Why Major in Sociology?

How can a major in Sociology help prepare you for a successful career in the context of a world that is constantly changing?  Given the rapid pace of social change, career preparation requires obtaining knowledge and skills that will enable you to adapt to changing technologies, laws, policies, demographics and other social forces. A major in sociology provides students with the knowledge and skills they will need to adjust to this ongoing change. Sociology enhances students’ understanding of how social organizations function, how cultural diversity can be a strength of a society, and how power operates in organizations and social interaction.  Further, sociology enhances skills that are crucial to successful careers. Students who have graduated with a sociology major emphasize the value of their education to developing their ability to reason and analyze, to gather and to interpret data (both quantitative and qualitative), to develop evidence-based arguments, to organize information, write reports, and work effectively with people in various types of professional and organizational settings.

Daniel Little, Chancellor for the University of Michigan-Dearborn, makes the following points about the value of sociological training:*

First, sociology is a scientific discipline. It teaches students to use empirical data to understand current social realities. And sociologists use a variety of empirical research methods, from quantitative research to qualitative methods, to comparative and historical studies. Students who study sociology as undergraduates will certainly be exposed to the use of statistics as a method for representing and analyzing complex social phenomena; they will also be exposed to qualitative tools like interviews, focus groups, and participant-observer data. So a sociology education helps the student to think like a social scientist -- attentive to facts, probing with hypotheses, offering explanations, critical in offering and assessing arguments for conclusions.

Second, … Sociology promises to provide data and theory that help to better understand the human and social realities we confront. Moreover, the discipline is defined around the key social issues we all need to understand better than we currently do, and our policy makers need to understand if they are to design policies that allow for social progress: for example, race, poverty, urbanization, inequalities, globalization, immigration, environmental change, gender, power, and class. We might say that an important part of the value of a sociology education is that it gives the student a better grasp of the dynamics of these key social processes.

So sociology is indeed a valuable part of a university education. It provides a foundation for better understanding and engaging with the globalizing world our young people will need to navigate and lead. It provides students with the intellectual tools needed to make sense of the shifting and conflictual social world we live in, and this in turn permits them to contribute to solutions for the most difficult social problems that we face.

*Daniel Little, “Why a Sociology Major?” Huffington Post; 07/03/2012