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About Sociology

The UWM Department of Sociology welcomes you! Sociologists try to look systematically at the world, to go beyond “common sense” and “what everybody knows” in order to uncover the fundamental patterns that shape our interdependent lives. The sociology department can help you learn how to look at the world in a new way. We provide relevant, engaged, and challenging courses for undergraduate majors and minors, for graduate students, and for the student body at large. Every year more than 3,600 students enroll in our courses.

What is sociology?

Sociology is the study of the social world around us, the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges widely, from the family to the anonymous crowd, organized crime to organized religion, from inequality along the lines of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture, and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports.

Sociology offers a unique way of observing and understanding the social world in which we dwell. Sociology looks beyond taken-for-granted views of reality to provide deeper, more illuminating and challenging understandings of social life. Through its particular analytical perspective, theoretical approaches, and research methods, sociology expands our awareness of social relationships, cultures, and institutions that profoundly shape both our lives and human history.

Sociology also helps us to understand more clearly the forces shaping the particulars of our own lives. The ability to see and understand this connection between large-scale social forces and personal experience, what C. Wright Mills called “the sociological imagination,” offers invaluable academic preparation for our personal and professional lives in an ever-changing society.

Why take sociology?

Many of the pleasures and pains you encounter in life result from the fact that you depend upon others for what you want — parents, friends, employers, musicians, technicians — the list could go on and on. And if you look beyond yourself to the lives of others you cannot help but notice that the same is true for them. At the heart of sociology is the fact of human interdependence. Not only what you want and what you get from others, but also who you are, what you can do, must do, and how much pleasure and pain comes your way, all depend upon these relationships of interdependence. Taking sociology can help you understand the patterns of human interdependence that shape your daily life.

Taking sociology classes will also help you gain important skills. You may learn specific marketable skills, such as how to use statistical software. More generally, you will learn how to engage in critical analysis, an ability that will serve you well no matter what your future career.

What can I do with sociology?

People who get a B.A. in Sociology are often employed in the helping professions, in business, and in various public welfare positions, especially those dealing with social programs and their implementation. Only those students who graduate from our M.A. program are employed in jobs with the title “sociologist,” since that title requires graduate training.

Career opportunities for students with a degree in sociology include: administration, advertising, banking, counseling (family planning, career, substance abuse, etc.), community planning, health services, journalism, group and recreation work, marketing and market research, sales, teaching, human resources/personnel, social services, and social research.

A sociology minor aids those going into such varied fields as business, counseling, health services, teaching and the social services. People who work in these fields often have to make decisions based on analysis of social trends and phenomena. The minor gives professionals some of the grounding in methodology and technique that they need to do their work.