Updated on Wednesday 27 February 2013
International students studying sociology have a variety of career options available to them after graduation. Those with an undergraduate degree can pursue jobs as case managers, research assistants or choose to attend graduate school to widen their career opportunities. Those with a graduate degree can pursue a career as a university professor, director of research, policy analyst, consultant, or statistician.
International students studying sociology have a variety of options open to them after graduation. Sociology graduates can become high school teachers, college professors, work for corporations or non-profits, or the US government. Practicing sociologists work as research analysts, survey researchers, gerontologists, statisticians, urban planners, community developers, criminologists, or demographers. Additionally, with specialized training they can become counselors or therapists. Students should be aware that while there are sociology careers open to those with bachelor's degrees, there are significantly more options available to those with a graduate degree.
With an undergraduate degree in sociology, international students have the opportunity to attain employment with a non-profit company or the government as a research assistant or case manager. For example, one might work as a social science research analyst for the Department of Labor measuring the effectiveness of their policies on disability employment. The US government employs sociologists in the Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation and as counselors and educators for the military, military schools and prisons. Additionally, the government employs sociologists to work in the National Parks educating and assisting the visitors. International students should be aware, however, that many government jobs require that the employee be a US citizen.
Non-profit sociology careers available to those with an undergraduate degree tend to be research assistant positions and case manager positions. There are many different types of studies a research assistant could be working on, from studying adolescent fertility and family structure to working for the social science research council providing United Nations decision makers with expert analysis from academic sociologists. Case managers tend to interview and counsel families or individuals in programs for at-risk groups (e.g. homeless outreach, drug intervention, etc). International students may have an edge over others in case management careers, as many require that the employee is bi-lingual.
For those interested in seeking further education, the skills developed in gaining a sociology degree (e.g. critical thinking, communication, statistics) as well as the interdisciplinary nature of sociology provides one with the tools to pursue graduate degrees in economics, political science, psychology and law, as well as sociology.
The career in sociology that most sociologists with graduate degrees pursue is a position as a university professor. University professors advise students, conduct their own research and publish their work in academic journals. Many sociologists prefer doing research as a university employee as they have the freedom to pursue the research of their choice. While the job market has been tough for those pursuing a job in academic sociology in the past several years, the American Sociology Association has reported a rebound in academic sociology careers; especially for those who focus on crime, deviance or racial and ethnic issues. A PhD is required to work as a sociology professor in a university, but those with a Master's degree may qualify to teach sociology at the community college level.
For sociologists who prefer a career in sociology outside of academia, there are jobs available in the corporate, non-profit, and government worlds as directors of research, policy analysts, consultants, and human resource managers. These sociologists tend to work in research departments conducting strategic planning for human resources, marketing, and public relations. A PhD is helpful for those wishing to attain upper-level positions in non-academic research and administration posts, but those with a master's degree in applied specialties will have better professional opportunities than those with a bachelor's degree.
Whether international students are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in sociology or not, there are a wide variety of careers in sociology to choose from.