If you’re surprised to learn that sociologist is one of the highest-paying social science careers, you shouldn’t be. Although sociology may sound somewhat touchy-feely compared to the natural and physical sciences, this social science career path has a median wage that more than doubles the median salary for all occupations in the U.S. Not all sociology majors go on to graduate school and pursue a path as a sociologist, but for those who do, the economic future is likely better than most people would expect.
Sociology Median Salaries By the Numbers
A sociologist is a highly educated professional in the field of social science who devotes their work to the study of social groups, behavior patterns, interactions, institutions and relationships. The overall median wage for sociologists in America is $83,420, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As in any career field, there’s a range of what you could earn as a sociologist. The 10 percent of sociologists who earn the least report salaries under $46,920, the BLS reported, but the 10 percent of the field with the highest earnings make more than $141,770 a year.
Numerous factors affect your earning potential as a sociologist, including your level of experience and seniority, your level of education, your field of interest, your industry of employment and your geographical location.
Starting Salaries in the Field of Sociology
For a sociologist fresh out of graduate school, the starting salary you can expect is well above the $39,810 median wage that the BLS reported for all occupations at all levels of experience. The average starting salary for sociologists has been around $60,000 in recent years, according to research published by the American Sociological Association.
Entry-level salaries for sociologists are generally on par with those in other social sciences, the American Sociological Association reported.
The Highest-Paying Locations and Industries for Sociologists
Where you work – both the geographical location and the industry that employs you – plays a big part in controlling how much you could make as a sociologist. Jobs with state government entities, which account for 14 percent of this workforce, pay the best, with a median salary of $92,460, the BLS reported. The 41 percent of sociologists who work in the industry of social science and humanities research and development also out-earn other workers in this field, with a median wage of $91,840.
Sociologists who work in the field of educational services, including academic roles in colleges and universities, see a much lower median wage, $63,310. That said, the American Sociological Association reported that salaries for sociology faculty were similar to the wages paid to faculty in other social sciences, like anthropology and political science, based on a decade’s worth of salary data. As of the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the average salary for full-time associate, assistant and full professors of sociology at four-year schools was $81,298, according to the American Sociological Association. Salaries for sociology professors meeting these criteria were also comparable between private and public colleges and universities, the American Sociological Association reported. Sociology professors at two-year community colleges or in non-tenure-track lecturer positions typically earn less, as do part-time college instructors.
Sociologist is a small occupation, accounting for just 2,630 report jobs across the United States, according to the BLS. Because this occupation is so small and its opportunities are concentrated in certain locations, you may not have a lot of choices as to where to live and work as a sociologist. However, of the regions where sociologists do find work, some areas pay a lot more than others.
The best salaries in the United States are in Pennsylvania, where the average wage of the 60 sociologists who work there is $127,020 per year. Oregon, which reported employment of just 30 sociologists, saw a mean salary of $124,140 annually. In New Jersey, where 40 sociologists work, the average salary was $115,500. North Carolina also employs 40 sociologists, with a $110,770 mean salary. California rounds out the five highest-paying states for sociologists with a mean salary that dips below six figures, $98,890, but it employs far more sociologists – 1,020.
The states that employ sociologists but pay much lower wages include South Dakota, where the average salary is $54,490; Minnesota, where the mean wage is $58,120; Florida, where the average wage is $65,580; and Arkansas, where the average wage is $66,640.