Newsroom/ASU Online news/ What can you do with a master's in sociology? Relevant careers for graduates in the 2020s.

What can you do with a master's in sociology? Relevant careers for graduates in the 2020s.

August 12, 2020 · 7 min read · By ASU Online
A Master of Arts in sociology can help you access many career options that emphasize communication, research, management and data analysis. Students who study sociology aren’t tied to a single profession — they can pursue a variety of roles in the public and private sectors.

If you’re wondering what you can do with a master’s in sociology, one popular option is seeking roles in social and government agencies. When pursuing opportunities like this, it’s important to identify your professional goals early on. A clear objective will help you study sociology with a focus on topics that interest you and benefit your professional journey.


What does a sociologist do?

Sociologists study concepts tied to society including cultures, interactions and relationships. Specifically, the American Sociological Association said professionals utilize science and research methods to find verifiable answers to many detailed and involved questions related to society.

As part of their workday, sociologists may take on these specific tasks:

  • Analyze data and results from research findings.
  • Create questions for interviews and focus groups.
  • Create, distribute and analyze surveys.
  • Lead meetings where such questions related to society are asked.
  • Mentor, counsel and provide social services.
  • Report and provide recommendations based on their knowledge of society.


These abilities can be put to use in many career fields across the modern economy.


What’s the difference between a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in sociology?

A bachelor’s in sociology helps you develop a strong understanding of human interaction and social structures. In this master’s program, you’ll examine how social contexts impact individuals, family members and workers.

A master’s degree curriculum involves a deeper dive into theory and practice. This work involves more focus on research. It emphasizes critical thinking and interpretation of existing research and theories. Graduates with advanced sociology degrees are better equipped to compete for more advanced careers connected to this discipline. An advanced degree is often needed or recommended for senior roles and leadership positions.


What industries can you work in with a degree in sociology?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed the four fields in which sociologists are most commonly employed as of May 2019:

  1. Scientific research and development services.
  2. State governments, excluding schools and hospitals.
  3. Colleges, universities and professional schools.
  4. Management, scientific and technical consulting services.


Sociologists can apply their social science aptitude and familiarity with research methods to a variety of fields. The need to understand societies, groups and individuals spans across nonprofits, government agencies and businesses.

Sociology students discuss a project around a laptop.

What can you do with a master’s in sociology?

As a graduate with a master's degree, you’ll be equipped to compete for managerial, research and supervisory roles in many fields. Within this program, you’ll develop research skills, analytical talents and social science aptitude– all skills that are transferable to many professional roles.

The context in which graduates use these capabilities can differ. For example, a human resources professional at a for-profit business and a nonprofit leader will have very different tasks and objectives. Since this degree lends itself to so many fields and opportunities, choosing the path you want to follow is important for targeted learning and positive outcomes.

Potential employment growth areas related to sociology include:

  • Counseling and support for incarcerated and released individuals from prison.
  • Health services and research, stemming in part from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Human services related to elder care, due to the aging population.


Additional jobs for graduates with a master’s in sociology include:


Sociologist and sociological researcher

Sociologists and sociological researchers use their abilities to investigate and analyze people, groups and behavior. These positions have the strongest direct connection to the curriculum covered in a master’s in sociology program.

The BLS reported sociologists earned a median salary of $83,420 as of May 2019. Sociologists’ job outlook is positive, with 9% growth projected through 2028.


Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselor

Professionals in this role treat and support individuals facing a variety of mental and behavioral issues. They can work in both the public and private sectors. Foundational abilities for this role include communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal, to help individuals express themselves and collaboration skills with other professionals.

The BLS reported counselors in these related fields earned a median salary of $46,240 in May 2019. Employment is expected to increase 22% through 2028, indicating a strong future demand for these roles.


Community service manager

Social and community service managers focus on building and sustaining social service programs and community groups. They may work directly supporting these efforts and may supervise others doing the same. Both public and private sector organizations may operate such programs. A sociology degree and some related experience are often required for these roles.

Social and community service managers earned a median salary of $67,150 in May 2019, according to the BLS. This field has strong employment prospects, with projected growth of 13% through 2028, much more than the 5% projected across all occupations.


Government agency professional

Federal, state and local governments all employ sociologists. Understanding group behavior and culture is vital for establishing effective aid programs, among many other goals. Education and experience needs can vary depending on the specific role. However, a sociology degree is a common requirement.

Pay is similarly varied because it is based on the specific position and the agency or organization offering employment. offers useful salary information for jobs at the federal level. A master’s degree in sociology can be a path to senior roles and higher pay, along with relevant work experience.


Human resources manager

Human resources managers may work for private businesses as well as in the public sector. Sociologists can excel in this role and similar ones because of their strong understanding of societies, culture and behavior. A firm understanding of the function of human society can help identify opportunities and effectively address concerns. Graduates of a master’s program in sociology can apply this knowledge to help build a more positive and effective workplace culture.

Human resources managers earned a median salary of $116,720 in May 2019, according to the BLS. Projected growth is slightly stronger than average, at 7%. Managerial roles often require work experience as well as a degree. Graduates may begin their careers in a human resources specialist role or a similar position. With additional experience and the advantage of an advanced degree, individuals can then progress into senior roles.


Nonprofit director or executive

Sociologists can apply their analytical skills and social research talents to a number of nonprofit missions. With the right level of experience and ability, they can rise to leadership positions like director or executive of an organization.

The BLS listed the median salary for top executives at $104,690 as of May 2019. Employment is expected to grow 6% through 2028, about as fast as the average across all occupations. Substantial experience is required for executive-level roles. Sociology degree graduates can begin their career paths in a number of nonprofit positions to build up the necessary context and work experience required for executives.

It’s important to note that the main areas of focus in sociology are valuable for many professionals in the nonprofit world. Becoming an executive or director can take a significant amount of time. However, the abilities developed by a graduate of a master’s in sociology program may be quickly put to use.


How much can you earn with a sociology master’s degree?

Among the specific professions mentioned above, the median income is $83,640. The wide range of careers that sociology graduates may pursue means earnings can vary greatly. Salaries can also vary based on location, experience and other factors.


Taking the next step to a master’s in sociology with ASU Online

Applicants for a master's degree in sociology require a 3.0 grade point average from their related undergraduate program. At ASU, the online Master of Arts in sociology has multiple start dates throughout the year. Applicants must meet the basic requirements for the graduate college. Students of the graduate sociology program can develop specialization and individual focus in the curriculum. Students also take part in a three-phase capstone program designed to set, define and support their personal and professional goals. All stages of the capstone program emphasize academic and professional objectives.


ASU Online — Sociology (MA) Fact Sheet (offline document)
ASU Online — Online Sociology MA: Faculty Questions and Answers (offline document)
ASU Online — Online Master of Arts in Sociology
ASU Online — Sociology, MA: Curriculum
What Sociologists Do by the American Sociological Association
The Civil Employee’s Resource by
Human Resources Managers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Social and Community Service Managers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Top Executives by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 
Sociologists by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics



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