What Is a Sociology Major? Career Paths and Benefits

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Sociology is the study of how human beings interact with one another, specifically within the context of different social structures, institutions, and frameworks. The goal of the sociologist is to gain insights into the nature of human behavior, including how it influences and is influenced by society.

In pursuit of these insights, sociologists may focus their research on any of a number of fields of human interaction, including religion, education, social stratification, race and ethnicity, crime, or health.

So what is a sociology major? A sociology degree program, such as a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, helps students develop the foundational research, analytical, and critical thinking skills needed to contextualize human interactions and understand how people behave.

A social worker helps a woman fill out a form.

Sociology Program Goals

A sociology degree program has several core objectives. Ultimately, the program is designed to help students develop deep insights into the complexities of social issues and constructs, encompassing areas such as race, human sexuality, crime, and mental illness. Key objectives include the following:

Familiarity with Behavioral Science Methodologies

One of the primary objectives of the sociology program is to provide students with practical knowledge of the models, research methodologies, and analytical tools used in behavioral science and social services. Students who graduate from the program will be qualified to employ these diverse tools on a professional level.

Exploration of Basic Social Processes

Students in the sociology program will be prepared to understand and interpret different social processes, institutions, and interactions. These could range from the criminal justice system to the foster care system to public schooling.

Development of Critical Thinking Skills

Sociologists may use different frameworks to interpret human relationships; some examples include Marxism, feminism, and postmodernism. The goal of the sociology degree program is not to impose a framework or worldview on students, but rather to train students to evaluate and compare these frameworks critically and analytically.

Preparation for Professional Success

Finally, sociology courses are designed to prepare students to thrive in any of a number of professional environments, using their academic background to find success in gerontology, criminal justice, social welfare, or a comparable field.

Benefits of Earning a Sociology Degree

When researching what a sociology major is, the program’s benefits are worth considering. Students who complete a bachelor’s in sociology may find they have many advantages, including the following:

Social Influence

To enact real social change, individuals need to have a foundational understanding of how societies work. An academic background in sociology equips students with this knowledge, making them better prepared to enact positive change in a rapidly evolving social environment.

Broad Knowledge Base

Because sociology is the study of human interaction, it touches on nearly all aspects of life in a society. This means that students who pursue a degree in this field will also develop a deep working knowledge of related and ancillary fields that range from finance to political science to organizational psychology. The sociology student is well-rounded and literate in many different areas of human endeavor.

Professional Success

Sociologists have many different opportunities to find professional success and earn respectable salaries. According to September 2020 figures from PayScale, professionals who have a bachelor’s in sociology have a median annual salary of around $60,400. Salaries vary based on location, industry, and level of experience.

Professional Outcomes for Sociology Graduates

Students who graduate with a degree in sociology will have many different career paths available to them and the chance to apply sociological principles in any of several different fields. A few examples include the following:

The Justice System

A background in sociology provides keen insight into the factors that contribute to crime and how the justice system may or may not be effective in its response to crime. As such, many sociology degree-holders go on to pursue careers in the criminal justice system, often going to law school before ultimately becoming public defenders or prosecutors.

Social Services

Sociology provides perspective into how different social services and institutions can make a difference in the lives of individuals or families. As such, many sociology graduates seek professional opportunities as victim advocates or as social workers in the foster care system. Sociologists can also find work in social welfare organizations.


Sociologists understand people. That makes them invaluable members of business organizations, where they may employ their expertise in different ways. For example, a sociologist may bring their understanding of group psychology to a business’s human resources department, where they may be especially useful in conflict resolution or labor relations. Sociology majors often become market research analysts or focus group leaders as well.


Finally, many sociologists find work in the educational system. Often, they become counselors, which allows them to play a supportive role for children dealing with domestic problems or bullying. Sociologists can also work for institutions that provide social support services to intervene in the lives of at-risk children and adolescents.

Pursue Your Professional Goals with a Sociology Degree

By pursuing a formal education in sociology, students open themselves up to a world of professional opportunity and the chance to make a real impact on the social structures they inhabit. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology offers a robust education with a diverse curriculum. Courses include Criminological Theory, Gender and Crime, Social Class in Society, and Social Analysis and Thought.

What a sociology major does is provide students with the opportunity to find meaningful work in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, community schools, law firms, and beyond. Discover more about Maryville University’s online degree program and how it can equip you with the skills you need for professional success.

Recommended Reading

Exploring Services: Human Services vs. Social Services

The Study of Human Nature: A Communication Degree vs. Sociology Degree

Social Media Safety Guide for Parents


American Sociological Association, Race and Ethnicity American Sociological Association, Society and Mental Health

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Economic Sociology”

PayScale, Bachelor of Arts (BA), Sociology Degree

ThoughtCo., “Introduction to Sociology”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sociologists