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BA in Sociology - realistic prospects?

Discussion in 'Business, Careers & Education' started by XenoX101, Sep 19, 2010.

  1. globetrotter

    globetrotter Senior member

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    I'd say that, while there are definalty possibilities, it is a risk that you have to understand going in. I'd try to have a backup - a trade, a technical skill, something like that. I have a friend who got an excellent BA in something similar, from an excellent school, then went on to get an MA in public policy, and was really struggling to make ends meet, until he became a technical writter.

    good luck
     
  2. AntiHero84

    AntiHero84 Senior member

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    I don't really have the time to read through all the posts, but it seems like you're getting pretty good feedback.

    I have both a BS and an MA in Sociology. I loved my coursework, which was incredibly interesting. That said, there was probably little I could do with only my BS. During my last couple years of undergrad, I thought I wanted to become a professor, to conduct research and teach classes. After enrolling in an MA program, I realized that I wasn't exactly cut out for academia, so I left after my Master's thesis. I made a point to focus on quantitative analysis and statistics, which proved vital to finding work after school. I now conduct market research for a well known university publishing house. I had never considered myself a number person, but being able to apply statistics to social science is strangely fulfilling. The quant skills I learned have proved to be surprisingly lucrative, as I have not had any trouble finding work after school.

    That said, there are a couple things to keep in mind. While the subject matter is interesting, keep your mind on finding a job after school. Take as many internships as possible and find a career which works best for you. This will help you find something you love to do, but will be helpful when applying to jobs, as well. Don't fool yourself thinking that since this is a "soft" social science, it is very much a scientific field. Know this from the beginning and you will be a leg ahead of the game.
     
  3. pebblegrain

    pebblegrain Senior member

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    for a new college graduate, the major is not that important.

    you need to either:

    a. demonstrate that you know how to "do something" ie engineer something, program something, build something, finance-eer something

    or

    b. demonstrate that you are smart in general



    In order to demonstrate A., you need to take some coursework in those subjects and/or show proficiency in them via personal projects or internships

    In order to demonstrate B., you need a high GPA, go to a good school, or have good internships.


    Look at top level corporate VPs in Finance, Marketing, Management, etc. A huge chunk of these professionals were liberal arts majors, but demonstrated intelligence or ability in other ways.

    The only scenario when a BA in sociology is 100% useless is if you never have an internship, take no other classes, have a shitty GPA, and go to a no name school. At this bottom-feeder level, an engineering degree might make more sense.
     
  4. XenoX101

    XenoX101 Senior member

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    I don't really have the time to read through all the posts, but it seems like you're getting pretty good feedback. I have both a BS and an MA in Sociology. I loved my coursework, which was incredibly interesting. That said, there was probably little I could do with only my BS. During my last couple years of undergrad, I thought I wanted to become a professor, to conduct research and teach classes. After enrolling in an MA program, I realized that I wasn't exactly cut out for academia, so I left after my Master's thesis. I made a point to focus on quantitative analysis and statistics, which proved vital to finding work after school. I now conduct market research for a well known university publishing house. I had never considered myself a number person, but being able to apply statistics to social science is strangely fulfilling. The quant skills I learned have proved to be surprisingly lucrative, as I have not had any trouble finding work after school. That said, there are a couple things to keep in mind. While the subject matter is interesting, keep your mind on finding a job after school. Take as many internships as possible and find a career which works best for you. This will help you find something you love to do, but will be helpful when applying to jobs, as well. Don't fool yourself thinking that since this is a "soft" social science, it is very much a scientific field. Know this from the beginning and you will be a leg ahead of the game.
    for a new college graduate, the major is not that important. you need to either: a. demonstrate that you know how to "do something" ie engineer something, program something, build something, finance-eer something or b. demonstrate that you are smart in general In order to demonstrate A., you need to take some coursework in those subjects and/or show proficiency in them via personal projects or internships In order to demonstrate B., you need a high GPA, go to a good school, or have good internships. Look at top level corporate VPs in Finance, Marketing, Management, etc. A huge chunk of these professionals were liberal arts majors, but demonstrated intelligence or ability in other ways. The only scenario when a BA in sociology is 100% useless is if you never have an internship, take no other classes, have a shitty GPA, and go to a no name school. At this bottom-feeder level, an engineering degree might make more sense.
    So I'm definitely getting the vibe that I need to gain some practical skills from my degree that directly translate into a job, noted. I'd like to ask then if anyone might know (and can enlighten me) as to what positions are in demand in my area of interest, or which positions are at least viable to aim for through my sociology degree even if they are not currently in great demand (i.e. future prospects). AntiHero84, do you know if there are any scientific research positions available to do with humanitarian work? I'm thinking that market research for companies is a very big field and would be easier to get in to than research specifically for humanitarian needs; and admittedly for me it is less the skill and more the result that counts, so I may not be comfortable doing market research. pebblegrain, it is good to hear that there might be hope for my sociology degree, but I'm wondering if there are any better alternatives, as I'm getting the impression (from you and others) that it is at least somewhat at risk of being an overly vague and inconsequential major.
     
  5. Journeyman

    Journeyman Senior member

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    Xenox, You are in Australia - as am I - and I think that Australian employers tend to look more favourably on "practical" tertiary courses that teach immediately applicable and specific skills. It seems to me - although I could be wrong - that in some countries such as Japan and the US (particularly as the US has quite a strong emphasis on graduate education to gain specific skills), undergrad courses are often less about specific skills and more about learning how to think, how to write and so on - generalist skills that are very usefull and widely applicable but which don't equip you for specific fields. Anyway, there's a whole thesis - or several theses - that could be written about tertiary education patterns so I won't say anymore on that point. In my opinion - and as I said in my previous post, it's been nine years or so since I was involved in international development/overseas development assistance - if you really, genuinely think that you want to aim to work in that field, you should think about getting a degree which will give you some applicable skills. As I noted, there are many options to choose from - tourism and marketing/law/public administration/public health and quite a few others. Have a look at the NGO employment websites that I linked to so as to get an idea as to what they are looking for. Essentially, there are two "streams" in international development. There are the fieldworkers, and the at-home managers. It is entirely possible to spend your entire career working for an NGO involved in foreign aid and to never leave Australia, as you work in accounting for the head office, for example. On the other hand, you could spend time out in the field in Bangladesh, Somalia, Eritrea or any number of direly impoverished regions working in a wide variety of fields - handing out aid, negotiating with local warlords to access their region, setting up supply lines, installing water tanks and purification facilities, training people to operate simple agricultural machinery, running a basic medical clinic, operating a simple school, trying to set up a tourism program, helping to get a micro-credit scheme operating, or any one of a host of other activities. Sure, a relatively general degree can help you to do quite a lot of the above, but I think that you'll find it easier to get a foot in the door if you have skills that you can highlight when telling the organisation why they should hire you. How can you help the desperately disadvantaged? That's what you need to be able to explain to NGOs that might hire you. Anyway, as I noted in my earlier post, you should look at volunteering, travelling overseas on an arranged trip during uni holidays, trying for internships and so on. Depending on your marks and your willingness to go to Canberra, you could look at trying to get some summer work at AusAID: http://www.ausaid.gov.au/recruit/short.cfm You could also try to get a place in the Australian National Internships Program (ANIP): http://anip.anu.edu.au/ If you want some more ideas, or if you have any questions, feel free to send me a PM and I'll do my best to answer any questions that you might have although, as I indicated, my knowledge might be a bit dated.
     
  6. XenoX101

    XenoX101 Senior member

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    Thanks again, admittedly I've still to go through all the links you've provided, but you've been a great help and I'll be doing more research within the next days/weeks. I might just PM you sometime too, as I get a better understanding of things.
     
  7. AntiHero84

    AntiHero84 Senior member

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    AntiHero84, do you know if there are any scientific research positions available to do with humanitarian work? I'm thinking that market research for companies is a very big field and would be easier to get in to than research specifically for humanitarian needs; and admittedly for me it is less the skill and more the result that counts, so I may not be comfortable doing market research.

    I hear you. I mean, if I just wanted to do market research I could have majored in Business, Marketing, or Applied Math. Luckily, with my backing on Sociology, it allowed me to work for two non-profits that aren't entirely evil. One was dedicated to Nursing Education (not really a interest of mine, but it was altruistic) another a University Press (a bit closer to my interests, but more business focused), so it really depends on how you pimp out your degree.

    There will always be positions for humanitarian work, but it may be a bit more narrow and hard to find something. Even then, you would need some sort of a graduate degree, probably a PhD eventually. With an BA, you'll probably just become a Research Assistant if you're lucky. I'm not trying to persuade you in either direction, but keep in mind that grad school is pretty much mandatory if you want to do research.
     
  8. TGPlastic

    TGPlastic Senior member

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    A sociology degree is almost as marketable as a degree in art history. Seriously. Consider econ or finance. You want to do non-prof or development work? It's all about money!
     
  9. CMD.EXE

    CMD.EXE Senior member

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    3rd world poverty

    The reason there are so many poor people in Africa, SE asia, etc. is not because there aren't high paying job prospects for them, its because they all have degrees in sociology.
     
  10. BP348

    BP348 Senior member

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    This is good to hear, do you know per chance what they majored/minored in and how they rated in their class (average, above average)?

    They were all towards the top of their class. Most of the people I knew were all A & B students & of course this was a smaller University. I don't remember what their minors were.

    Most I have spoke with also stated that if they wanted to stay in the "Sociology" field they would have to get at least a Masters if not a Doctorate degree to earn a decent living. Most said they would get the Ph.D.

    I'm currently 90% done with my Masters, all I need is to complete my Thisis which I've been putting off for about 2 years now [​IMG] . Anyway my master's will be in Sociology so I find the field interesting but I'm lucky that I don't have to rely on my education to pay the bills.
     
  11. XenoX101

    XenoX101 Senior member

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    So I went to see a career counseller today and she gave me some great advice which interestingly enough echos much of what people have said here, which is always a good sign. She told me that while a BA in sociology will help me get a job it is not likely to be sufficient for getting a job on its own, and so she recommended that I either A) choose a more specific degree such as a bachelor of international development, or B) go with my bachelor of arts - which she admitted would give me a wider scope - but then further my education with a masters in international development or a PhD in order to specialize and thus increase my chance of employment in my field. Also, she advised me that while I may consider employability a factor in choosing my course, it is unlikely that the job market will stay the same by the time I finish my education, and so it would be best to consider what interests me first and whats employable second when looking at my education rather than the other way around. She followed this directly with another point that people always do better in fields that interest them, which definitely resonated with me as I dwelled on my past jobs (where my performance would fall as I lost interest in my job).
     
  12. PeterMetro

    PeterMetro Senior member

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    1) College is not vocational school.

    2) I majored in Sociology, a few months later I got a job at an advertising agency. The kid that started on the same day I did had a degree in advertising. Within three months, I knew everything he knew about advertising, and he knew nothing of what I knew about sociology.

    3) 10 years later, I am General Manager of the China office of a global media agency.

    4) Don't worry so much.

    5) Advertising is a terrible business - hyper competitive, razor thin margins, very little job security and not that lucrative. It is, however, a lot of fun.
     
  13. XenoX101

    XenoX101 Senior member

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    1) College is not vocational school.

    2) I majored in Sociology, a few months later I got a job at an advertising agency. The kid that started on the same day I did had a degree in advertising. Within three months, I knew everything he knew about advertising, and he knew nothing of what I knew about sociology.

    3) 10 years later, I am General Manager of the China office of a global media agency.

    4) Don't worry so much.

    5) Advertising is a terrible business - hyper competitive, razor thin margins, very little job security and not that lucrative. It is, however, a lot of fun.


    Good to hear this, I have to say I'm not too big on advertising myself but your story does add evidence to the BA in sociology being a viable and resourceful option. Thanks for sharing [​IMG].
     
  14. greenleaflettuce

    greenleaflettuce Well-Known Member

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    Unless you have your heart set on some sort of technical field, it does not really matter what your major is in college. Just work hard, get good grades, take full advantage of any opportunities that come your way and you'll be fine. When you figure out what you really want to do with your life you'll find a way to make it happen, regardless of what you study in college.
     
  15. AntiHero84

    AntiHero84 Senior member

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    Also, she advised me that while I may consider employability a factor in choosing my course, it is unlikely that the job market will stay the same by the time I finish my education, and so it would be best to consider what interests me first and whats employable second when looking at my education rather than the other way around. She followed this directly with another point that people always do better in fields that interest them, which definitely resonated with me as I dwelled on my past jobs (where my performance would fall as I lost interest in my job).
    There's a lot of wisdom here. If you only study what will get you employed and ignore what actually interests you, you'll end up in a job you hate and be bored to tears. You're young, study what you like right now, but with some concept of employability down the road. You can't go wrong.
    2) I majored in Sociology, a few months later I got a job at an advertising agency. The kid that started on the same day I did had a degree in advertising. Within three months, I knew everything he knew about advertising, and he knew nothing of what I knew about sociology.
    Business school can only teach you so much. I also studied sociology and found that the perspective it gives you is invaluable. It really changes your world-view, which can be very marketable if you use it correctly.
    Good to hear this, I have to say I'm not too big on advertising myself but your story does add evidence to the BA in sociology being a viable and resourceful option. Thanks for sharing [​IMG].
    I never though I would enjoy a job in marketing/advertising either, but market research is not always used for evil. If you can find a company/non-profit that aligns with your ideals, it can be very fulfilling.
     
  16. rdaws

    rdaws Senior member

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    I know quite a few people in the non-profit world, and surprisingly none of them have degrees in Sociology; there's political science, engineering, accounting, business administration (and graduate degrees for all of the above). I also know a city planner, but the degree is Civil Engineering.

    I don't think a sociology degree carries the weight to put you in an influential position in a community-based enterprise (or, as another poster pointed out, get you any further than approaching it with no degree). But, most of the people I know came to non-profit through other avenues (banking, consulting, etc.) so I have a super-biased sample set.
     

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