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How to Become a Sociology Teacher

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Sociology is the study of diverse societies, communities and civilizations. Students of sociology learn about diverse cultures and examine present-day issues related to social constructs of race, ethnicity, gender and social status. If you’re interested in becoming a sociology teacher, your career preparation will likely include student teaching, completing a bachelor’s degree, passing teacher tests and obtaining a state license for hire in the public schools. Sociology teachers deepen students' understanding of oppression, systems of class inequality, social justice, criminology and social pressure.

Role of Social Science Teacher

The role of a social science teacher is to implement a rigorous sociology curriculum that aligns with school district expectations and government benchmarks. The role of a teacher also entails the careful assessment of learner outcomes to ensure that students are understanding concepts in sociology, such as group behavior, acculturation, social institutions, social change, collective action, collaboration and competition in society. Lesson plans cover social theory and applications of theories in everyday group interactions with lots of discussion and assigned papers.

Sociology teachers collect achievement data to measure progress and plan supplementary instruction to ensure that all students are receiving a quality education. They also enforce school policies and fairly administer classroom discipline. Other duties include communicating with families, collaborating with support staff on accommodations, team teaching and assigning tasks to classroom aids or student teachers.

After-school activities may include supervising student groups such as the sociology club for students who are interested in research, community service or exploring careers in the field of sociology. Some sociology teachers may also be contracted to coach a sport or dance team, for instance. Sociology teachers also attend conferences, participate on school committees, arrange meetings with parents and greet visitors at open houses.

High School Preparation

High school students thinking about a career in sociology may wish to consider taking classes in sociology, AP psychology, economics, statistics and government, as recommended by The College Board organization. A high school cafeteria is a good place for aspiring sociologists to observe how groups of students act, dress, socialize, flirt and express individuality. Your high school sociology teacher can answer questions related to pursuing a sociology teaching career.

Sociology Teacher Requirements: Education

Middle school and high school sociology teachers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in social studies, sociology or a closely related subject specialization. Sociology is a multidisciplinary major that includes the study of government, ethnic studies, history and psychology along with the fulfillment of all general education requirements. Many students gain real-world experience outside the classroom by immersing themselves in other cultures by studying abroad and acquiring multiple language fluency. Fieldwork and community service may also be part of your training.

Sociology majors interesting in teaching must follow a PreK-12 and 5-12 preprofessional licensing core and seek admission to the teacher education program. Admission criteria include a satisfactory GPA and fulfilling certain prerequisites, such a liberal arts foundation and teacher development classes. Prior to student teaching, students must demonstrate educational competency, such as passing a state-administered basic skills test. Many sociology students earn multiple subject specializations, which will allow them to teach related high school classes like history, geography and economics in addition to sociology.

As an aspiring teaching, you will learn to develop lesson plans, positively address behavioral issues, cultivate inclusive classrooms, fairly assess student learning and practice proven teaching methods. You will also observe educators in school settings and apply teaching techniques in the classroom under the supervision of an experienced teacher. You will receive ongoing tips and constructive feedback on the quality and effectiveness of your teaching over the course of one to two semesters.

College Teaching: Education Requirements

If your interests are geared more toward postsecondary sociology teaching, you will spend up to seven years in graduate school earning a Ph.D. in sociology. Postsecondary instructors employed at two-year colleges need at least a master’s degree in the field. Competition for college teaching jobs is intense; therefore, candidates with a doctorate will have an advantage in finding a full-time, tenure track position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of college professors at four-year colleges and universities hold a doctorate, prior teaching experience and research experience.

Sociology Teacher Qualifications: Licensing

Sociology teacher qualifications for licensing, certification and classroom teaching jobs vary from state to state. For instance, you must pass the national Praxis II Core exam and a Content Area Assessment to teach social studies in states like North Carolina. States that don’t require Praxis testing use their own competency exams. Some private and charter schools do not require a teaching license or credential.

After passing the tests required for licensing in your state, you will need to submit academic transcripts to the state licensing board. Comply with any requirements for a criminal background check. Once you have a teaching license, adhere to the criteria that must be met to maintain your license in good standing.

Alternative Pathways to Teaching Career

Due to a teacher shortage in certain parts of the country, most states offer alternative licensing pathways that may lead to a postgraduate teaching license. Options include completing a teacher certificate program that takes about one year or a master’s degree in teaching or education that requires up to two years of graduate study. Teachers with a graduate degree are placed in a higher salary lane.

Some programs are offered online for busy working adults. Certificate programs are a great option for someone who already has a four-year degree and wants to transition into teaching. Successfully completing an approved alternative teacher preparation program qualifies you to sit for your state’s teacher licensing exam.

Teach for America provides a way of jumpstarting a teaching career. College graduates from all majors, including sociology, can apply to the TFA Corps if they have a 2.5 GPA. Selected participants must commit to two years of classroom teaching in one of 51 high-need regions across the U.S. No prior teacher training is required, but many partner schools require TFA participants to be working toward teacher certification.

Sociology Teacher Salaries

High school social studies teacher salary varies by school district, geographical location, years of experience, level of education and number of certifications in addition to sociology. Teachers may receive extra duty pay for other assignments, such as coaching. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage of high school teachers, including sociology instructors, was $60,320 as of May 2018. Teachers in the lowest 10 percent wage bracket earned less than $39,740, whereas those in the top 10 percent tier received more than $97,500.

College faculty who teach sociology earn a median annual wage of $74,140, as reported by the BLS in May 2018. In other words, half of all sociology instructors made more than $74,240 per year and half made less in 2018. The BLS projects that 1,800 new college teaching jobs in the field of sociology will be created between 2016 and 2026.

Other Sociology Degree Jobs

There are many things you can do with a sociology degree besides teaching, according to the American Sociological Association. Sociology majors possess critical thinking skills, analytical reasoning abilities and an appreciation of diversity in society. They also have experience in writing and research. With a degree in sociology, you can put your transferable skills to use in different sectors.

Examples of jobs held by sociologists:

  • Marketing consultant
  • Policy analyst
  • Grant writer
  • Community organizer
  • Human services worker
  • Research assistant
  • Probation officer  
  • If you have a degree in sociology, you may not need additional teaching courses or as many teaching courses to teach sociology in areas with a teacher shortage. These areas include urban or extremely rural areas. Check with your state education board for a list of these areas, as well as their requirements for teachers for these areas.
  • Depending on the need for a specialized sociology teacher in your school, your school may wish for you to teach other social studies classes in addition to sociology.

Dr. Mary Dowd brings decades of hands-on experience to her writing endeavors. Along with general knowledge of human resources, she has specialized training in affirmative action, investigations and equal opportunity. While working as a dean of students, she advised college students on emerging career trends and job seeking strategies. As director of equal opportunity, she led efforts to diversify the workforce and the student body.

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