What can I do with a Sociology degree?
Studying Sociology gives you an opportunity to have a career that you always wanted. If there is a social injustice that you want to change, then a Sociology degree could be right for you. Andrew Dalton, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, talks about why Sociology is worth studying, why Sunderland is the right place to do so and what career opportunities students have after graduating.
"Students tend to have a burning social issue they want to change."
Sociology is a diverse area of study and includes the family, sexuality, gender, the state, education, globalisation, health and medicine, and welfare and poverty. Its focus is to consider how social structures interact with individual choice, the inequalities and divisions which can undermine social stability and the shared beliefs which create the basis for a common culture.
Drew says: "I think it’s really important to say that when students graduate they come out of the University as qualified social researchers and a great number of sociologists go and work for large research organisations, whether it's government, the United Nations or a smaller charity.
"In terms of what you can expect from careers with a sociology degree, Sociologists do a lot of applied work. They go out into the world, explore what the problem is, and if there is a social problem happening, they'll research it, understand why that’s happening and try and change policy to make it better.
"We tend to find that a lot of students have a burning social issue that they are quite passionate about and they want to change that by going into a career or industry where they can change that social issue and that social problem or inequality.
"I always ask students: 'Are you the type of person that wants to change the world?'
The Sociology course looks at the most important issues facing our society today including poverty, culture, immigration and refugees, families, global issues, social exclusion, race, disability, gender, sexuality, politics and policy and social class divisions. Students will cover topical and dynamic content, reflecting current social issues, policy and what is happening in society today.
Drew explains: "Our degree is purposely structured so that people who want to study sociology can narrow their focus to particular areas. For example, it might be that they want to work in domestic abuse with survivors or perpetrators. So we would suggest they focus on gender and crime as they go through their degree, so that they have the best chance of finding the sociology jobs that are right for them when they graduate.
"Same goes with global issues, sexuality, racism or any other group or topic that fascinates them and they want to do. We can ensure that they can narrow focus all the way through their degree. I always say to students: 'Are you the type of student and person that wants to change the world?', and if so then this course is ideal for you because these are the type of people we get on the programme. They are fiery, passionate, interested in wanting to do something and all of them have some kind of social injustice that they want to change.
"We've been to Nepal and Kenya and next year we are going to Uganda"
We're proud to say that our Sociology programme has had 100% Overall Satisfaction for two consecutive years (National Student Survey 2021, 2020). The University of Sunderland was also ranked 12th in the Courses and Lecturers category of the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019. Our sociology students have, for example, taking part in national and international trips to London, Kenya and Nepal.
"A lot of our students go into doing very successful work at a local level or global level and that’s probably because we do a lot of extras that they may not get at another university. For example, one of them is a placement in their second year where they go out into the industry and do social research for an organisation.
"We offer internships in organisations that can run right throughout your programme as well. We also offer trips abroad. We’ve been to Nepal where we've been exploring child labour practices and Kenya where we’ve done some work looking at gender inequality and education. Next year we are going to Uganda.
"We've been asked by a charity to find out where child labour is happening in Nepal."
"We've been to Nepal for two weeks because the charity, Street Child, asked us to do some scoping research for them to find out where child labour is happening. We’ve found that it was happening in the carpet and rug making industries, domestic labour, agriculture and in quarries and mines. The Nepali government have actually outlawed child labour so it’s illegal but still happening.
"We went to Kenya last year and we looked at gender and inequality because there, you only get primary school funded, not secondary, so parents have to pay for education themselves. What they tend to do is favour a boy and if there are a boy and girl in the family structure, a boy always get priority under the belief that he would get a job and pay for the rest of the family and support them.
"So they marry a girl young and very often these girls are being married at the age of 13 into violent relationships because a family can’t afford to feed her. The deeper problem is that if that girl was educated as well, she would provide additional income for the home and would be less likely to go into destructive relationships and would be better for it. We were looking at working with the community on changing attitudes and how to collect data on finding where these girls are going and what’s happening to them," Drew explains
Traditionally, students go into crime and criminal justice, so they may be interested in working in probation or with offenders or young people in the criminal justice system. We also get people who go into social research, humanitarian causes or work with vulnerable adults and children. They can also go into teaching. It can be broad. It’s only limited by your imagination."
Senior Lecturer in Sociology
"Students are putting research into practice, they get a reference and something additional on their CV."
Trips to countries like Nepal and Kenya are beneficial for personal development, but also for your CV.
Drew says: "It gives students that international experience which I think in a globalised world is really important these days. With everything that’s happening right now, having that global outlook is a positive thing because we seem to be shrinking our minds rather than opening them.
"For students, having those opportunities is really important and completing their placement in their second year is vital because they are not just learning research from textbooks, they are putting it into practice to prepare for whatever careers they go into with their Sociology degree. They receive a reference and it's something additional for their CV. For some students, it’s the first time they ever enter the professional workplace, so it gives them that opportunity to do things.
"Another thing we encourage is volunteering and that's really important. When students are studying social problems and inequalities, we align them with volunteering because all of us in terms of our lecturing staff come from work backgrounds, not traditional academia, so we have a lot of contacts. We push them into volunteering and that’s really noticeable because sociology had the highest take up of SUPA awards."
"Career opportunities are only limited by your imagination."
You'll be opened up to many opportunities and careers with a Sociology degree. Your skills in analysing data, undertaking research and developing strong arguments will be highly valued by many employers. You will graduate ready to work in a range of employment settings due to the transferable skills, broad knowledge base and critical awareness that studying Sociology provides.
Drew says: "Traditionally, students go into crime and criminal justice, so they may be interested in working in probation or with offenders or young people in the criminal justice system. We also get people who go into social research or humanitarian causes, so they work for the UN or within HIV and AIDS, or international development. Students also go to work with vulnerable adults and children. They can also go into teaching. It can be broad. It’s only limited by your imagination.
"We sit down with students from day one and ask if they have an idea of an area that they are interested in and they might say human rights. They might not know what job, but we try to help them as much as we can to point them in that direction."
Previous graduates now work in a wide range of sociology jobs, in the fields of education, mental health, work with vulnerable adults and children, the criminal justice system, government, international development, charities and community work, political campaigning and social research.
"One of our graduates went to work in drugs and alcohol with vulnerable adults. She is the manager of a centre which deals with that. We’ve got people who have gone into teaching and are now qualified secondary college teachers. We also had a student who went to work with the UN.
"Broadly, we’ve had students who are police officers and people who have gone on to work for Ipsos Mori, the research organisation. Students might say that there are so many different things you can study, from health to crime to inequality, and we try to push them into the careers they want to do," Drew concludes.
Andrew Dalton is a sociologist with significant industry experience within the charity sector and education. He has been, and currently is, active in the Third Sector for over fifteen years in a range of roles from charity and volunteer management at operational and senior level, fundraising, campaigning and community development work.
Published: 11 August 2021