Sociology in a Box (or not)

I get asked a lot about my major (sociology). I had someone a little while ago scoff when I told them what I was studying, and tell me there was no money in it. This person owns a rather successful vehicle sales lot, which made the entire conversation a little ironic.

It’s hard, sometimes, to put Sociology in a defined box if someone has never heard of it. I tend to relate it to psychology (for the sake of simplicity) but, while they go hand-in-hand in many areas, they’re not really the same thing.

There is a micro (individual) and macro (population) level to it all. Generally, Sociologists study “society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that people develop.” I lean towards wanting to study more on the micro level.

Why do you tend to sit in the same seat every Sunday? Where does that feeling of ownership come from? Is that an American tendency, or do we see that in other parts of the world? How does the attitude of young people affect older people around them? Why, when walking through aisles at Walmart, do we look at the ground as our eyes meet someone else’s eyes? The micro perspective says people give meaning to objects then base their actions on these meanings, and studies face-to-face interactions with others. Is reality created “out there?” Or do we create it as we act and interact with others?

On the macro level, you get questions like:

How does this rake I’m buying at Walmart affect people in Asia? Why do we see so many things that say “Made in China” and so fewer that say “Made in India” (and, moreover, “Made in the USA”)? Who are the key players of globalization? Is it a good thing? Is it a mixed bag? How do world policies affect my local community? What will happen to local farms, and how do my neighbors cows affect someone across the country? How do gender and income affect a population’s well being? It’s a more widespread study of “how culture and social organizations change or are preserved” (social processes).

It’s estimated (by the US Dept. of Labor), on average, people with Masters degrees in sociology can make $72,000/year (depending on the job, area, experience, education, etc). I do plan to pursue a degree beyond my Bachelors. The fields are also predicted to grow at an above average rate of 15%. However, none of that was my real consideration when selecting this major. Most people with a Bachelor’s in Sociology land in fields like social services, education or public policy.

I hope to have illustrated why saying “there’s no money in it” is such an odd comment. Sociology isn’t about money; it’s about people. It’s also widely adapted to just about any career from politics, law…actually… you should look at the list yourself (http://sociology.nd.edu/undergraduate-program/careers-for-sociology-majors/).

Obviously, I could write a book about it but I doubt anyone even read this far.

Mostly, I like sociology because it encourages questions. Anyone who has been around me for 10 minutes knows I never, ever run out of questions. 🙂

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