How to Become a Sociologist: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Sociologists are social scientists. They study people, but on a larger scale than the individual: they are interested in institutions, social behavior and social change. Sociologists use all kinds of research methods, including surveys, interviews, and statistical analysis; research sociologists often do fieldwork in which they spend time in organizations in order to find out how they work. When they have finished studying a group, sociologists publish their findings in books and articles, contributing to our understanding of how our society works and how it changes.  


Annual salaries for sociologists will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for sociologists working in the U.S. was $78,120 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for sociologists, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Sociology

California leads the nation in employment for sociologists, with 510 currently working statewide, and earning an annual mean wage of $86,750. New York State is second—460 sociologists earn an average salary of $77,060.

The metro areas employing the most sociologists are:

  • New York-White Plains (420)
  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (220)
  • Philadelphia (210)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of sociologists are:

  • Ann Arbor, MI (0.99 jobs per thousand)
  • Durham-Chapel Hill, NC (0.14 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid sociologists are:

  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (average annual salary $107,760)
  • San Diego, CA (average annual salary $96,490)

Employment and Salary Information for Sociologists

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a sociologist. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Sociology

Why Become A Sociologist?

Sociologists help us learn about ourselves, and their insights shape public policies, government programs, and business practices. Here are some other reasons to consider becoming a sociologist:

  • Growing field. The number of jobs in sociology is projected to rise by 15% between 2012 and 2022—faster than the U.S. average.
  • Get out of the office. Sociologists often do fieldwork, in which they go into a workplace or social setting and watch what people do, using their insights in their research.
  • Original ideas. Sociologists are expected to have insights of their own and make original contributions to the field.
  • Be a published author. Sociologists often publish articles and books about their work.
  • Pays well. An average of $78,120 per year.

Sociology: What You Need To Know

Sociologists need to have a strong feel for data. But because they study people, they also need intense curiosity about people, and excellent social skills. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Sociological Theory
  • Research Methods
  • Data Analysis
  • Interview Skills
  • Writing
  • Communication

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about sociology careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Sociology Careers

Traditional master’s degree / PhD

There may be a few opportunities for people with bachelor’s degrees in sociology, but most people gain master’s degrees or PhDs before becoming sociologists.

There are two types of master’s in sociology. Many universities offer sociology degrees of one or both kinds, usually featuring coursework on public policy, community service and advocacy, contemporary social problems, globalization, and social psychology.

The first is a traditional master’s program in sociology prepares students for a PhD in the subject. This degree prepares students for teaching positions in postsecondary institutions and high-level research roles in government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses. Students completing such a master’s will often go on to gain a PhD in sociology.

Applied master’s degree

The second type of master’s degree is an applied, clinical, and professional program develops students’ skills in sociological research. This degree gives students the expertise to enter the professional workplace.