What is a Sociology Major and is it Right for Me?

Wonder how social groups came to be and want to understand the forces affecting our culture today? A sociology major may be for you.

What is a sociology major?

The “official” definition for sociology is that it’s the study of institutions; however, that’s a pretty vague idea. To go more in-depth, sociology looks at how groups of people behave and how they interact with society as a whole.

In sociology classes, you’ll tackle broad social theory and general concepts of human behavior in your introductory classes before getting to study specific groups, places or units. For example, you may take a class on the sociology of the family, where you’ll talk about what it means to be part of a family unit both historically and in the present-day. Then, you’ll connect other topics to your discussions. For instance, how do laws regulating family planning change how families operate? If people are getting married later, how does that affect family structure?

What is the difference between sociology, psychology and anthropology?

Many people wonder what the difference is between psychology and sociology. While the two are definitely linked (and often students may double-major in both or major in one while minoring in the other), psychology focuses on the behavior of the individual, whereas sociology focuses on the behavior of groups.

People have similar questions about sociology versus anthropology. Anthropology studies the history of the behavior of humans, so there’s definitely an added component of what the past tells us about the present.

Is It right for me?

Before you take on a sociology major, here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I a strong reader and writer? Do I look forward to reading and interpreting both original texts and the theories of others in the field?
  • Am I open-minded? How do I react if people in class make a statement or argument I don’t agree with?
  • Do I take criticism and feedback well? Will I be phased if a peer or professor disagrees with me?
  • Am I excited to do field work that requires me to spend many hours surveying a group of people, analyzing the data, and presenting it?
  • Am I willing to take on a longer research project, like a capstone or thesis?

What can I do with a sociology degree?

Some may be perplexed as to what can be done with a sociology degree, but by studying such a broad topic and also having the opportunity to concentrate, sociology majors are able to work in a variety of fields.

A small sampling of positions that sociology majors have gone on to include:

  • Professor
  • Community organizer
  • Educator
  • Activist
  • Politician
  • Political scientist
  • Non-profit aid worker
  • Social worker

What do people who majored in sociology earn?

While it certainly doesn’t apply to all sociology majors, many go into careers of public service or aid work, which means salaries won’t necessarily be high. Starting salaries range anywhere from $25,000-$40,000. However, many of these former sociology majors find their work meaningful and life-changing, which can mean even more than a paycheck.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What Types of Skills Are Best for a Sociology Major? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Should I Intern as a College Freshman?

What Types of Skills Are Best for a Sociology Major?

Before you dive in and start surveying populations, there are some things you need to know about becoming a sociology major. Here are the most important skills you’ll need in order to be successful in this major.

Reading and writing skills

Sociology requires a great deal of reading. As part of your major, you’ll have to read both original texts as well as critiques of ideas from other academics and people in the space. To be successful as a sociology major, you’ll have to not just read these texts but annotate and understand them as well.

Additionally, sociology majors write plenty of reading responses, research papers and other reports, so you’ll need to have a clear and concise writing style to present your ideas.

Critical thinking skills

In sociology, you’ll be thinking and talking about complex problems that will require you to give serious critiques and arguments. Nothing in sociology should ever be taken at face value, so you’ll have to be sure to think critically in the classroom.

Communication skills

While your introductory sociology classes may be lecture-style, as you take more and more classes, you’ll be in smaller classroom settings where you’ll have to present your ideas to a group of peers.

The best sociology majors are those who come prepared for class, have thought about their ideas and arguments and can present them in a thoughtful and articulate manner. If you want to thrive in this major, strong communication skills are a must.

Research skills

Having strong research skills is also critical for sociology majors. Since sociology requires you to survey populations by creating your own experiments, understanding how to structure an experiment and write up the results is a key factor in being able to succeed in this major.

Open-mindedness and patience

Sociology classes often discuss a number of emotionally charged topics, from racial discrimination to family planning. Regardless of where you go to school, you’re guaranteed to find someone in a sociology class whose argument you find disagreeable or even offensive.

Sociology majors need to be open-minded to the ideas of their peers to figure out what they came to those conclusions. But they also need to know when to pick their battles and the mediums through which to present their arguments.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What is a Sociology Major and is It Right for Me? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as Top 10 Things You Should Look For In An Internship.

Career Opportunities for Sociology Majors

While being a sociology major might seem like a broad course of study, the great thing about this major is that it helps you build a diverse skill set and prepares you for a number of different careers including politics, social work and education. And because of its broad scope, it also allows you to understand the social implications of your work and to seek out opportunities that align with your passions.

Some of the most common career fields for sociology majors include:

Social work

Sociology majors are usually people who are dedicated to helping others and making the world a better place, so they will often turn to social work as a means of making that happen. And since they have a solid understanding of the complex issues affecting the people they work with, sociology majors can be especially effective in this type of role.


Because they desire change, many sociology majors also work in politics, either trying to enact change as policymakers or working behind the scenes to get politicians elected or to promote causes and bring them to the attention of influential figures.


After seeing the big problems society is dealing with, many sociology majors turn to activism as a way of effecting change on a large scale. Activism comes in many forms, including working for a nonprofit that specializes in promoting a particular cause or becoming an advocate in Washington D.C.


Sociology can also be a great foundation for a journalism career. By doing field work and analyzing data, you’ll learn how to find subjects, approach them and get the information you want. Additionally, sociology gives you exposure to a variety of societal problems and this can help you figure out your journalistic focus. For instance, if you’ve taken lots of criminal justice courses in college, writing for the crime beat is an easy transition.


Many sociology majors go on to become experts in a particular group or type of behavior. For instance, a professor could focus on social movements and how they have and haven’t changed over time. Another professor could study something as specific as rap music over the course of the 1990s and what that means for society today.


On many occasions, incensed by the huge societal problems at hand, sociology majors will turn to the legal profession as a way of making an impact. While some choose to go to law school to become lawyers, others decide to become paralegals, probation officers or investigators. All of these positions are a critical part of the criminal justice system and a natural fit for those who are passionate about social issues.


Sociology majors also go into education in the hopes of making a difference in the lives of both young people and adults. While secondary and postsecondary education (high school and college) are the most popular teaching areas, sociology majors can be found in teaching positions across all grade levels. In many cases, young graduates may turn to teaching nonprofits (for example, Teach For America) to become certified educators.

Whether it’s exploring compelling opportunities within the legal profession or discovering the exciting world of journalism, being a sociology major can open up the door to many different careers. The best way to find out which one is right for you is by taking on an internship and seeing which type of career fits your interests.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What is a Sociology Major and is it Right for Me? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is an Interview?

Types of Internships for Sociology Majors

Because sociology is such a broad field, sociology majors end up working in a variety of different industries including politics, law and social work. Not sure which field is right for you? An internship is a great way to explore your options and build your skill set while gaining some professional experience.

Here are just a few of the most common internships for sociology majors:

Political intern

Many nonprofits and legislative offices have a political intern who is dedicated to helping the political team with legislation, policy and any other related tasks. As a political intern, your duties may include sitting in on hearings held by your city or state government, drafting campaigns related to specific policies, creating policy recommendations and writing notes and briefings.

Development intern

For sociology majors who choose to work in the nonprofit world, many will find themselves focusing on helping causes gain traction and raise money. As a development intern, you’ll help your organization discover donors, raise money, keep in contact with loyal donors and apply for grants.

Social work intern

As a social work intern, you’ll work at a nonprofit to support its full-time social work staff. Depending on what type of organization you work for, your responsibilities may include becoming an advocate for a particular client or case, creating notes and briefings for case files and assisting clients in the office.

Legal intern

Whether you’re working for a nonprofit, a law firm or a government agency, being a legal intern allows you to sit in on client meetings and cases, create important briefings and keep case files organized. You’ll also get to take your learnings and apply them to a specific field or a particular problem, allowing you to really make an impact in a meaningful way.

Research intern

If you want to go to grad school or work in a research-related field, every bit of research experience you can add to your resume will make a big difference. Regardless of whether you work at an academic institution or a nonprofit, this internship will help you learn the basics of collecting, cleaning and organizing data for statistical analysis. You’ll also get to create reports from your findings and learn how to gain valuable insights by interpreting those reports.

From knowing the details behind every case file to understanding how to write a grant proposal, an internship is a wonderful and safe space for sociology majors to explore their options, learn new skills and reinvent themselves.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What Types of Skills Are Best for a Sociology Major? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as What is a Panel Interview?