American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
December 2016

There Are Many Opportunities in Retirement

John Kennedy

If you are retired and reading Footnotes, I assume that you are not really “retired.” While many sociologists retire from their faculty, administrative, research, and other positions, few (I think) actually retire from being sociologists. Part of the reason for the ASA’s Opportunities in Retirement Network (ASA-ORN) was to allow sociologists to demonstrate the myriad ways they continue their sociology careers post-retirement. That of course raises the question, what kinds of opportunities?

Research activities. Many sociologists continue to conduct the research that they did before retirement while others are taking their research in new directions. Some are finding more time to do the research that they were not able to do in their pre-retirement positions because of time and resource conflicts.

Volunteer activities. Many sociologists are using their sociological knowledge and skills to support nonprofit organizations. These include advice, research, and spreading sociological knowledge to help understand and solve the problems that are the missions of nonprofits.

Political activism. Several of the ASA-ORN members have become more politically active post-retirement. Again, their sociological knowledge and skills developed during their careers provide a stronger understanding of political issues and the methods to help carry out political goals.

Sociological practice. Retirement offers the opportunity to move from academic sociology to sociological practice. Sociologists can provide research support needed by many organizations (e.g., local government agencies, and businesses). They can also translate sociological knowledge into useful information that can be used by government agencies, nonprofits, and the general public. Some have also found that retirement allows them to start their own sociological consulting business.

Teaching. Many sociologists miss teaching—both presenting important and interesting materials and also the contact with students. Some sociologists go to other institutions to teach, and some continue to teach on a limited part-time basis. A retirement in a small department could mean than an important sociological topic is no longer taught. Retired sociologists could continue to teach such courses.

Professional and institutional service activities. With fewer time demands, retired sociologists can participate in more service activities, both for academic and other professional organizations, such as serving on ASA committees and task forces. Retired sociologists may even improve the functioning of committees because their retired status allows them to be more active.

Mentoring. Sociologists can provide valuable guidance to their younger colleagues based on their long-term experiences in departments and institutions. Certainly they can help understand any implicit norms regarding tenure but also about how to function effectively in departments as well as in the college or university. Outside the academy, retired sociologists can help younger employees understand the politics and the hierarchy that exists in organizations.  

Other activities. Retirement offers many opportunities to learn new skills, especially creative skills such as painting or cooking; to travel more and not just to professional meetings; to spend more time with family and friends; to exercise more; and to choose daily activities based on desire rather than demands.

Retired sociologists remain vital to the association and the profession. The goal of ASA-ORN is to provide sociologists with continued involvement in their profession through networking with colleagues.  Because ASA-ORN is an official component of ASA, it allows retired sociologists to have a direct line to the ASA executive office and to the ASA Council. In both Chicago and Seattle, ORN had three well-attended sessions. Those unable to attend the meetings can find information and transcriptions of some presentations on the ORN website (see below) where you can listen to the “Life in Sociology” lectures by both Earl Babbie and Sally Hillsman.

All retired/emeritus members of ASA automatically receive the ORN newsletter and are subscribed to the listserv.  However, other members, especially those contemplating retirement, are welcome to opt in to these resources. Interested members should see the ASA website for more information at or contact