What is Sociology?

Students at 2014 undergraduate awards
 Students at 2014 Undergraduate awards
 View of Upham Hall from a distance
Trees and Bell Tower
 Path between Upham and Gaskill
Upham courtyard
 Upham Hall seen from a distance
 Upham Hall
 Members of OMA and Gerontology Club
 Penny Lecture
Audience of a Penny Lecture
 Upham arch seen through the trees

Sociology CONNECTS the individual to society

Sociology connects the individual to society. It explores how individuals are shaped by the societal environment in which they live. Sociology links biography with history linking the individual (micro) to larger social spheres: community (meso); nation (macro); and the international (global).

According to UCLA's Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey in 2016, interest in pursuing a general education has increased in tandem with decreased unemployment. In 2016, 75.4% of incoming freshman in public universities pinpointed general education and an appreciation of ideas as "very important" reasons for attending college. But sociology has even more to offer than a general education. "Sociology is a liberal art with an emphasis on scientific method" (Spalter-Roth et al. 2010 p.315).

Sociology enables students to ask the big questions which also integrate moral purpose and ethics with personal and social responsibility: What does it mean to be a  global citizen in the everyday? How have national events, such as the civil rights movement, shaped us as individuals? In turn, how can we as individuals change society by shaping national and global events? In this way, students are encouraged to develop the sociological imagination which enables them to ask the actively-contested questions of our day. This powerful perspective equips students to analyze social phenomena no matter where they are or what they are doing. It is this scientific method, which enables students to systematically investigate society that make sociology distinct from the humanities and arts.

Sociology COMBINES idealism with career paths

Sociology combines idealism and moral purpose with exciting career paths and opportunities. "For the sociology major interested in community and social service, the problem is not who will hire you or where you can work but how to choose among the many types of agencies that exist (Lambert 2009, p.107)."

According to the 2016 CIRP survey 83.4% of incoming freshman in public universities want to attend college to be financially well-off; 76.9% were motivated by a desire to help people who are in difficulty or need. Sociology enables students to combine both needs. 

Sociology majors do not need a graduate degree to get interesting and useful jobs. According to American Sociological Association (ASA)'s "What Can I Do with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology" longitudinal study, which started in 2005, 68% of sociology majors intend to work after graduation either in a full-or part-time capacity. In a tight labor market, sociology majors have an edge because service positions, for which sociology majors are well-trained, are projected to increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US Department of Labor the projected demand (2016-2026) for social science research assistants (median salary $43,190), social workers (median salary $60,230), and social and community managers (median salary $64,680 with less than five years of experience) will increase. A 2017 Harvard study by Dr. Deming revealed that jobs which required nontechnical skills and critical thinking skills had the largest growth in employment and pay in the last three decades. 

Sociology graduates have the choice of a variety of careers, which include government, social work, nonprofit organizations, research, government, and corporations. The US Government seeks employees who have a background in the social sciences. It is a key source of employment for sociology majors and offers job security and competitive pay. Our majors are employed as counselors in nonprofits where they directly tackle social problems by working with domestic violence survivors and low-income families who need assistance. Careers in social research enable majors to explore questions of value to society and to social well being. A study of graduating sociology majors, launched by the ASA in 2012, found that 60% had chosen sociology for research preparation. Sociology majors also find employment in human resources management in the corporate sector and in other mid- to large-size organizations. 

The 2012 ASA study also found that 54% of sociology graduating majors chose sociology for graduate school preparation. Sociology provides a good basis for future graduate endeavors. With a solid foundation in quantitative and qualitative research methods and skills, sociology majors are well-suited to entry-level positions before going on to graduate school in medicine, law, public policy, public health, and sociology.

Sociology PROVIDES job satisfaction

Sociology provides a high level of job satisfaction. The ASA study revealed that almost 80% of majors graduating from baccalaureate-only departments, like Miami, reported strong overall satisfaction in 2005. A study carried out by the ASA in 2015 found that the largest number of sociology majors were employed in social services or as counselors in nonprofit organizations. These students reported a high level of satisfaction with their careers. 65% of all those students who worked in jobs where they could utilize their sociology skills reported a high level of job satisfaction.

Sociology MEETS employer needs

From the very outset, our curriculum emphasizes the application of concepts and creates opportunities for experiential learning. In this way, it bridges the divide between educational skills and employer needs and between abstract concepts of the discipline and concrete projects of the workplace. 


Outlined below is a list of our curriculum competencies and how they match with specific employer expectations based on survey findings carried out by Hart Associates for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in 2009 and 2013.

Creative Thinking

88% in 2009 and 93% in 2013 of employers expect employees to resolve increasing complex challenges.

80.9% of incoming freshmen consider critical thinking as "essential" or "very important" (2016 CIRP survey).

As students progress through the sociology major, they are taught to engage in increasingly complex problems with higher performance standards. We teach students to pinpoint ethical issues in research, construct evidence-based arguments, evaluate the appropriateness of different research methodologies and develop casual hypotheses.

Innovation and Creativity

95% in 2009 and 92% in 2013 of employers prefer to hire employees who bring creativity and innovation to the workplace.

The ability to innovate requires students to have ability to be confident about their ideas. Starting in freshman year, we encourage students to have confidence in their own abilities to solve problems through carefully-designed exercises and presentations. This process culminates in the senior year capstone course when they develop their capacity to innovate by exploring a specific social problem and its solution.

Breadth and Depth

91% of all employers in 2009 expect employees to utilize broader skill sets.

55% of employers in 2013 expect employees to balance breadth with depth: to balance a well-rounded education with skills in a specific discipline. Another 29% in 2013 focus on breadth alone.

Our curriculum provides the balance between the breadth required by employers as well as the knowledge of specific sociological skills. By enabling students to ask the big questions, relevant to social and global wellbeing, sociology provides depth. 

Global and Intercultural Perspectives

96% of all employers in 2013 rate intercultural skills as important.

71% of all employers in 2013 considered global knowledge as important.

The 2016 CIRP Survey revealed the 59.4% of freshman in public universities emphasize improved understanding of other countries and cultures as a reason for going to college and 80% consider the ability to see the world from another perspective as essential or very important.

The required introductory course, "Sociology in a Global Context," enables students not only to understand different cultural perspectives but to also begin to apply the sociological imagination to different global and intercultural contexts. Each successive course builds on this foundation deepening students' knowledge of how to apply sociological imagination to different countries. 

Experiential learning

80% of employers in 2009 and 86% in 2013 want employees who know how to apply classroom concepts to real world scenarios.

It is not enough to understand sociological theory. Deep learning occurs when students are able to apply knowledge. Our service learning courses are specifically designed to enable students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world through meaningful interactions with diverse communities. We also combine the theoretical concepts of the discipline with concrete task-specific work in programs and projects. 

What's more, our sociology faculty work with students to provide service-learning opportunities and internships especially in senior year. Recommendations from project managers and faculty supervisors provide exactly the kind of qualitative assessment that future employers consider invaluable. Such opportunities can lead to full-time jobs with the organizations upon graduation with students often receiving offers during their senior year.

Teamwork skills

90% of employers expect employees to coordinate across departments (Hart 2009)

87.8% of incoming freshmen in public universities rate the ability to work with diverse groups of people as "essential" or "very important" (CIRP 2016 Survey).

Sociology PREPARES students for the job market

We prepare students both for graduate school and the job market. The specific learning outcomes of our sociology curriculum meet the employer needs: applying theoretical perspectives to issues in society; applying appropriative strategies to address a research question; evaluating the effectiveness of government, organizational, and other policies aimed at addressing sociological issues; and synthesizing and critiquing sociological research. Sociology prepares students for these employer needs through a well-structured curriculum. Sociology provides a purposive pathway to broad integrative learning which not only enables critical thinking skills but also makes them attractive to future employers.  




Across the Great Divide: perspectives of CEOs and College Presidents on America's Higher Education and Skills Gap. 2011. Institute for a Competitive Workforce, US Chamber of Commerce, Peter D. Hart associates. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US Department of Labor, Employment Projections https://data.bls.gov/projections/occupationPRoj on ASA website (accessed Dec. 1, 2017)

Hart Research Associates (2013) It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). 

Lambert, S.E., 2009. Great Jobs for Sociology Majors. 3rd Edition McGraw Hill: New York.

"Preparing for a Job Hunt with a BA in Sociology" ASA Footnotes March/April 2016

Sociology: A 21st Century Major (brochure ordered from ASA)

Spalter-Roth, R., Senter, M.S., Stone, P., & Wood, M. (2010). ASA's Bachelor's and beyond Survey: Findings and Their Implications for Students and Departments. Teaching Sociology, 38(4), 314-329.

The Liberal Education & America's Promise (LEAP) Vision for Learning: Outcomes, Practices, Impact, and Employers Views. 2017 Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)

UCLA's Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) 2017. The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2016.

"21st Careers with an Undergraduate Degree in Sociology" 2nd edition ASA 2014.