The jumble of headlines and news events that capture the world’s attention may seem chaotic and disordered to the untrained eye. But sociologists see things differently: They have the training to connect everyday life with larger systems that govern how societies function and evolve.
Sociologists must be taught how to conduct careful analysis of social structures and patterns. Their work can help reduce and resolve conflict, expand social justice and economic opportunity, and create sustainable plans for the future. If that sounds like what you you’re looking for in a career, you should consider pursuing sociological research and education.
This guide will provide an overview of what it takes to become a sociology teacher or professor, including the prerequisite education, likely income, and advantages and disadvantages of this career. Browse through the article or use the following links to skip forward to what you’re looking for:
|High school sociology teacher||Community college sociology teacher||Four-year college/university sociology professor|
|Minimum education||Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred||Master’s degree; doctorate preferred||Doctorate|
|Estimated annual income||$57,200 (BLS)
$65,720 (Houston Chronicle)
$73,080 (Houston Chronicle)
$61,734 to $101,256 (ASA)
Sociologists study our social interactions to find patterns that shape our culture, politics and society. Sociology teachers help their students understand the meaning of past sociological studies and show them how to conduct this kind of research themselves.
Sociology teachers work in high schools, community colleges, and universities. Some work online in distance-learning programs. At the university level, they do research that collects information firsthand from surveys, direct observations and interviews. They also analyze data gathered by others.
In addition to classroom work and research, sociology teachers may form working groups and provide guidance to organizations on sociological questions. Many sociologists develop their careers by consulting in the public or private sector (such as think tanks) or publishing books and research articles.
To teach sociology at a junior college, you’ll probably need at least a master’s degree, but you’ll need a doctorate to land a job as a professor at a research university. In any case, candidates with the most advanced degrees and research experience will be the most employable.
Sociology professors often teach part time but work odd hours of the day and night to conduct their research. If your studies are funded by grants, you may not teach at all. Full-time sociology teachers from high school through the university level typically enjoy paid holidays and vacations in addition to pensions and health insurance. Part-time and adjunct teachers, by contrast, often earn less pay and get few benefits.
Someone who is:
Check out this video to get a better sense of what you’ll encounter when pursuing a career in sociology research and education.
The road to becoming a sociology teacher depends on which employment environment you pursue: high school, community college or university. Let’s take a look at these career paths in more detail.
Sociology teachers introduce students to the study of social behavior and society at public and private high schools.Continue reading to learn more about high school sociology teachers
Sociology teachers give students their first chance to understand the origins and evolution of our society’s social networks and institutions.
High school sociology teachers’ responsibilities include:
High school sociology teachers hold classes on a daily schedule for nine or 10 months of the year. They may also work with students one-on-one or in smaller groups outside of class. Sociology teachers also set aside time outside of the daily class schedule to prepare for each day’s lesson and to grade student work and tests.
High school sociology teachers lead classes on topics like:
High school sociology teachers must maintain a deep understanding of these subdomains of knowledge to succeed in their profession.
A bachelor’s degree in sociology, anthropology, history or another social science qualifies you to teach sociology in most U.S. high schools. A bachelor’s degree in sociology may give you a special advantage in hiring since many schools prefer a teacher with a degree in the subject. High school sociology teachers also need a teaching credential that meets state standards. And if you want a higher salary and better job opportunities, pursue a master’s degree in a social science or an education-related subject.
Most high school sociology teachers also teach social studies, social issues and related subjects like history and civics, but few of them teach only sociology. This makes it hard to pin down accurate salary estimates, but we can make reasonably accurate estimates for similar job titles.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the average annual salary for all high school teachers, and career-related websites offer average salaries for high school social studies teachers:
It will help to think through the positive and negative aspects of becoming a high school sociology teacher.
These instructors work at local or regional two-year colleges.Continue reading to learn more about community college sociology instructors
At the community college level, sociology instructors teach students about human behavior and social organization within the context of larger social, political and economic forces.
Here are some of their main responsibilities:
At minimum, community college sociology instructors must have a master’s degree in sociology or a similar field. Getting hired as full-time faculty at a community college can be very competitive, so you may also need to have a doctorate in sociology or another relevant field.
Sociology instructors at community colleges may make significantly more than high school teachers. Here are a couple of estimates of what you might earn as a full-time sociology instructor at a community college:
Full-time faculty at community colleges generally command higher salaries than adjunct instructors. Adjunct instructors are paid by the course and don’t always receive benefits. For more about the difference between full-time faculty and adjunct instructors, check out our article on community college instructors.
These are the key advantages and disadvantages of becoming a community college sociology instructor:
Sociology professors teach courses, conduct research and publish academic papers and books.Continue reading to learn more about university-level sociology professors
Sociology professors teach college-level courses in sociology at universities and other four-year institutions of higher education. They also conduct research in a specialized area of sociology and publish their findings in academic papers and books. Here’s a closer look at their three main responsibilities: research, teaching and faculty management.
A sociology professor’s research duties usually include:
Sociology professors’ teaching duties usually include:
Professors lead teams of teaching assistants who help with many key teaching tasks. Sociology professors use their discretion in deciding how closely to manage their assistants as they carry out the following tasks:
Helping out the larger academic community may include:
Check out this video featuring an assistant sociology professor:
Gaining a professorship at a university or four-year college can be a monumental task. At minimum, aspiring sociology professors will have to complete a doctorate demonstrating a commitment to research and inquiry in the field of sociology. Getting a full-time faculty position at a college or university also requires that you publish original research and earn the respect and admiration of your colleagues.
Sociology professors usually earn significantly more than high school and community college teachers. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a sociology professor is $79,230. Here are more annual salary estimates for sociology professors:
Consider both the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a sociology professor at a four-year college or university.
If you are serious about becoming a sociology teacher, start thinking about how to improve your career prospects and develop your skills and connections. Completing a sociology-related internship or research fellowship at the undergraduate or graduate level will give prospective sociology teachers a good start to a career in sociology research and education. Becoming involved in high-profile sociological research will be enormously helpful because it cultivates a background in statistics and research.
You should also consider getting involved in one of the many sociology-focused research and professional organizations, including:
These groups will keep you up-to-date on the latest advances in sociology and give you access to networking opportunities.
Your ultimate goal in this field is to obtain tenure as a sociology professor. The publishing requirements for tenure are exacting, with most prestigious journals accepting only 10 percent of papers submitted. You might also advance to department head, which would mean performing more administrative duties and/or relaying the concerns of the sociology department to the university at large.
To become a sociology teacher at any level, you should seriously consider pursuing a master’s degree or a doctorate. While you may be able to find a job teaching high school sociology without an advanced degree, most jobs in sociology education and research require a higher degree.
With additional education or certification, sociology teachers may become librarians, instructional coordinators, assistant principals, principals or an educational administrator at a college or university.
Librarian: A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is generally required for employment. Some states also require librarians to pass a standardized test.
Instructional coordinator: Instructional coordinators generally need to complete a master’s degree related to a subject like curriculum and instruction, and they may be required to have a teaching or education administrator license.
Academic advisor: With a master’s degree in an education-related field, you can transition into being an academic advisor at either the K-12 or college/university level.
Education consultant: Sociology teachers can become education consultants if they want to tackle challenges in a variety of schools and education systems. You’ll probably need an advanced degree in an education-related subject.
Education policy analyst: With an advanced degree in an education-related subject, sociology teachers can become policy analysts and examine big-picture issues affecting education nationwide.
School principal: Sociology teachers wishing to become a school principal should seriously consider earning a master’s degree in an education-related field. Most states also require public school principals to be licensed as school administrators.
Educational administrator: Depending upon the position, either a bachelor’s or master’s degree may be required. For a higher-level position such as dean or president, a master’s degree or doctorate in educational leadership may be required.
The web makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent sociology scholars and educators. Here is a list of our favorite websites and Twitter handles, in no particular order.