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American Sociological Association: Career Preparation
Success in most careers depends upon both long-term career preparation and short-term responses to changing circumstances. It is virtually impossible for anyone to anticipate fully what lies five years ahead, much less ten, twenty, or thirty years. Yet, because sociology gives students a broad liberal arts preparation, it can be viewed as a solid base for many career paths. In addition, students who have developed a relatively clear idea of their preferred career path can shape their undergraduate curriculum accordingly. Furthermore, basic skills in research design, data analysis, and conceptualization of problems will help BA graduates compete for jobs across all sectors.
The Liberal Arts Advantage. A bachelor's degree in sociology provides an excellent liberal arts foundation for embarking on the wide range of career paths that many liberal arts majors pursue. Your undergraduate training in sociology can open a variety of doors in business and the human services. Sociology majors who enter the business world work in sales, marketing, customer relations, or human resources. Those who enter human services work with youths at risk, the elderly, or people experiencing problems related to poverty, substance abuse, or the justice system.
When we ask sociology majors who are already employed outside academic settings to reflect on their education with the wisdom of hindsight, they value most highly their undergraduate courses in social research methods, statistics, and computer skills. These courses help make BA undergraduates marketable, especially in today's highly technical and data-oriented work environment. In addition, sociology majors develop analytical skills and the ability to understand issues within a "macro" or social structural perspective. Learning the process of critical thinking and how to bring evidence to bear in support of an argument is extremely important in a fast-changing job market.
Consequently, as a sociology BA, you have a competitive advantage in today's information society. The solid base you receive in understanding social change--as well as in research design, data analysis, statistics, theory, and sociological concepts--enables you to compete for support positions (such as program, administrative, or research assistant) in research, policy analysis, program evaluation, and countless other social science endeavors.
The well-educated sociology BA graduate acquires a sense of history, other cultures and times; the interconnectedness of social life; and different frameworks of thought. He or she is proficient at gathering information and putting it into perspective. Sociological training helps students bring breadth and depth of understanding to the workplace. A sociology graduate learns to think abstractly, formulate problems, ask appropriate questions, search for answers, analyze situations and data, organize material, write well, and make oral presentations that help others develop insight and make decisions. Sociology BA graduates have an advantage in understanding human behavior on three levels:
You can begin the process of multiplying your perspectives as an undergraduate major in sociology by planning a double major with criminal justice, economics, English, anthropology, a second language, political science, or education. Or, you can take a minor or concentration in computer science, business management, marketing, human services, law and society, social work, or pre-law--just to name a few possibilities. Work with your advisor to develop an integrated set of courses that will provide depth in one or more areas.
The Value of an Internship and Service Learning. Internships during or just after the undergraduate years offer invaluable experience that can bring to life the sociological concepts and theories you study in books and in the classroom. You can sample potential careers, build your resume, and learn new skills during a well-chosen internship experience. Participation in an internship affords an excellent way to explore career options and help determine what aspects of sociology interest you.
A wide range of internships is available to sociology graduates. Whether you enjoy working with families or learning more about statistical methods to track population growth, you can find an organization that will give you the opportunity to gain experience while you work toward their goals. Many agencies and institutions offer internships, and many colleges will provide college credits for internship experience. While some internships provide remuneration, many are unpaid. Remember that an internship will help pave the way to subsequent employment opportunities, so working without pay may well be worth your investment of time and energy in the long run. Data show that sociology students who take part in internships find it much easier to find employment later.
Courses that included service learning – volunteer work that is connected to the course topic – are also valuable for career testing and practical experience in applying sociological concepts, methods, and theories.
In order to develop an internship, ask yourself these questions:When you address these questions and are ready to search for an internship that will benefit both you and your "employer," the following strategies may help:
You can amplify the power of your sociology major by taking a multidisciplinary approach. Employment analysts predict that the most successful people in the 21st century will be those who have been exposed to a wide variety of disciplines and have taken the time to study in some depth outside their field.
Society and Social Life
Adapting to Change
Looking to the Future