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Introduction to Sociology

What Sociologists Do

The Other Social Sciences

People with training in sociology pursue a variety of different career and research paths. Because “society” is such a broad field of study, a background in sociology helps support dozens of different career choices. What follows are several broad areas in which sociologists frequently choose to apply their skills and interests.

Social Welfare

Some people pursue degrees in sociology because they want to change society for the better. They study problems such as poverty, prejudice, and world hunger and attempt to find solutions. Jobs that relate to these kinds of interests include:

  • Social worker
  • Child welfare worker
  • Adoption agency worker
  • Foreign aid worker
  • Peace Corps/VISTA volunteer
  • Clergy

Crime and Deviance

Many sociologists focus their research on understanding the roots of criminal and deviant behavior. Sociologists who focus on crime and deviance may conduct studies of juvenile delinquents, female criminals, or other subgroups of offenders. A background in this type of sociology prepares people for careers such as:

  • Law enforcement officer
  • Attorney
  • Prison administrator


An understanding of changing demographics and culture is essential for keeping members of a society healthy. Some sociologists apply their knowledge to the field of healthcare. They might take the following kinds of jobs:

  • Doctor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Marriage or family counselor

International Relations and Diplomacy

Maintaining good relations with other societies is always important. Sociologists who specialize in international relations must understand the intricacies of how their society interacts with others. Interest in international relations might lead to such jobs as:

  • Diplomat
  • Public relations representative
  • Government communications worker


Many people study sociology because they want to develop more effective ways to educate a society’s youth or because they want to continue learning and teaching about sociology itself. Such people might hold the following types of jobs:

  • K-12 teacher
  • College professor
  • Educational policy-maker

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It’s important to note the difference between sociology and social work. Social work is an applied science, since it is designed to solve a specific problem in a particular setting. Social work takes the principles found in sociology and applies them to a particular issue. For example, current sociological research indicates that men are more likely than women to commit suicide and that white people are more likely to take their own lives than black people. A social worker might take that knowledge and apply it to the real world by tailoring suicide-prevention programs to focus on the needs of white males.

This list covers just a handful of the possible directions your studies in sociology may take you. As you’ll learn throughout your sociology course, a thorough understanding of the workings of society is applicable to an endless number of career paths.

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