilt Department of Sociology has an impressive track record in placing its undergraduates in some of the top PhD programs in the country. See the catalog for more details on course offerings, and see YES for current offerings.

  • Soc 127 Statistics for Social Scientists
  • Soc 201 Sociological Perspectives
  • Soc 211 Introduction to Social Research
  • Soc 212 Research Practicum
  • Soc 296 Honors Research
  • Soc 299 Independent Research and Writing

Sample Career Pathway: Medical Sociology

Each year several students go on to masters and doctoral programs in sociology and related fields. The Ph.D. degree can lead to positions in college and university teaching as well as in nonprofit organizations, consulting firms, and government agencies where there is a need for research and analysis. All of the sociology courses offered in the department are good preparation for this career pathway, and our theory, methods, and statistics courses provide students with core knowledge and skills that will prepare them well. For students interested in pursuing a PhD in sociology, we strongly recommend that they also take Soc 296 Honors Research, where they will spend one or two semesters on an in-depth research project of their choice. Such independent study makes our students highly competitive as they apply for admission to graduate programs. The Vanderbilt Department of Sociology has an impressive track record in placing its undergraduates in some of the top PhD programs in the country. See the catalog for more details on course offerings, and see YES for current offerings.

  • Soc 127 Statistics for Social Scientists
  • Soc 201 Sociological Perspectives
  • Soc 211 Introduction to Social Research
  • Soc 212 Research Practicum
  • Soc 296 Honors Research
  • Soc 299 Independent Research and Writing

Sample Career Pathway: The Sociology of Law and Policy

An undergraduate degree in sociology is an excellent preparation for careers in law, public policy, social work, and public administration. Our prestigious faculty members in this area teach courses on a variety of topics that will prepare students for graduate and professional degrees, for instance, with classes focusing on the criminal justice system; the relationship between law and society; racial, ethnic, and gender patterns in law and public policy; and efforts by citizens to bring about social and environmental change. The quantitative methods courses of the sociology degree provide indispensable training for lawyers, public administrators, consultants, and policy analysts, all of whom need to be able to analyze reports and data. Some recently offered courses in law and policy are listed below. See the catalog for more details on course offerings, and see YES for current offerings.

  • Soc 224 Women and the Law
  • Soc 253 Racial Domination, Racial Progress
  • Soc 255 Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States
  • Soc 216 Social Change and Movements Since the 1960s
  • Soc 221 Environmental Inequality and Justice
  • Soc 231 Criminology
  • Soc 233 Deviant Behavior and Social Control
  • Soc 234 Prison Life
  • Soc 235 Contemporary American Society
  • Soc 240 Law and Society
  • Soc 247 Human Behavior in Organizations
  • Soc 249 American Social Movements
  • Soc 254 Schools and Society

Sample Career Pathway: Business, Advertising, and Public Relations

Several of our undergraduates in a recent class went on to jobs in advertising, media, public relations, and other private-sector careers. Vanderbilt’s sociology department has a wide range of courses taught by distinguished faculty members that provide basic understanding of social differences, the media, and culture, courses that can provide a strong background for careers that involve the human dimensions of business. We offer many courses on gender, race, ethnicity, and social class that are important for a person developing a career pathway in this area. In addition, some recently offered courses related to culture and creativity are listed below. See the catalog for more details, and see YES for current offerings.

  • Soc 204 Self, Society, and Social Change
  • Soc 224 Women and the Law
  • Soc 227 Creativity and Innovation in Society
  • Soc 228 Cultural Consumption and Audiences
  • Soc 235 Contemporary American Society
  • Soc 247 Human Behavior in Organizations
  • Soc 253 Racial Domination, Racial Progress
  • Soc 255 Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States
  • Soc 272 Gender Identities, Interactions, and Relationships

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