Why Study Sociology?
Studying sociology should be an important component of your college education, regardless of major, for two reasons:
- Sociology will enable you to gain a better understanding of the social forces that shape your own life, so that you will be better poised to deal with them.
American sociologist C. Wright Mills used the term, “sociological imagination”, to refer to the ability to see the connection between the larger events affecting the whole society and the personal consequences for each of us in our own lives. In some instances, our personal troubles may be our own fault; but in others, they may be a result of social forces beyond our control as individuals. Acquiring a sociological imagination is the ability to understand the difference between these. Sociology provides evidence, based on systematic research, to explain how social forces operate, and the ways they may create personal fortune or misfortune.
Sociology can provide foundation knowledge about social interactions, organizations and society helpful in the pursuit of careers and a good life for ourselves and our families. Sociology also can help us prepare for specific careers, by studying particular sectors of society (which we discuss below), and by sharpening our skills needed to be effective in business and public life, such as analytic thinking and problem solving, information gathering and interpretation, and report writing.
- Studying sociology will enhance your ability to be an active and informed citizen, able to influence societal choices and policies.
Sociology is unique in its recognition not only that societies shape us, but also that we shape our societies. This latter process is present in all societies and all human groups, but its especially central to democracy in which citizens are explicitly expected to participate in shaping their society. Indeed, without an informed and active citizenry, democracy withers and dies. Therefore it is important to the society as a whole as well as to the self-interest of individual citizens, that we all are afforded a sound understanding based on valid, reliable and systematic evidence, of how societies work and how we play our daily part in that. As sociology majors you can help to informally educate and mobilize your fellow citizens, and formally can be valuable contributors to organizations dedicated to doing so, such as political organizations, lobbies, non-profit charitable and social change organizations, and even school districts and local governments. In all of these your education as a sociology major can enable you to be more effective as citizens in sustaining our democracy.
Career Advising and Planning
A major in sociology provides an ideal background to pursue a range of careers:
- business careers (management, marketing and advertising, personnel and human relations);
- criminal justice careers (law enforcement, courts, corrections; juvenile justice);
- social service careers (social work; counseling, administration, drug rehabilitation; health administration; family services; disability services);
- careers in social policy, politics and law (attorney, legal investigator, legal assistant, policy advocate, policy analysis, urban planning, lobbying, philanthropy; public administration, polling, social research);
- educational careers (college professor; college administrator; university student services; social science teacher; school administrator.)
For examples and further discussion, see our section on Sociology and Careers.
To prepare our students for their careers, faculty advisors in the Sociology Department work closely with our majors to develop programs of study based on their interests and career goals. Career panels, sponsored each spring by the Department and the Sociology Club, provide updated information about employment and study opportunities. Speakers include Sociology graduates and representatives from businesses, government agencies, service organizations, and graduate schools.