Majoring in Sociology

Sociology Defined

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human action. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. The field also offers a range of research techniques that can be applied to virtually any aspect of social life: street crime and delinquency; corporate downsizing; ways people express emotions; welfare or education reform; ways families differ and flourish; or problems of peace and war. Because sociology addresses the most challenging issues of our time, it is an expanding field whose potential is increasingly tapped by those who craft policies and create programs. Sociologists understand inequality, patterns of behavior, forces for social change and resistance, and how social systems work.

How to Major in Sociology

Students considering a major in Sociology are encouraged to complete either SOC 1010 Introduction Sociology or SOC 2010 Social Problems (or their honors equivalent) to acquaint themselves with the discipline and confirm their interest in sociology as a major.  Those deciding to pursue the major should contact the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in TODD 342 (898-2508) to declare sociology as their major and be assigned an advisor.  With the advisor, the student will develop a program of study that meets the requirements listed below.  It is strongly recommended that students complete MATH 1530 (Applied Statistics) to meet the general education math requirement. 

 Requirements for the Sociology Major

The major consists of 34 hours of sociology, at least 25 of which must be from upper division courses.  Required courses include SOC 1010 Introduction to Sociology, SOC 3040 Sociological Research Methods, SOC 3050 Sociological Data Analysis, SOC 3060, Sociological Theory, and SOC 4980 Senior Seminar.  Students must receive at least a C in each required course.  Additionally, students must complete 3 hours emphasizing institutions and the sociological imagination (see below) and 3 hours of critical perspectives in sociology (see below).  Ideally students should take 3040, 3050, and 3060 early in the academic program, but no later than the junior year and prior to enrolling in Senior Seminar (SOC 4980).  Senior Seminar should be completed during the senior year.   In consultation with the student’s advisor, the remaining 12 hours of electives may be organized into a concentration.  Possible concentrations include, but are not limited to social inequalities, deviance and social control, work and family, and health and aging.  Students are also required to complete two minors for the BS degree or one minor plus 12 hours of language for the BA degree.

The following courses meet the Institutions and the Sociological Imagination requirement.

SOC 4050 Sociology of Family                                   SOC 4100 Sociology of Work

SOC 4360 Medical Sociology                                     SOC 4511 Social Movements and Change SOC 4520 Population and Society                        

SOC 4560 Organizational Structures and SOC 4660 Urban and Community Studies Processes 

SOC #### Sociology of Law (under development)           

The following courses meet the Critical Perspectives in Sociology requirement.

SOC 3400 Gender and Society                                   SOC 4011 Social Inequality

SOC 4020 Sociology of Aging                                    SOC #### Race, Class and Gender (under development)

SOC 4240 Race Relations and Ethnicity 

For more information on majoring in Sociology, contact the Sociology Undergraduate Program Director, Dr. Meredith Dye. Office: TODD 331. Phone: (615) 898-2690. Email:

Sociology as a Career

Careers in Sociology

Agencies and organizations look to sociologists for their unique ability to define the critical dimensions of a problem, isolate the most critical variables that affect it, and collaborate with others to craft a viable course of action.

Sociologists work inside organizations in management positions and outside organizations as consultants and partners in rethinking how systems function.

Sociologists hold positions in virtually every employment setting, including:

  • Federal, state and local governments
  • International agencies
  • Social service agencies, non-profit organizations
  • Corporations, think tanks, and small businesses
  • Consulting firms
  • Universities and colleges

Sociologists help frame problems within a larger social science context, building on a strong foundation of concepts and theories. They combine their broad understanding of race, gender, social class, cultural diversity, and age with insights into how organizational and social systems work. This perspective makes them uniquely valuable as objective researchers and innovative change agents.

Sociologists contribute to the contemporary work force, bringing sophisticated skills and knowledge of research design to the most challenging problems. Sociologists receive broad training in basic social research, program evaluation, or policy analysis. Some conduct basic research, while others apply research-based knowledge to help organizations rethink existing programs and strategies or plan for the future.

"Quantitative" sociologists bring expertise in the areas of survey design, statistical analysis, and management of large-scale databases. "Qualitative" sociologists have been trained in intensive interviewing, focus group research, community research, conflict analysis, policy analysis, and social impact analysis. Both are adept at interpreting data and deriving implications of research for policy and program development.

Familiarity with the latest computer programs and management of data bases rank high amonst sociologist's skills. Sociologists often use:

  • Word processing and spreadsheet software
  • Data base management and data analysis software
  • Textual analysis software
  • Graphing, charting, and mapping applications
  • Presentation software
  • Email applications, web browsers, and web development software
  • Online survey and computer assisted telephone interviewing software

Sociologists use statistical analysis software to interpret complicated findings. They prepare reports to give to governing bodies, employees, the general public, or the media, using clear, accessible language.

Sociologists offer expertise in substantive areas, adding depth to research, planning and development projects. Expertise in a specific subject may be of crucial importance to an employer. Beyond research skills, sociologists specialize in specific areas of direct relevance to organizations and agencies, such as:

  • Aging and the life course
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Children and adolescents
  • Community organization
  • Crime and criminal justice
  • Demography and population
  • Development (rural and urban)
  • Deviance, law and social control
  • Economic institutions
  • Education reform, teaching, and learning
  • Employment and underemployment
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Human development
  • Health care reform and medical systems
  • Immigration and migration
  • Industrial and labor relations
  • International and global issues
  • Marriage and families
  • Minority and equality issues
  • Organizational development
  • Peace and war
  • Poverty and welfare reform
  • Public opinion and values
  • Race, ethnicity, and minorities
  • Religion and religious movements
  • Social change and social movements
  • Social class and inequality
  • Social conflict and conflict resolution
  • Social psychology
  • Urban planning
  • Violence and abuse
  • Work and occupations

Job Opportunities with a Bachelor's Degree

Given the breadth, adaptability, and utility of sociology, employment opportunities abound for B.A. and B.S. graduates. You can secure entry level positions in many of the area previously mentioned. The following list of possibilities is merely illustrative:

  • Social services -- in rehabilitation, case management, group work with youth or the elderly, recreation, or administration
  • Community work -- in fund-raising for social service organizations, nonprofits, childcare or community development agencies, or environmental groups
  • Criminology -- in probation, parole, or other criminal justice work
  • Business -- in advertising, marketing and consumer research, insurance, real estate, personnel work, training or sales
  • College settings -- in admissions, alumni relations, or placement offices
  • Health services -- in family planning, substance abuse, rehabilitation, counseling, health planning, hospital admissions, and insurance companies
  • Publishing, journalism, and public relations -- in writing, research, and editing
  • Government services -- in federal, state, and local government jobs in such areas as transportation, housing, agriculture, and labor
  • Teaching -- in elementary and secondary schools, in conjunction with appropriate teaching certification