Career Resources for Sociology Majors & Minors
There are so many great opportunities for Sociology Majors and Minors! We want to help you start out strong as you plan your career, so we came up with some helpful resources available online and on campus. And we want to help you start that process long before you walk across the stage at graduation.
We recommend that students begin exploring career options when they declare their sociology major or in their sophomore year, whichever comes first. So, what should you do to start planning for your career?
Most students should begin by doing some research on their own to identify their core interests. Our majors and minors receive a Sociology- A 21st Century Major booklet in the informational folder distributed by our faculty advisors or in the sociology main office (Bolton 714). Reviewing this booklet can help you identify some broad professional interests. There are other informational resources on the American Sociological Association website (asanet.org). These resources will give you plenty of detailed information and ideas. In general, what you will see is that students with sociology degrees are prepared to take on many sorts of careers. Some will go to graduate school and become professional researchers and academics. But more will enter careers in social services, business, or government agency work. Being able to understand and analyze social behavior is an important skill in such fields. Other key skills sociology courses cultivate in students include:
- The development of “systems” thinking and an understanding how different parts of larger social systems interact;
- Identifying complex social problem and their solutions;
- Evaluating complex sources of information and distilling relevant facts and trends to inform a particular issue or problem;
- Deeper understanding of cultural and social class divides that can impact group dynamics in professional settings and strategies for overcoming those divides;
- Knowledge of research methods and statistics necessary to understand research-based information sources;
- The ability to communicate with diverse audiences in culturally appropriate ways through a variety of mediums (online, written, oral);
- Project design and management.
These skills can be applied in a number of specific industries and areas and will often prepare students for careers in a range of management (store or program manager, Human Resources manager, Diversity Officer), research (Research Assistant/Analyst, Marketing Analyst, Data Analyst), or Sales (Sales Representative) positions, among other careers. Here is just one testimonial from one of our majors, Lindsey Bouwens, BA ’15:
“My name is Lindsey Bouwens, and I am a commercial lines underwriter at Acuity Insurance. As an underwriter, I analyze information from a number of sources to determine if we want to write an account, the coverages we are willing to offer, and the premium. Studying sociology at UWM helped me develop the analytical and problem-solving that I apply to my position every day. Often times, there is no “right and wrong”. Life is full of gray areas, and it’s my job to determine the best course of action with the information that is available. I must be able to problem solve, and come up with my own research based solutions/opinions, because there are often times where you are working in uncharted waters. Taking the research methods course helped me build confidence in the decisions I make. You must be able to justify why you handled a situation in a certain way, because if you survey 100 underwriters, 50 may agree with your decision and 50 may disagree. This is much like the research methods course where you can go in many different directions, and some of your peers may disagree with your choices. Overall, my sociology degree is crucial to my job performance, and helped prepare me for the complexities of the job”
In addition to moving directly into the workforce after graduation, UWM sociology students can also continue their education in master’s, PhD, and professional degree programs. Sociology students go on to pursue advanced education in sociology, the law, social work, criminal justice, higher education administration, public policy, and other programs. Former UWM sociology student Dayton Dunbar (’19) describes how a degree in sociology prepared him for law school:
“A crucial part of understanding and learning the law is being able to clearly analyze the policy implications that result from it. The courts will often justify a ruling by looking to see whether or not it will result in good or bad public policy. A sociology degree from UWM has prepared me to effectively approach and analyze the difficult legal issues presented by the courts’ decisions, especially those that implicate social policy. Both education and practice in the law require intensive research skills. Though legal research is different than social research, I attribute the ease of which I learned how to conduct legal research from the social research skills I obtained at UWM. Looking forward, my education in sociology will continuously bolster the important ability of understanding my clients’ backgrounds and needs, which will help me better serve them with legal aid. Finally, I stress the importance of utilizing college education to build a network of colleagues and faculty members, which the UWM sociology department easily facilitates with a highly approachable and friendly faculty.”
Students should also regularly utilize the resources available through the Career Planning and Resource Center at UWM. The center is about more than resume preparation. The career professionals there can help you identify your professional goals and teach you techniques (like informational interviewing and shadowing) to learn more about professional careers. They can also help you develop your job search strategy and the necessary tools needed (like a cover letter, resume, and professional online profile), as well as connect you with UWM alumni who may be able to provide you with information or advice in a particular industry or career. This is a fantastic resource that you should definitely be using!
We also recommend that our students cultivate relationships with our faculty and engage them in this process. Do your professors have contacts in a particular area or industry? Can they help you translate the skills and knowledge you have gained in a particular course so that they are clear to potential employers? You may want to connect with our faculty through social media, like the UWM Facebook page, or by contacting individual faculty via sites like LinkedIn. Of course, you can also talk with them in person. Cultivating and maintaining a professional network while you are a student at UWM is good practice and can be a source of information and support as you continue to develop as a professional.
Finding the right career after you graduate is an important goal, and we also recommend reading this article: Preparing for a 21st Century Job Hunt with a BA in Sociology. The sooner you start, the better prepared you will be to engage in professional and civic life as a college graduate. UWM and the Sociology Department are here to help support you in this process!