Table of Contents
I. The Study of Master's Candidates: An Overview
II. Task Force on the Master's Degree
III. Findings From the Survey of Graduate Directors
IV. Findings From Phase I of the Survey of Master's Candidates
V. Findings from Phase II of the Survey of Master's Candidates
VI. Findings from Phase III of the Survey of Master's Candidates
The Master’s, especially as a vocational and professional degree, has become an increasingly important focus in higher education. It is in the interest of the overall health of sociology that such programs not be ignored by the discipline, but rather be provided with greater guidance and support. One area of weakness appears to be the lack of information available about the career trajectories of Master’s degree recipients.
To better position programs, the Task Force on the Master’s Degree, in cooperation with the ASA Research Department, began to conduct a longitudinal survey in early 2008 to learn what becomes of Master’s graduates after they obtain their degrees. The first year of the survey (Phase I) examined characteristics of the their Master's programs. Phase II examined employment and additional education outcomes. Phase III examined job characteristics, job satisfaction, PhD fields, use of sociological skills and concepts, and master's program evaluation.
In 2004, an informal group of chairs of master's-only programs asked the ASA to work with them to develop strategies to ensure the master's degree is a meaningful professional degree. The ASA Council appointed a Task Force on the Master's Degree to produce a report that would be useful to sociology departments starting or reviewing an applied, professional, clinical or other terminal master's degree program.
In early 2008, the ASA Research Department and the Task Force on the Master's invited graduate directors from the 224 departments that awarded at least one sociology Master's degree in Academic Year 2006-07 to participate in a survey about their programs. 122 departments responded, providing the background and contact information for more than 1,400 Master's candidates who were invited to participate in the student survey. A follow-up to the survey of graduate program directors was conducted in the summer of 2011. Findings from these two surveys are outlined in the materials below.
- What Can I Do with a Master's in Sociology? The Department as Context (Phase I Findings)
- Are Master's Programs Closing? What Makes for Success in Staying Open? (Phase II Findings)
- Download the 2008 ASA survey of graduate program directors questionnaire.
The ASA Research Department invited more than 1,400 Master's candidates to participate in a longitudinal study designed to answer the question: What becomes of the Master's graduate? Do they go on to obtain PhDs? Will they immediately enter the labor market, and if so, in what types of jobs? How are these outcomes related to the sociological skills and concepts learned at this level, the planned learning experiences in which they participated, the social capital they developed, and the job placement programs that existed?
Initial analysis from the first phase of the "What Can I Do with a Master’s in Sociology" study points to the importance of including career training and advising in sociology programs. Respondents are very satisfied or satisfied with program characteristics such as the quality of teaching, having the ability to see faculty outside of class, interacting with their fellow students, and having access to technology. They are significantly less satisfied with the quality of career counseling. Dissatisfaction with career counseling is especially frustrating for the 43 percent of respondents who do not intend to pursue a PhD in sociology. The first research brief in this study discusses the experiences among master’s students and their different reasons for entering, and expectations of, a master’s program.
- Paying Attention to the Masters Degree in Sociology discusses Phase I findings.
- Download the Phase I student questionnaire.
One year later, in the winter of 2009-10, we surveyed the cohort a second time. This survey asked respondents about their current degree, education and employment status, how closely current employment is related to sociological skills and concepts learned in their Master's programs, and the types of skills or concepts they would have liked to learn.
- From Programs to Careers: Continuing to Pay Attention to the Master's Degree in Sociology discusses Phase II findings.
- Download the Phase II student questionnaire.
Two years after the first wave, we surveyed the cohort a third time in 2011. This final survey asked about job characteristics, job satisfaction, relation of job activities to Master's skills, evaluation of their Master's programs, and skills former students wished they had learned. See the results from the final wave of the study, What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Sociology?, which shows the factors that result in job satisfaction and the value added of a terminal master’s degree in sociology.
- Sociology Master's Graduates Join the Workforce discusses Phase III findings.
- Download the Phase III student questionnaire.