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American Sociological Association: Sociology Specialities
As this publication suggests, people with degrees in sociology may enter many careers, and the options are increasing. What is common to all of these careers? Underlying sociological training is the commitment to understand human relationships in every kind of social group.
However, sociologists develop their interests in different ways. They pursue diverse specialty subjects within the field as a whole. Thus, sociologists may specialize in families, adolescence, or children; the urban community; education; health and medicine; aging and the life course; work and occupations; the environment, science, and technology; economics, social inequality, and social class; race relations, ethnicity, and minorities; sex and gender; sports; culture and the arts; politics, the military, peace, and war; crime, delinquency, law, and justice; social change and social movements; and any other area of human organization. College and university courses reflect these interests, as well as research methods and theory building. Some of the most fascinating subjects explored by sociologists include:
Sex and gender: Do men and women have different hiring, employment, and promotion experiences? This would be a research question for a sociologist specializing in how sex and gender affect the workplace.
Medical sociology: How is AIDS transmitted (and thus prevented) in different subgroups of the population? How has public opinion about AIDS shifted? These are the concerns of medical sociologists.
Organizations and occupations: Which management styles increase productivity and worker satisfaction would engage the attention of an organizational sociologist.
Racial and ethnic minorities: Do minority children get "tracked" within the public schools? Do minority parents get "cooled out" from participating in and knowing about the informal power structure within schools? Someone specializing in minority relations would explore these questions.
Family: Are children of divorced parents more likely to divorce, or to reject marriage themselves? What factors predict whether abused children would fare better in foster care or reunited with their birth family? These would be possible subjects for a family sociologist. Any social phenomenon can be examined through the lens of different sociological standpoints. Indeed, a hallmark of sociological analysis is that it utilizes a variety of interconnected perspectives. Most sociological research and theory seeks to explain prevailing social behavior patterns and how they change over time.
ASA Sections: An Opportunity for Involvement and Networking
ASA has 39 Sections, or special interest groups, within the Association, formed of people who share a common interest in a particular area of sociology.
Sections sponsor sessions during the Annual Meeting and publish a newsletter for their members in order to communicate about special opportunities and activities relevant to that interest. Many have electronic listservs.
Sections offer an excellent opportunity for networking and exchanging information. Sections welcome student involvement and offer special programs, awards, and dues for student members.
The chart below offers a quick look at student membership in selected ASA sections during 1998. Interest in sections can shift over time, however, as sociologists face new challenges in studying and understanding society and social behavior.
The other ASA sections in addition to those listed in the chart include: methodology; sociology of education; sociology of law; theory; social psychology; peace and war; Marxist sociology; sociological practice; population, political economy of the world system; mental health, comparative historical sociology; political sociology; Asia and Asian America; culture; science, knowledge, and technology; sociology and computers; Latino/a sociology; alcohol and drugs; children; rational choice; religion; international migration, race, gender, and class; mathematical sociology; sociology of sexualities; and history of sociology.
Student Membership in American Sociological Association Sections, 1998
Society and Social Life
Adapting to Change
Looking to the Future