Would a Secondary Area of Study Be Helpful as a Sociologist? If So, Which Areas?

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Sociology is one of the highest-paying social science careers you can get. However, if you want to expand your career options beyond this well-paying but small social science occupation – or even just add to your foundation of knowledge – pursuing two majors might be the right choice for you. However, if you’re looking strictly at which second major would help you get a job outside of sociology or improve your research potential in sociology, some of the secondary areas of study you might benefit from pursuing include social work, psychology, criminal justice, philosophy, communications and business. Some students choose an interdisciplinary major in their field of research interest.

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Social Work

It’s difficult to imagine any second major that wouldn’t pair well with sociology. Studying a natural science would help you better grasp the scientific method and quantitative analysis. Studying art, music or the humanities would fit into the topic of society’s creation of and perspectives on art. If it’s the opportunity to make a social impact that most appeals to you, though, then a double major in social work may be a great fit. Social workers help individuals, families and groups solve problems through actions like advocacy, connecting them with programs and resources and handling crisis matters, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree typically prepares you for direct-service roles helping individuals, an opportunity you may not get as a sociologist, when your focus is on understanding research data and reporting findings that may help policy changes.


Sociology is the study of social groups and behavior, and psychology is the study of the mind, thinking and behavior. Having a background in both psychology and sociology makes you highly knowledgeable about why people do the things they do, whether the phenomenon you want to explain is what an individual is thinking or what the social impacts of public policy will be. If you study both sociology and psychology at the undergraduate level, you could choose to go to graduate school for either of these fields or for a field like counseling. Since these two degrees are versatile in their own right, you could also use them as a platform for just about any career path, from business to communications, from law to medicine.

Studying psychology and sociology as an undergraduate also positions you well to pursue research into the interdisciplinary field of social psychology, which looks at topics like social cognitive neuroscience and thinking and behavior in interpersonal relationships.

Criminal Justice

If the sociology specialization of criminology or the sociological effects of mass incarceration is particularly appealing to you, supplementing your knowledge with a criminal justice curriculum makes a lot of sense. Students who dual major in sociology and criminal justice learn about the theories of criminal behavior and why crimes happen as well as statistical methods of research and criminal justice application, administration and practices. Since not all sociology degree programs offer a concentration specifically in criminology, dual majoring in criminal justice can help you expand your knowledge of matters of criminal law. For sociologists who want to examine matters of incarceration and rehabilitation or inequality, having a background in criminal justice can help you better understand the existing criminal justice system.

If you want to work directly with the incarcerated population and help rehabilitate them, you may use your criminal justice education, along with your knowledge of the underpinning theories of social phenomena, to works as a correctional treatment specialist.

Philosophy or Communications

Studying sociology isn’t all about preparing for a career. This field of study is also about developing your skills in thinking critically and communicating effectively. To further help you flesh out these abilities, you might choose to dual major in a subject like philosophy or communications. Philosophy, the study of knowledge, involves a lot of critical thinking and logical reasoning. Courses in communications help you develop your reading comprehension, writing ability and comfort with public speaking and oral presentations.

Although philosopher isn’t really a distinct job path in the modern workforce, there are plenty of careers – in sociology, communications and other fields – in which it helps to be a logical thinker.

Business and Marketing

Many sociology majors who don’t go on to become a sociologist instead work in the field of business. Understanding social interactions and behaviors is a valuable ability to have if you end up working in human resources, which involves hiring and training workers. You can also use this knowledge in the field of marketing, both to research consumer attitudes and behaviors or to contribute to persuasive marketing campaigns that entice consumers to buy a product.

Although you don’t necessarily need a business background to get into a business role, having a business degree will open up doors in the field – especially when an employer would otherwise question whether your sociology education was relevant to the position.

Specialized Interdisciplinary Majors

If you’ve heard people say that interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary majors like gender and women’s studies or African-American studies are useless, that’s because they are clearly not viewing these topics from a sociological perspective. Many sociologists research matters like inequality, gender and sexuality, race and racism and similar topics. Although they touch on these topics in their sociology coursework, the classes they take as a sociology major all approach the field from that discipline’s perspective. Studying women’s studies or African-American studies as a separate program besides sociology allows you to develop a more comprehensive background in this area of knowledge.

Having a greater depth of knowledge in the topic you are researching can help you think more creatively when coming up with theories, build a rapport with interview subjects and ask more illuminating questions in your collection of data.

Related Resources:

What Skills Will I Develop as Someone Who Studies Sociology?

What Kind of Economic Future Can I Expect as a Sociologist?

What Are Some Areas of Research Most Sociologists Study When Going for Their Master’s or Ph.D.?

What Are Some Typical Job Titles That Are Actually About Being a Sociologist?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Cognitive Neuroscientist?

What Classes Will I Take in a Criminal Justice Degree?

For Further Reading: 

Top 10 Graduate Degree Programs in Criminal Justice