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Sociological Roles Relating to Business, Industry, and Work

Sociologists with an M.A. or Ph.D. combine their advanced training in research methods, statistics, and theory with a substantive focus in such specialties as organizational sociology, sociology of work and occupations, sociology of labor, or medical sociology. They follow three major career paths that often overlap:

  • Teaching in college or university settings
  • Working in corporate and industrial organizations
  • Consulting to business and industry

Practitioner Roles

  • Organizational Researcher in Industry, Government, or other Service Organization
  • Divisional Staff Position
  • Independent Consultant
  • Trainer or Field Employee
  • Manager
  • Owner

In applied settings, sociology practitioners work in research departments in corporations and participate in organizational analysis and development. They engage in research and strategic planning in corporate departments of human resources, industrial relations, public relations, and marketing. Some are supervisors, managers, and directors of large organizations. Others establish their own consulting and research companies or serve as staff researchers in private research firms and think tanks.

The practitioner's life is appealing to those who like the challenge of applying knowledge to everyday problems, and seeing immediate outcomes of their work.

Monetary rewards are usually generous, especially at the top of the career ladder. Opportunities for decision-making increase as one's responsibility and experiences broaden. Practitioners often adhere to an established work schedule, work cooperatively as part of a team, and work in bureaucracies. They blend research skills and substantive area knowledge into a powerful combination. For example:

A sociologist serving as vice president for research in a large insurance company applies both methodological expertise and understanding of ethnicity and gender in developing staff training programs and employee benefit packages.

A sociologist specializing in urban and community research consults for a multinational corporation developing new towns.

A sociologist in a large advertising company supervises marketing research operations and organizational development workshops.

Academic Roles

  • Teacher and Trainer
  • Academic Researcher
  • Academic Consultan
  • Mediator and/or Arbitrator

In academic settings, sociologists teach in colleges and universities and contribute to research and scholarship on theory, work, occupations, labor relations, or organizations. Many serve as consultants to organizations and businesses.

As part of the academic role, sociologists may conduct research in multinational corporations, factories, banks, retail stores, government agencies, hospitals, restaurants, nursing homes, and countless other settings. Their findings may influence how the business world works.

Academic sociologists conduct training programs and contract research for businesses and organizations; they propose and evaluate various personnel and industrial relations programs. Some professors are labor relations experts who serve as mediators of work disputes.

  • A Valuable Preparation
  • Prospects for the BA/BS Sociology Major
  • The Employer's Perspective
  • Prospect for the MA/PhD Sociology Graduate
  • Sociology Roles Relating to Business, Industry, and Work
  • Further Reading