How to Get a Master's Degree in Sociology

Earn the technical and analytical skills you need with a master's degree in sociology. Use the master's degree to learn research and statistical analysis techniques, analyze sociological groups, and pursue your career and educational goals. With a master's degree in sociology, you expand and deepen your knowledge in a field that interests you.

Sociology Master's Degree Spotlight

A type of social science degree, sociology master's degrees allow you to pursue a range of coursework in the field over a period of two years of full-time study. Part-time students can take up to five years to complete the degree. Sociology master's degrees offer a deeper look into human behavior within organizational structures. Graduates of sociology master's degree programs go on to a range of careers, including:

  • High school teachers
  • Corporate, nonprofit, or government positions
  • Directors of research & survey researchers
  • Research & policy analysts
  • Human resource managers
  • Statisticians & demographers
  • Urban planners & community developers

As you can see, sociology master's degrees can have broad applications. Combine your work experience with a master's degree and move up the career ladder, or change directions with graduate training. A graduate level of education in sociology can offer you the tools you need to move ahead with your long-term career plans.

How to Earn a Master's Degree in Sociology

If you're ready to start thinking about sociology degrees, it's time to learn the basics for this popular master's degree program.

Step 1: Consider Your Sociology Master's Degree Options

The sociology master's degree generally requires two years of full-time study. Choose from the two major options for your degree:

  • Master of Arts (MA): A broad based degree focused on sociology theory. Graduates go on to doctoral programs, positions in business and social services, government work, jobs in journalism or politics, and more.
  • Master of Science (MS): Often considered an applied degree, it focuses on research methodology more than the MA. Graduates go on to the careers or academic work listed above, particularly those with a focus on research.

The degrees above are considered academically equivalent, meaning one degree is not inherently preferable to the other. Beyond general major types, sociology programs offer a wealth of specializations:

  • Culture, Race, & Ethnicity
  • Family, Life Course, & Gender
  • Global Inequality & Change
  • Immigration & Population
  • Organizations, Occupations, & Labor
  • Social Inequality & Class/Stratification
  • Social Movements & Political Sociology
  • Social Networks

Choose your degree type and specialization based on your interests, career goals, and the offerings you find in individual programs. You can learn more about individual schools in your next step.

Step 2: Establish a List of Potential Sociology Master's Degree Programs

Next, create a list of potential sociology master's degree programs. Browse online resources to create your list and learn more about specializations and other individual offerings from sociology schools across the country. Don't worry yet about narrowing your options for now, work to create a comprehensive list. Use these resources to begin your research:

  • Ranking Sites: Review publications and websites that maintain program rankings based on a range of factors. For example, U.S. News and World Report ranks the best sociology graduate schools.
  • Professional Organizations:Learn more about sociology itself and the colleges that maintain membership in professional organizations within the field. The American Sociological Association is a good place to look for sociology resources in education and beyond.
  • School Listings: Browse listings of schools at WorldWideLearn.com and use the site to simplify the process of contacting programs for more information. See listings for sociology degrees, as well as listings in related degrees like gerontology and counseling.

Once you've created a list of potential sociology master's degree programs, you should begin to get an idea of the scope of degrees and specializations available to you. In your next step, consider whether you want to earn a master's degree online or on campus.

Step 3: Think About Both Campus and Online Sociology Master's Degrees

Your next step should be to consider how you would prefer to earn your sociology master's degree. Because master's degree programs in sociology don't necessitate hands-on research, you can choose between online and campus programs. Adult learners benefit from both online and campus programs; your learning style and needs help determine which style is right for you. Whether you're interested in the hands-on methods of the campus classroom or the flexibility and convenience of online learning, your choice should reflect your personal needs.

Step 4: Ensure Accreditation Status in Each Sociology Master's Degree Program

Make sure your sociology program meets standards set by a third-party agency that evaluates schools for quality, based on elements like:

  • Academic records
  • Faculty hiring practices
  • Financial accountability

It's up to you to make sure that each sociology school on your list holds current accreditation. Even if you recognize the name of a particular school, it's important to double check. (For more information on the accreditation process, see WorldWideLearn.com's guide.) Make sure your sociology institution is accredited and enjoy the following benefits:

  • Employers and schools value your school transcripts and credits
  • Eligibility for federal financial aid
  • Help ensure that your sociology master's degree is valued
  • Increase your confidence in the quality of your educational program

Fortunately, it's easy to search the U.S. Department of Education's database for the schools on your list. This step of the process can take some time depending on the length of your list, and both campus and online master's degree programs should be accredited.

Step 4: Focus Down Your Sociology Master's Degree List

At this point, you should have a list of accredited schools, each offering strong potential options for your sociology master's degree. Now, it's time to take that list and begin to focus your options. Allow your personal preferences to guide you as you begin eliminating schools. Use the following categories to get started:

  • Admission Standards: Each master's degree program has its own specific admission standards. Schools may require transcripts, resumes, recommendation letters, test scores, and more.
  • Location: Consider each school's location if you plan to study on campus. Find out more about the cost of living and employment statistics for each location. The areas with the best job opportunities for sociology graduates could make life easier if you're looking for an internship or a job during or after your time in school.
  • Convenience: If you've decided to earn a master's degree online, consider the technical details of each school. One program may offer an extensive sociology reference library online, while another could present course material visually or verbally. Remember that no two online universities are alike; think about what you value most in terms of accessible technology.
  • Finances: Focus on your bottom line by thinking about the potential cost associated with earning your sociology master's degree. Balance tuition and things like cost of living with available federal financial aid and grants or scholarships. Think about how your potential post-graduation salary could stack up against the debt you may accrue in school.
  • Reputation: From official rankings to potential employer opinion, the reputation of the school can mean the world to your career and educational future. Make sure you balance rankings and school reputations with the price tag attached; the programs that rank at the top of rankings lists may not be as good a deal as the school that offers you the same knowledge for a lower price.
  • Faculty: Think about the faculty members for your master's degree program. Find out where professors are researching by reading faculty biographies on individual department websites. Give extra consideration to schools where the publication interests of faculty members match your own, and look for departments with strong overall faculty teams over one or two famous professors.
  • Extras: As your last step in the focusing process, consider the perks offered by each sociology master's degree program. Students might be encouraged to complete an internship, delve into engaging community service projects, or teach classes. Consider these extra perks as your final step to finalizing your list of schools.

Once you've worked your way through the list, you should have created a short list of strong sociology schools that truly meet your preferences. This personalized list should give you confidence; you've learned more about the master's degree in general and you should be ready to take the next step. Next, begin the degree application process with only the strongest schools on your list.

How to Apply for Sociology Master's Degree Programs

Apply to your top list of sociology master's degree programs. Because you're working with a short list of preferred schools, you should ultimately save time and money on your application process. Whether you choose a master's degree online or on campus, you need to submit a different application to each school. Keep the following in mind as you begin the application process:

  • Meet Requirements: Each school has different admissions requirements for students. These requirements range from resumes to recommendation letters, transcripts to test scores. For more information on individual requirements, contact each sociology program.
  • Observe Deadlines: Along with unique application requirements, each application may have different deadlines. Keep your process organized by using a calendar to observe deadlines for transcripts, test scores, and application packets.
  • Get Educated: As you apply, learn more about sociology itself. Browse professional organizations like the American Sociological Association for more information on the professional sociology world.

Researching sociology programs takes time and effort, but you benefit from learning more about the degree itself along with the application process. When the time comes to apply to your top choices for your sociology master's degree, you are more likely to go through the process with less stress and more confidence.

Sources

  • American Sociological Association
  • Graduate Program University of California, Irvine
  • Master of Science in Applied Sociology, Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Rankings: Sociology, U.S. News & World Report
  • Search Institutional Accreditation System, U.S. Department of Education
  • What can I do with a sociology degree? Ball State University

Pursue your Sociology major today…

 
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