How to Become a Sociologist

Sociologist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $80,310
Avg. Pay / hour $38.61
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 5%

Sociologists are experienced professionals who focus their work studying the dynamics of social institutions, groups, cultures and organizations.

Their work is important in understanding human behavior and can be very helpful in a variety of settings and industries.

The majority of Sociologists with advanced degrees work for research organizations, consulting service firms or in the postsecondary sector such as colleges and universities, as well as state and local governments.

Sociologists may gather sociological data to help solve social problems and to help formulate public policy at the local, state or federal level.

Individuals pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology also have opportunities in fields such as administration, public policy, social services or education.

Education Requirements to Become a Sociologist

Individuals who want to become a Sociologist need a minimum of a Master’s degree to pursue opportunities at the research level.

Those who want to teach at the postsecondary level must also complete a PhD in Sociology.

In order for someone to become a Sociologist, an individual must first attend a bachelor’s program.

Individuals who study Sociology as an undergrad and earn this degree at the bachelor’s level also have plenty of opportunities in fields such as education, social services or public policy.

Individuals wishing to pursue an advanced degree at the Master’s level have a couple of options to choose from depending on the career path they choose.

Individuals who pursue an applied, clinical or professional program are preparing themselves for the workforce in order to apply for sociological research positions.

On the other hand, individuals who pursue a Master’s in Sociology under a traditional program are gearing themselves for a PhD program.

The majority of individuals who complete a PhD in Sociology tend to teach at the postsecondary level or work in the nonprofit, government or business sectors and perform research.

Individuals pursuing a Master’s or a PhD in Sociology will take advanced classes in research methods and statistics.

In addition, many programs offer internship opportunities that give students the opportunity to gain hands on experience in research and reporting, sometimes for actual clients.

Sociologist Job Description

Sociologists are experienced professionals who start by observing groups, organizations, cultures, social establishments and other processes developed by people to understand society and social behavior.

The studying and observations involved are needed to fully understand these groups under the larger context of political, economic and social forces.

Sociologists at the research level will be responsible for creating, planning and designing research projects that are geared to assess social issues theories or concepts.

Once a research project has been developed, they will implement it by collecting data in the following forms:

  • Surveys
  • Observations
  • Interviews

After gathering enough data, Sociologists will begin to analyze the information to draw conclusions.

They will then create reports, articles, or presentations detailing the conclusions drawn out from the research they performed.

Depending on the organization they work for, Sociologists will present and review their findings as well as consult and advise their clients, policymakers or other professionals requesting information gleaned from their research.

Some Sociologists may also specialize in a specific field such as: education, health, aging, poverty, families, racial and ethnic relations, crime, gender or population.

Sociologist Salary and Career Path

Individuals who want to become a Sociologist can expect the median annual income to be approximately $74,960, according to figures from 2012.

Exact wages will heavily depend on the industry an individual works in.

Sociologists have the potential to earn up to $120,000 per year.

Job projections for Sociologists also look promising as the number of jobs are expected to increase by 15 percent through the year 2022.

Opportunities for sociologists are expected to increase because of the demand for their skills and services are needed to understand human behavior in a variety of industries including government and business entities.

However, because Sociology as a profession is relatively small, the actual number of job openings expected to be created through 2022 I approximately 400.

Individuals who have a high interest in human behavior and the dynamics of social, government or even business institutions will find that a job as a Sociologist may be a natural fit.

There are plenty of opportunities whether an individual chooses to seek an undergraduate, Master’s or PhD in Sociology.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Jersey$79,810
New York$97,170
North Carolina$110,000

The top earning state in the field is Illinois, where the average salary is $117,710.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Illinois - $117,710
North Carolina - $110,000
California - $102,230
Massachusetts - $99,040
New York - $97,170
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Sociologists, OCC Code 19-3041, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a sociologist do?

A sociologist is an expert who studies social behavior and society by examining whole groups, cultures, social institutions, and organizations, as well as the processes of human development and application of these to the real world.

A lot of professionals from other fields use the works of sociologists to solve social problems (lawmakers, educators, social workers, and administrators, for example).

The majority of sociologists work in universities, colleges, research organizations, the government, and consulting service firms.

Sociologists can specialize in a wide range of spheres – education, health, marriage, crime, public policy, population, work roles, aging, and so on.

The typical responsibilities of a sociologist usually include testing theories about social issues; collecting data; analyzing and drawing conclusions; preparing reports; advising clients, etc.

How much do sociologists make?

On average, a sociologist can make a little more than $82.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $46.000 and $140.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location, and so on.

The professionals that work in Pennsylvania, California, and Massachusetts, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level sociologist can earn around $22 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $67 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a sociologist?

You would need to have at least a master’s degree, in order to become a sociologist; you can also enter a Ph.D. program.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (bear in mind that the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

A master’s degree will typically cost you over $30.000.

A doctorate degree can cost you anywhere between $36.000 and $49.000 and more.

What is the demand for sociologists?

Between 2016 and 2026, the sociologist job market is expected to remain the same, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The career will be providing poor employment opportunities in the future in the United States.

The competition will remain extremely high.

Bear in mind that the candidates with a Ph.D. will have better job perspectives.

The industry is mainly concentrated in New York, North Carolina, and California.

How long does it take to become a sociologist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to get a master’s degree.

You can consider seeking an internship during your last year in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of employers prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of experience.

Earning a Ph.D. can take you around 5-6 years to complete (sometimes more); this time, usually, involves 2-3 years of qualifying exams and coursework and a number of years that you would need to complete a dissertation.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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