Sociology is the study of human social behavior, especially the study of the origins, institutions, organizations, and development of human society as well as the causes and consequences of human behavior. The study analyzes social institutions or segments of society as a self-contained entity or in relation to society as a whole. Sociology provides many distinct perspectives on the world to have a better grasp of diverse perspectives, interdisciplinary work should be pursued in anthropology, foreign language(s), and political science. This work should complement studies in one of the major divisions of the discipline: social stratification
- Economic Sociology
- Political Sociology
- International Development
- World-Systems Studies
- Cross-National Research
- Race and Ethnic Relations
- Medical Sociology
- Sociology of Immigration
- Sociology of Education
- Human Development over the Life Cycle
- The Family
- The Sociology of Intelligence
- Social Structure and Personality
Students who are interested in careers in Sociology should be skilled in analyzing, synthesizing, and interpreting information, applying a range research techniques to observe aspects of human social behavior, and communicating sociological information through reports that can be understood by non-sociologists.
Hopkins offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology for study in three broad substantive areas:
- Comparative and International Development
- Sociology of Human Development
- Sociology of Education
Program in Cross-National Sociology and International Development (PCSID) and the Program in Social Inequality (PSI) which are its two main areas of expertise. The Program in Cross-National Sociology and International Development (PCSID) is geared toward students who are interested in social inequality, stratification, and social change from a global, comparative, and historical perspective, and the Program in Social Inequality (PSI) examines race, class, and gender in the U.S. context. All students pursue rigorous research preparation through required courses in Research Methods for the Social Sciences, Quantitative Research Practicum, and Qualitative Research Practicum in addition to studies of Social Theory and Social Statistics; certificate students must also study a foreign language through the intermediate level and have one semester of independent research experience. The focus on research design and methods combined with the solid base students receive in the understanding of social change, statistics, theory, and sociological concepts prepare Sociology graduates for careers in social service and government and for advanced study in Sociology.
Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, and social institutions people form, and how social influences affect people.16 Most work in highly specialized areas such as social organization, stratification and mobility, racial and ethnic relations, education, the family, social psychology, urban, rural, political and comparative sociology, gender relations, and criminology.17 In applied settings, sociology practitioners work in research departments for government agencies and corporations and participate in organizational analysis and development. In academic settings, sociologists teach in colleges and universities and contribute to research and scholarship on theory, work, occupations, labor relations, or organizations.18 Their work is often the basis of government policy and initiatives.
An undergraduate degree in Sociology provides a foundation for a variety of careers outside of social service and government. Many careers do not require a specific major, but rather a wide range of skills and accomplishments; the qualitative and quantitative research skills combined with communication abilities and the understanding of human social behavior obtained by undergraduate sociology students are marketable in any profession.
Sociology provides a foundation for a variety of careers including preparation for Medical and Law School and advanced study in the behavioral and social sciences. Supplementary course work plus hands-on experiences in internships and volunteer activities qualify bachelor’s degree Sociologists for case management jobs and administrative work in social services, junior corporate research and human resource positions in business, and college admissions counseling in education. An advanced degree is required to become a director of research or professor.
A few areas of specialization in the Sociology field include:
Market Research Analysts study market conditions to determine the potential for sales of a product or service within a local, regional, or national area. They also gather information on competitors, sales, prices, and methods for marketing and distribution.
Their research results are often applied to marketing campaigns to address buying habits and regional preferences.
- Human Resources Recruiter - Human resources recruiters work for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. They maintain contacts in the community and make use of the contacts to seek qualified job applicants. Recruiters screen and interview candidates and extend of job offers. Their professional development includes staying up to date with organizational hiring policies, equal employment opportunity, and affirmative action guidelines.
- Human Resources Specialist - Human resources specialists develop and implement human resource programs and policies including staffing, compensation, benefits, immigration, employee relations, training, and health and safety programs.
- Management Consultant AnalystManagement - Consultant Analysts work for consulting firms to analyze business problems by collecting data from internal and external sources. They develop possible solutions and make recommendations to the management team.
- Social Service Caseworker - Social Service Caseworkers help individuals and families secure assistance from social service agencies. They interview clients to assess the full scope of need and direct them to the appropriate resources in the community. In some instances, they advocate on the client’s behalf for financial assistance from government or non-profit agencies.
- Youth Organizer - Youth Organizers manage and administer youth and community projects, programs, and resources. In their work, they conduct needs assessment, and plan and deliver relevant programs of personal and social education. Programming can take the form of discussions, arts-based activities, community/environmental projects, residential activities, and outdoor/sports activities.
- Parole Officer - Parole Officers supervise adult and juvenile offenders (“parolees”) who have been released from prison to ensure they meet all requirements of their parole. They develop plans for he offenders before the release date and arrange for services such as housing, employment, medical care, and counseling. Parolees must maintain regular contact with the parole officer who conducts follow-up evaluations of progress.
Many sociology graduates work in a variety of jobs outside of social services including work in journalism, politics, public relations, public administration, and other fields that involve investigative skills and working with diverse groups. Several positions are as unique and wide-ranging as Congressional Aid, Convention Organizer, Reporter, Secret Service Agent and Writer/Author.
The outlook for careers in Sociology is expected to grow over the next few years. Bachelor’s degree sociologists will enjoy abundant employment opportunities in a wide-range of jobs that do not specifically have “sociologist” in their title due to the breadth, adaptability and utility of sociology. The need for sociologists will increase as other fields incorporate sociological concepts in their research. Sociologists should be prepared to use their knowledge of key social factors and firm grip on research design and methods to create policies and develop programs.
Undergraduate coursework in sociology includes a broad range of studies in the social sciences, and will help to develop the skills and abilities associated with careers in the field, including:
- Research design
- Data analysis
- Understanding social change
- Thinking abstractly
- Analyzing situations and data
- Organize material
- Formulating problems and asking appropriate questions
- Ability to understand issues within a “macro” or social structural perspective
- How to bring evidence to bear in support of an argument
- Write documents and deliver oral presentations that help others develop insight and make decisions
- The ability to bring multiple sources of information and data to bear on a problem
- The ability to communicate to many different audiences
Sociologists need to understand social change, have a sense of history, and other cultures and times, and the interconnectedness of social life framework. This ability, combined with coursework in social research methods, statistics, and computer science, enables sociologists to have a competitive edge in the information society.
An undergraduate major in Sociology can be combined with a second undergraduate major or minor in economics, anthropology, or political science to broaden the impact of the degree and pursue a vast array of career interests. Supplementary coursework in psychology, public speaking, and advanced or technical writing will also strengthen the career possibilities for sociology students.
Hopkins sociology students should use internships and independent research opportunities to apply their knowledge gained through coursework in the workplace as well as to enhance their skills and abilities. Also, students may pursue more specific career preparation strategies depending on the area of specialization in which they are interested.
Hopkins Sociology alumni go into a variety of career fields. Since 2003 the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses.
Listed below are actual job titles that JHU alumni acquired with their degree in Sociology:
- Account Manager
- Analyst Recruiting
- Bond Trader
- Equity Trader
- Forensic Social Worker
- Health Statistician
- Human Resources Manager
- Information Systems Manager
- Management Analyst
- Manager- Financial Analysis
- MBA Student
- Music Student
- Police Officer (Criminology)
- Project Manager: Telecommunications
- Research Scientist
- Social Worker
Hopkins Alumni in Sociology
Matthew Zaft- Vice-President Investments, Merrill Lynch, Sociology, Class of 1997
- How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - Through interning as an undergraduate. No, when I started at JHU I was convinced I was headed to law school.
- What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I interned both during intersession of my junior year and during the summer between junior and senior year. I started full-time in August after graduating.
- What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Technically my first job was lifeguarding at Hopkins' pool which was for May, June, July, and part of August. My first "real" job after college was in my current field, and I have never looked back.
- What advice do you have for current students? - Freshmen and Sophomores--take as many different courses subject as possible; do not worry if you do not know what you want to do; have fun. Juniors--intern, intern, intern. Seniors--do not hesitate to ask alumni for help and advice even if you have never met them; JHU alums like to help other JHU alums and students
- What is your typical day like? - In the office between 7:30 and 8. Review all of my client's accounts activity from the previous day. Review what happened in all of the foreign markets overnight. Review any economic news of the day. Review any news on any of the companies in the portfolio I manage. Answer questions of clients. Work out with a personal trainer. Leave the office for home around 4:30.
- What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: Both the relationships I form with my clients and the joy I get from making them lots of money. Challenging: Managing over $300 million of other people's money.
- Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Even more towards money management and less towards "typical" brokers.
- What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Strong work ethic, outgoing personality, good time management skills
- Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Two years--just starting to feel like they have a handle on things. Five years--just starting to "make it". Ten years--making high six figures and worth over $1,000,000
Mike Rosenstein- Producer, NFL Network/NFL Films, Johns Hopkins University School of Arts & Sciences, Political Science and Sociology, Class of 1995, Master's in Broadcast Journalism
- Describe what you do and how you got started in your current career. - I oversee the budget and production of the show Playbook for NFL Network. I coordinate content, production elements, promotion, and graphics for the show.
- What is most rewarding about your job and/ or industry? - I go to work and talk about football... it's nice to have fun at work.
- Is your career the same or different from what you had envisioned your career would be when you started at Hopkins as an undergraduate? How is it similar and/or different? - Much different. I had been on a pre-law track, until deciding after graduation that I didn't want to be a lawyer.
- What advice do you have for a Hopkins student interested in entering your career field / industry? - Be ready to do the dirty work. Be ready for a less than attractive work schedule. You have to pay your dues in the beginning. But it's all worth it in the long run.
Additional Alumni Profiles
Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.
For more information on what you can do with a Sociology Major go to What can I do with a major in Sociology.
Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Finance, Law, Medicine, Teaching, and Scientific Research.
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For information on the specific programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in your field you wish to study, faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and other faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship. This will also help when you request letters of recommendation. The Career Center has a handout to guide you in asking for letters of recommendation.