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How to Become a Sociologist

Most sociology jobs require a master’s degree or Ph.D.


Sociologists typically need a master’s degree or Ph.D. There are two types of sociology master’s degree programs: traditional programs and applied, clinical, and professional programs. Traditional programs prepare students to enter a Ph.D. program. Applied, clinical, and professional programs prepare students to enter the professional workplace, teaching them the necessary analytical skills to perform sociological research in a professional setting.

Most students who complete a Ph.D. in sociology become professors or teachers. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers. However, an increasing number of Ph.D. graduates are becoming research sociologists for nonprofits, businesses, and governments.

Courses in research methods and statistics are important for both master’s and Ph.D. candidates. Many programs also offer opportunities to get experience through internships or by preparing reports for clients.

Although some graduates with a bachelor’s degree find work as sociology research assistants, most find positions in other fields, such as social services, administration, management, or sales and marketing.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Sociologists must be able to carefully analyze data and other information, often utilizing statistical processes to test their theories.  

Communication skills. Sociologists need strong communication skills when they conduct interviews, collaborate with colleagues, and present research results.

Critical-thinking skills. Sociologists must be able to think critically when doing research. They must design research projects and collect, process, and analyze information in order to draw logical conclusions about society and the groups it comprises.

Problem-solving skills. Sociologists’ research is typically focused on identifying, studying, and solving sociological problems.

Writing skills. Sociologists frequently write reports detailing their findings.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition