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Sociologists Career Overview

Study human society and social behavior by examining the groups and social institutions that people form, as well as various social, religious, political, and business organizations. May study the behavior and interaction of groups, trace their origin and growth, and analyze the influence of group activities on individual members.

Salary for Sociologists

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U.S. $51,110
Annual figures are on top. Hourly figures are below in parentheses.
N/A = Information not available

Majors for this Career

Career Outlook for Sociologists

Employment growth of sociologists and political scientists is projected to grow much faster than the average. Job opportunities should be best for jobseekers with a master's or PhD degree in a social science and with strong quantitative skills.

Employment change. Overall employment of sociologists and political scientists is expected to grow 21 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Sociologists will experience much faster than average job growth because the incorporation of sociology into research in other fields continues to increase. Sociologists possess broad training and education in analytical, methodological, conceptual, and quantitative and qualitative analysis and research, so their skills can be applied to many different occupations. As a result, many workers with sociology backgrounds will find work in niche areas with specialized titles, such as market analyst, research assistant, writer, and policy analyst. Some sociologists may find work conducting policy research for consulting firms, and their knowledge of society and social behavior may be used as well by a variety of companies in product development, marketing, and advertising. Demand for sociologists also will stem from growth in the number of social, political, and business associations and organizations, including many nonprofit organizations, to conduct various evaluations and statistical work.

Employment of political scientists is projected to grow faster than average, reflecting the growing importance of public policy and research. Demand for political science research is growing because of increasing interest in politics, foreign affairs, and public policy, including social and environmental policy issues, healthcare, and immigration. Political scientists will use their knowledge of political institutions to further the interests of nonprofit, political lobbying, and social and civic organizations. Job growth also may be driven by the budget constraints of public resources. As a growing population exerts excess demand on certain public services, political scientists will be needed to analyze the effects and efficiencies of those services, as well as to offer solutions.

Job prospects. In addition to opportunities arising from employment growth, a growing number of job openings will come from the need to replace those who retire, enter teaching or other occupations, or leave their social science occupation for other reasons.

People seeking sociologist and political scientist positions may face competition for jobs, and those with higher educational attainment will have the best prospects. Many jobs in policy, research, or marketing, for which bachelor's degree holders qualify, are not advertised exclusively as sociologist or political scientist positions. Because of the wide range of skills and knowledge possessed by these workers, many compete for jobs with other workers, such as anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, historians, market and survey researchers, psychologists, engineers, and statisticians.

Some people with a Ph.D. degree in sociology will find opportunities as university faculty rather than as applied sociologists. Although there will be competition for tenured positions, the number of faculty expected to retire over the decade and the increasing number of part-time or short-term faculty positions will lead to better opportunities in colleges and universities than in the past. The growing importance and popularity of social science subjects in secondary schools also is strengthening the demand for social science teachers at that level.

People who have a master's or Ph.D. degree in political science, who are skilled in quantitative and qualitative techniques, and who also have specialized skills should have the best opportunities. Some will find jobs in the Federal Government as the expected number of retirements increases.

Employment Overview

Sociologists and political scientists held about 9,000 jobs in 2008, of which 4,900 were held by sociologists. Most sociologists worked as researchers, administrators, and counselors for a wide range of employers. The industries that employed the largest number of sociologists in 2008 were scientific research and development services, social advocacy organizations, and State and local government, excluding education and hospitals.

Many sociologists—about 37 percent—teach in colleges and universities and in secondary and elementary schools.

Political scientists held about 4,100 jobs in 2008. About 63 percent worked for the Federal Government. Most of the remainder worked in scientific research and development services and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations.

Job Zone Description

Job Zone 5 - Extensive preparation

Overall Experience
Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of medical school and up to an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to do their job.

At a minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for these occupations. However, many also require a graduate school degree such as a Master's, Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).

Job Training
Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations require that you already have the necessary skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Lawyers, instrumental musicians, physicists, counseling psychologists, and surgeons.

These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising or managing the activities of others. Very advanced communication and organization skills are required.

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Related Occupations




Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School


Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education


Political Scientists


School Psychologists


Urban and Regional Planners

Additional Resources for Sociologists Job Seekers

Information about careers in sociology is available from:

  • American Sociological Association, 1430 K St. NW., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Internet:

For information about careers in political science, contact:

  • American Political Science Association, 1527 New Hampshire Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20036. Internet:

For information about careers in public policy, contact:

  • National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, 1029 Vermont Ave. NW., Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005. Internet:

For information about careers in policy analysis, an important task for some social scientists, see "Policy analysts: Shaping society through research and problem-solving," online at and in the spring 2007 issue of the Occupational Outlook Quarterly.

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