Sociologist Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
A sociologist's median annual salary is around $72,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a sociologist is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of a Sociologist Career

Sociologists study human behavior by observing and compiling data on various social interactions. Read on to see the pros and cons of being a sociologist, which may help you decide if this career is a good fit.

Pros of a Sociologist Career
Good pay ($72,810 median annual salary)*
Job benefits (paid vacation, pension, tuition assistance)**
Can work in a variety of fields (business, criminal justice, social services, education)***
Helps clients by mediating conflict and advocating for social reform**

Cons of a Sociologist Career
Advanced degree is usually required for employment*
Jobs in research are highly competitive*
It can be difficult for a sociology major to obtain a job without prior experience**
Compiling data can be tedious and time consuming****

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Sociological Association, ***University of Iowa, ****University of California, Santa Barbara.

Career Info

Job Description and Career Options

Sociologists study human behavior. They compile data on social interactions, cultures and organizations by observing, conducting surveys and interviewing subjects. They analyze data and prepare reports that are used by social workers, educators and administrators to establish policies and resolve social issues. Sociologists examine a wide range of topics, including poverty, education, aging, crime and health.

Most sociologists are employed in education and research. Schools and universities, social service organizations, government agencies and advocacy organizations utilize the services of sociologists. Candidates with sociology degrees are employed in the criminal justice system, the communications field and the policy analysis arena.

Salary and Career Outlook

Sociologists earned a median annual wage of $72,810 in 2014. Although job growth is projected to be faster than average (around 15% from 2012-2022), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, obtaining employment in this field may pose a challenge because a high number of sociology professionals are expected to compete for a limited number of jobs.

Education Requirements and Other Skills

Most employers require a master's or doctoral degree in sociology or a closely related social science field. A typical graduate program offers courses in social theory, social research and demography. Sociologists must be able to obtain and analyze information. They should be creative thinkers who can develop theories and solutions about various issues regarding human behavior and social interaction. Skills required for a career in sociology include:

  • Oral and written comprehension
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Analytical thinking
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers typically look for a sociologist with a graduate degree. Teaching and research are fields that most commonly provide employment for sociologists. The following jobs were posted in March 2012:

  • The sociology and anthropology department of a South Carolina university is looking for a sociology lecturer to work full time teaching four classes each semester. A master's or doctoral degree in sociology or an associated discipline is required.
  • An education research company in Massachusetts wants to hire a research associate with a bachelor's or master's degree in sociology or a related field to compile and analyze data related to education and policy. The candidate must have experience with spreadsheet and word processing software. Experience with survey research is preferred.
  • The sociology department of a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania seeks an assistant professor with doctoral degree to teach discussion-oriented classes for one semester.
  • A research consortium at a Michigan university is looking for an associate director to supervise staff, write proposals for funding and to develop archives of research data. A doctoral degree and a minimum of seven years of experience are required. This is a full professor position on the faculty.

How to Stand Out

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers prefer to hire sociologists with advanced degrees. If you want to work as a sociologist, obtaining a graduate degree in the field is recommended. Getting a membership in the American Sociological Association, a professional organization for sociologists, will improve your skills and demonstrate your competency to potential employers. The benefits of membership include:

  • Discounts on products and services
  • Access to job listings for members only
  • Networking opportunities
  • Educational resources

Other Career Options


If you like to analyze information, but prefer math to studying social behavior, you may prefer a career as a statistician. Statisticians develop procedures for collecting information and analyze the data using mathematical methods. They issue reports on these statistics, using charts and graphs to represent the data. Statisticians received a median annual salary of $74,000 in 2011, the same as sociologists. Job prospects in the field from 2010-2020 are expected to increase 14% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Political Scientist

Political scientists also study and analyze data, but their field is the political arena. They research political systems and ideologies, analyze the impact that legislation and policies will have on different groups and forecast trends. Job growth will be slow from 2010-2020, projected at 8% by the BLS, but you may decide that the generous pay will make pursuing this career worthwhile. Political scientists in 2011 earned a median wage of around $104,000, considerably more than sociologists and statisticians, according to the BLS.

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