Education and Training Requirements

High School

Since a master's degree is recommended, if not required, in this field, you should take college prep courses while in high school. Take English classes to develop composition skills; you will be expected to present your research findings in reports, articles, and books. In addition to sociology classes, you should take other classes in the social sciences, such as psychology, history, and anthropology. Math and business will prepare you for the analysis of statistics and surveys. Government and history classes will help you to understand some of the basic principles of society, and journalism courses will bring you up to date on current issues.

Postsecondary Training

Most sociologists get their undergraduate degree in sociology, but a major in other areas of the liberal arts is also possible. Courses that you will likely take include statistics, mathematics, psychology, logic, and possibly a foreign language. In addition, keep up your computer skills because the computer is an indispensable research and communication tool.

Keep in mind that only limited entry-level positions will be available to you with only a bachelor's degree. New graduates may be able to start as a research assistant or interviewer. These workers are needed in research organizations, social service agencies, and corporate marketing departments.

Students who go on to get their master's and doctorate degrees will have a wider variety of employment opportunities. With a master's degree, opportunities are available in the federal government, industrial firms, or research organizations. Individuals with specific training in research methods will have an advantage. Those with a master's degree can also teach at the community or junior college level.

More than half of all sociologists hold doctorates. A large majority of the sociologists at the doctoral level teach in four-year colleges and universities throughout the country. Job candidates fare best if their graduate work includes specialized research and fieldwork.

Other Education or Training

A variety of webinars, conference seminars, and other continuing education (CE) opportunities are offered by professional associations such as the American Sociological Association and the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology offers the voluntary certified applied sociologist and certified clinical sociologist designations to those who submit a portfolio of their academic and practice background, current practice, and ethical positions, as well as complete a certification demonstration (which covers their portfolio in more detail) at a professional meeting. Contact the association for more information. 

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Many sociologists pursue careers as college professors. Previous teaching experience (student teaching, etc.) is necessary to become a college teacher; it will take several years at the minimum to gain tenure and advance to the rank of professor.

In addition to the natural curiosity mentioned above, a good sociologist must also possess an open mind. You must be able to assess situations without bias or prejudice that could affect the results of your studies. Social awareness is also important. As a sociologist, you must pay close attention to the world around you, to the way the world progresses and changes. Because new social issues arise every day, you will be frequently reading newspapers, magazines, and reports to maintain an informed perspective on these issues. Many sociologists also use social media and the Internet in general to gather information and conduct research.

Good communication skills are valuable to the sociologist. In many cases, gathering information will involve interviewing people and interacting within their societies. The better your communication skills, the more information you can get from the people you interview.