American Sociological Association

Non-Academic PhD Study

Study Purpose

This study investigates whether PhD sociologists employed in applied, research, and policy positions outside of the professorate report that their jobs incorporate professional characteristics and the skills and concepts that they learned in graduate sociology programs. Respondents were also asked about job satisfaction, including satisfaction with income and job security, and chances for advancement. 

In order to inform key stakeholders about the satisfaction of those employed in research, applied, and policy jobs, PhD-level sociologists were surveyed to find out:

1. their current positions in terms of occupations, sectors, and substantive specialties;

2. the professional characteristics of these jobs;

3. the skills they use on the job, and whether those skills match their graduate school training;

4. whether and how they continue to use sociological concepts and perspectives; and, most important,

5. what factors are related to overall job satisfaction and what factors are related to satisfaction with economic security.

Data Collection

The major aspect of this study was a survey of PhD sociologists employed outside the professorate. The survey was conducted by the Research Department of the American Sociological Association (ASA) with the assistance of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, the Rural Sociological Association, and the Washington Evaluators. Items included on the questionnaire were drawn from National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctoral Recipients (SDR) and other disciplinary labor market surveys, as well as original questions intended to measure satisfaction in applied, policy, and research positions. We included questions about occupation, employment sector, type of organization, use of sociological perspective on the job, and job satisfaction as well as several open ended questions about characteristics of work and how respondents used their sociological training. The questionnaire was fielded from March through June of 2006.

Additionally, with the assistance of the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University, a survey of employers was designed to determine their levels of satisfaction with the skills and perspectives that sociologists brought to these jobs. A convenience sample of organizations was chosen based upon inclusion in the ASA database of members’ employers and the likelihood of utilizing applied social research. The list of organizations included Federal agencies and departments, think tanks, advocacy organizations, research institutes, and research consulting companies in the Washington, DC area. Phone interviews were conducted with contacts at these organizations who were knowledgeable about hiring practices related to professional positions. 

Research Briefs and Presentations from this Study

Beyond the Ivory Tower: Professionalism, Skills Match, and Job Satisfaction in Sociology

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