It is possible to pursue a sociology career either within the academic world or within the world of private industry and government. All types of sociology careers require some amount of formal education, and academic careers require a great deal. The requirements for careers in industry or government are more varied but typically include both academic skills and the ability to research and write effectively.
The first step for anyone looking to build a sociology career is formal education. A bachelor’s degree in sociology is typically required for work in this field, although work in related fields such as anthropology or political science may suffice, especially for students hoping to move on to graduate study. Additional formal education is necessary for most work in academic sociology.
Some high schools offer specialized courses in sociology, and some of them will require that the teacher of such a course have a master’s degree. A teaching certification is necessary in most regions, although provisional certifications are sometimes available. Many high school teaching programs will reward holders of advanced degrees with better pay, and teachers of sociology at the high school level may well go on to earn advanced degrees later in their lives.
A master’s degree in sociology is generally the minimum requirement for anyone who wishes to teach at the community college level. Some opportunities to teach classes as adjunct faculty at four-year colleges may also be available to holders of a master’s degree. A sociology career as a full faculty member at a four-year college generally requires a doctorate in the field.
The specific choices made during the course of college and graduate education strongly influence the subsequent course of a sociology career. Degrees in sociology are more valuable if they are earned at schools with a reputation for excellence in the field. Graduate work will generally require independent research, which should be of high quality and focus on areas that are of academic or practical interest, as this will improve a candidate’s job prospects.
Most students of sociology who hold only a bachelor’s degree, and many who have master's or doctoral degrees, work in industry or government rather than in academia. These social scientists are called on to analyze population groups and to search out trends, either to aid in targeting social policy or to assist in the marketing of goods and services. Communication is crucial in this sort of work environment, and excellent verbal and written communication and presentation skills are necessary to succeed in this sort of sociology career. Undergraduate or graduate coursework that relates to a population group will likely aid in securing a job studying or working with that group.