Sociology Majors, Before and After Graduation
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology?
Surveying the Class of 2005
Table of Contents
a. The Bachelor's and Beyond Survey: An Overview
b. Wave I: The Senior Survey and Results
c. Wave II: Post-Graduation Survey and Results
d. Wave III: Final Survey and Results
e. Key Findings from the Survey
f. Faculty Manual and Dataset
g. Surveying the Class of 2012
The Bachelor's and Beyond Survey: An Overview
Developing the Survey
Sociology majors, their parents and educators often ask, "What can bachelor's-level graduates do with their degrees in sociology?" To answer this question, the American Sociological Association's (ASA) Department of Research & Development developed a longitudinal study of students in the class of 2005 who majored in sociology. Students were surveyed three times: in their senior year of college (Wave I), nearly two years after graduation (Wave II), and nearly four years after graduation (Wave III). This survey offers insight into students views of their experiences as majors and their post-graduation paths, and demonstrates how sociology programs enable these students as they pursue careers, enroll in graduate and professional degree programs, or both.
Our analysis, funded by the National Science Foundation's sociology program, had traced the paths students take from undergraduate sociology programs to forging careers, exploring predictors of job satisfaction and the closeness of these jobs to their studies. This research was intended to inform undergraduate sociology curricula, educate current and prospective sociology undergraduates in ways they can use their degree in their future endeavors, and provide a baseline for departmental assessments.
View a message about the survey from ASA Executive Director, Sally Hillsman.
Almost 100 departments participated in the initial survey. 20 PhD-granting departments, 20 Master’s degree-granting departments, and 40 Bachelor’s degree-granting departments were randomly selected to represent the share of graduating seniors from each type of institution of higher education. Chairs of these departments were asked whether they were interested in participating in the study, if they would seek approval from their local Institutional Review Board (IRB), and if they were able to provide a list of senior majors and their email addresses. If a chair of a randomly selected department declined to participate, another school of the same type was substituted from a list of volunteer departments obtained through advertising in ASA’s monthly newsletter, Footnotes. Ultimately, all of the volunteer departments that could obtain IRB approval and provided a list of their senior majors and their email addresses were included in the initial survey.
Funding and Support
The Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided support for this study. The ASA sub-contracted with the Indiana University Center for Survey Research (CSR) to conduct the surveys proper and provide the ASA with the results for analysis. A committee of chairs of sociology departments advised all phases of the project.
A Three-Phase Survey
Over 1,700 sociology majors surveyed in 2005 during their senior year completed the first wave of this longitudinal study. Students were asked why they chose the major, what skills and concepts they learned, what activities they participated, and what they planned do after graduation. The Wave I questionnaire is available in PDF format.
The Wave II survey, fielded in early 2007, asked graduates about their experiences in graduate school and the workforce and how well they felt the sociology major prepared them for both. About 780 respondents from the first wave completed the second survey. The Wave II questionnaire is available in PDF format.
Sociology graduates from the 2005 cohort were surveyed a third and final time in the spring of 2009. Four years after receiving their sociology BAs, these graduates are now further along in their careers, graduate programs, or both.
The Wave III questionnaire is available in PDF format.
Research Briefs and Presentations from this Study: Wave I
Research Briefs and Presentations from this Study: Wave II
Research Briefs and Presentations from this Study: Wave III
ASA’s Bachelor’s and Beyond Survey: Findings and Their Implications for Students and Departments (published in the October 2010 issue of Teaching Sociology)
Launching Majors Into Satisfying Careers: Faculty Manual and Student Dataset
The contents of this manual and downloadable dataset provide sociology faculty members and their departments with a variety of easy-to-access resources, such as MS PowerPoint presentations, letters to parents of majors, sample resumes, and a codebook based on the American Sociological Association’s longitudinal Bachelor’s and Beyond study. It also provides curriculum ideas including data analysis suggestions, career links, and examples of alumni surveys. The purpose is to help students prepare for and navigate a difficult job market. These resources and curriculum ideas should increase the likelihood that they will find satisfying careers using their sociological knowledge and skills, without sacrificing the theoretical and conceptual core of sociology. In addition, the manual is designed to provide suggestions to departments to help them position themselves within their universities, including an assessment guide, given the increasing pressures on departments to assess student success both inside the academy and in students’ post-baccalaureate lives. Download the manual at no cost here. You also may access the data codebook at no cost; a Stata dataset is available here and an SPSS dataset is available here; both are freely available. (back to top)
A second longitudinal project of the Class of 2012 funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) replicated much of the 2005 study, but it also included additional questions about job searching and networking. Visit the Bachelor's and Beyond 2012 study webpage for more information, documentation, questionnaires, and a list of participating departments.