Sociologist may be one of the highest-paying social science jobs, but it’s far from the only career path you can pursue after studying sociology. As you delve into this social science that emphasizes the qualitative and quantitative study of social interactions, institutions and patterns of behavior, you develop skills that are as valuable in other fields as they are in sociology. Specifically, you learn to recognize dynamics in relationships, think critically and argue persuasively, analyze information of all types and communicate effectively.
An Aptitude for Identifying Social Dynamics and Different Perspectives
One of the most obvious skills you develop as a sociology major is the ability to recognize and understand the dynamics at play in social groups. Whether you decide to work as a sociologist or find a job in business, healthcare, communications, the legal industry or any number of other fields, having this skill will help you navigate both professional and personal social interactions. In a leadership role or a human resources role, especially, it’s valuable to be able to anticipate how groups of workers will respond to changes and to have some ideas how to address problems that arise.
Sociology focuses on social groups and relationships, but the field also emphasizes different perspectives that people – individuals as well as groups –hold. Being able to understand different perspectives can help you better relate to, communicate with and manage others.
Skills in Critical Thinking and Persuasive Argumentation
As a sociologist, critical thinking is a crucial part of the field of study, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At every point in this field of study, you need to be able to ask questions and search for and evaluate the plausibility of answers. Critical thinking is necessary as you develop theories of social interactions and phenomena. When you develop and design the research endeavors that provide data, you need to think critically about how to best measure the phenomenon you are trying to measure, how to avoid biases and ethical conflicts and how to gather accurate, meaningful data. Interpreting that data to understand how it corroborates or challenges your theory – or sheds light on a new area that warrants further research – requires a great deal of critical thinking that encompasses both creative and logical reasoning.
Critical thinking is a must-have skill for sociologists when it comes to developing their own persuasive arguments about social phenomena and evaluating the quality and validity of others’ arguments.
Qualitative and Quantitative Analytical Skills
You might be surprised to learn that analyzing data is the single most important core task of a sociologist, according to O*NET. While sociologists use their analytical skills to make sense of what data says about social behavior patterns, these skills can be transferred to just about any career path. It’s difficult to imagine a profession where being able to gather, assess and make meaning out of data wouldn’t be valuable.
Both quantitative, or numerical, data and qualitative, or non-numerical, data inform the study of sociology. Students of sociology learn methods of statistical analysis as well as qualitative inquiry, allowing them to draw conclusions from both kinds of data. This means that skilled sociologists are good at both analyzing the answers to survey data and asking interview subjects the insightful, open-ended questions that yield a deeper understanding of social issues.
Technical skills like the knowledge to use analytical software, database query software, document management software and spreadsheets are integral to being able to effectively analyze quantitative data.
Written and Oral Communication Skills
Given the central part communication – or lack thereof – plays in social interactions, it may come as no surprise that sociologists study the theoretical perspectives of communication. However, sociology students need to do more than just understand communication theories and styles. They must develop effective communication skills themselves, because they use these skills throughout their work in the field of sociology and in the other career paths they may pursue.
Sociologists use their oral communication skills when they interview research subjects. They need to express their thoughts clearly while also maintaining an approachable but professional demeanor that encourages subjects to answer questions fully and honestly. When sociologists present their findings, they do so through both oral presentations to colleagues in the field and through written articles published in journals and other media.
In addition to their abilities in speaking and writing, sociologists should also have strong skills in reading comprehension, active listening and the social perceptiveness of noticing and understanding the reasons behind others’ responses, according to O*NET.
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