What Can I Do With This Major?

“What can you do with that degree?” people often ask us.

The American Sociological Association recently set out to answer the question more systematically, through a three-stage longitudinal study which examines precisely what graduates with degrees in sociology (or sociology/anthropology) do after graduating. Students--including several Pace University 2005 graduates with degrees in sociology/anthropology--were interviewed in their senior year of college, and will be interviewed again in subsequent years to investigate their job histories and hiring experiences.

While the first stage of data--that gathered in the senior year of college--has only recently been analyzed and released, several interesting findings emerged:

  • 94.6% of graduating sociology or sociology/anthropology majors said that they chose their major due to an interest in sociological concepts, particularly those which examined relationships between individuals and social institutions. Almost 40% chose the major because they felt it would help them to create social change.
  • 72.8% of graduating sociology or sociology/anthropology majors said that they had gained important skills in “developing evidence-based arguments,” while 60.8% said they had gained skills in interpreting data. 45.6% said that they had gained experience in working with statistical software, which they believed would be a highly valued skill on the job market.
  • 77.7% of graduating seniors reported being strongly satisfied with their experiences as a sociology or sociology/anthropology major.

These data give a glimpse of what our recent graduates hoped to do with their degrees; the second and third stages of the research will examine their work experiences in more detail. Informal polling of previous waves of sociology/anthropology graduates have revealed that job options in sociology/anthropology fall in three broad areas: practice, research and teaching.

Sociological and Anthropological Practice
Sociologists and anthropologists are involved in a wide variety of applied fields: social work, city planning, community organizing, housing advocacy, labor organizing, museum management, counseling, human resource management, grants development, program management, police and legal services, advocacy for the homeless, AIDS and public health work. They work in hospitals as case managers and as public health officials in government. Others work as policy analysts for think tanks. Some even write marketing strategies for McDonald’s restaurants! Since sociologists and anthropologists know a lot about people and diverse cultures, they are frequently hired as consultants by businesses and governments. Many start their own consulting firms.

Sociological and Anthropological Research
Government agencies, for-profit corporations, and not-for-profit organizations employ large numbers of researchers with training in sociology or anthropology. Such organizations include international governing bodies like the United Nations, as well as federal, state, and local governments.

NGOs (non-governmental organizations) also employ researchers: sociologists and anthropologists can be found in human rights groups and community-based service organizations such as Amnesty International, CARE, the Parks Council and a host of large and small advocacy groups around the world. Labor unions and large companies hire thousands of researchers, and the field of medicine is also open to those with training in sociology or anthropology. Many medical anthropologists can be found in the Brazilian rain forest doing research on traditional treatments and cures for modern illnesses. Sociologists and anthropologists can be found working as epidemiologists - looking into the spread of contagious diseases around the world.

Teaching: Creating Change in the Classroom and the Community
Many sociology/anthropology graduates choose to continue their education by attaining master’s degrees or PhDs in one of the two disciplines. Those with master’s degrees are typically qualified to teach at the secondary/high-school level, or in community colleges. Those with PhDs can teach at four-year colleges and universities, and normally are required to maintain an active research agenda which includes publishing the results of their research in books and scholarly journals.

Many of the most famous sociology and anthropology “teachers,” however, never held the title of professor: community organizer Saul Alinksy, civil rights pioneers Ralph Abernathy, W.E. B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson and Roy Wilkins all held degrees in sociology, as do Congresswoman Maxine Waters and former U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. While their lessons may have been conveyed outside the classroom, few would question the dramatic changes they have created in society.

As with any field, the key to finding a good job with a degree in sociology/anthropology is understanding the skills you have and working to develop those you need. We believe that our sociology and anthropology program offers you an opportunity to acquire unique skills that will make you highly competitive and attractive in the job market. Your task is to understand those skills, convey them to others, and perhaps most importantly, apply them to real-world problems.