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How to Become a Sociologist

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Sociologists study society and social behavior, often as a way to find solutions to poverty, crime and other social issues. To be successful, they need in-depth knowledge of human behavior and social processes. They also must be competent researchers with the ability to acquire and analyze information on social issues. This career is suitable for people who have an advanced degree in sociology and are passionate about driving social change.

Obtain Relevant Knowledge

The first step to becoming a sociologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology. The program should introduce you to the principles of sociology and enhance your knowledge of topics such as cultural anthropology, criminology, social psychology, American Social policy, and women and development. Since most sociology jobs are available to people with a graduate degree, your next step is to earn a master’s degree in sociology. At this level, you may choose to specialize in clinical or applied sociology. Clinical sociology focuses on individuals and families, while applied sociology focuses on addressing issues affecting the society at large.

Master the Skills

You need strong analytical, research and problem-solving skills to be a competent sociologist. When investigating why violence against women is on the rise in certain societies, for example, you should be able to select a suitable methodology for researching the issue’s causes, analyze your findings and identify possible solutions. Because this might involve interviewing some of the affected women, you need strong active listening and speaking skills to ask clear questions and give full attention to their responses. Writing and presentation skills are also important, as sociologists have a duty to write clear research reports and present their findings to policy makers and other professionals.

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Obtain Professional Recognition

The Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, or AACS, offers a Certified Sociological Practitioner credential you can obtain to improve your job prospects. To become a CSP, you must have at least a master’s degree in sociology, be a member of the AACS, and submit your resume and portfolio to the association. The American Sociological Association, or ASA, also offers membership opportunities to sociologists. Members have access to the ASA job bank, industry publications and other career resources.

Get Hired

Depending upon your exact credentials, you can qualify for a range of jobs in diverse settings. With a bachelor’s degree, for example, you can apply for a job as a community programs specialist in social advocacy organizations, or obtain a teaching certificate and look for work as a high school teacher of sociology. A master’s degree opens doors to research and policy analysis positions in social services, departments of corrections and public safety, and private research facilities. With a doctoral degree in philosophy, which is the highest sociology degree, you can apply to become a sociology professor at colleges and universities. The Bureau of a Labor Statistics expects the number of jobs for sociologists to increase 15 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is greater than the 11 percent average for all jobs. The BLS also notes that sociologists earned an average annual salary of $78,120 in 2013.

2016 Salary Information for Sociologists

Sociologists earned a median annual salary of $79,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, sociologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $57,650, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $108,130, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 3,500 people were employed in the U.S. as sociologists.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.

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