Master’s in Sociology Degrees & Schools Guide

Master's Degree in Sociology Career Options & Salary

Why Earn a Master’s in Sociology?


Students who feel drawn to sociology as a field are often people who hope to solve social problems facing society such as poverty, the need for tolerance of diversity, and global upheaval. Programs that are top-ranked help students to utilize sociological theories combined with analysis and research in order to create long-term solutions to social issues. Thus, the very best programs tend to stress research methodology and the use of data and statistical analysis in order to solve real world social problems. The more background and hands-on application of critical analysis and research methodology that a student can demonstrate, the better they will fare in the job market.

It is interesting to note that many of the top-ranked, traditional sociology graduate programs in the country that are on-campus, such as those at U.C. Berkeley, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Stanford University do not offer a master's program to students as an end goal. Their programs accept admissions from students who will complete their master's program in sociology on the way to completion of their doctoral degree. As explained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, other non-traditional sociology graduate programs are applied or professional programs that allow candidates to move into their career path straight from their master's degree.

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PROS

Positions such as sociologist, research analyst, and healthcare policy analyst tend to have a master's degree as a minimum requirement. Candidates who only possess a bachelor's in sociology can only obtain entry-level work in the field, such as human resource personnel, school guidance counselors, media planners, and public relations specialists. The earning potential and level of responsibility for the latter positions are commensurately lower than those careers for candidates with a master's degree in the field.

CONS

It is actually better for the candidate to progress through their master's degree to their doctoral degree in sociology. As explained by the University of Chicago, most top-tier master's degree programs are created to prepare students to demonstrate in their master's thesis that they have the skills needed to perform the research they will be conducting as a normal part of their doctoral program. Thus, a master's candidate will likely not have truly honed their research skills as a doctoral graduate has. Higher-level work in sociology, such as in research positions and in academia, require doctoral degrees in the field. With a doctoral degree, one will also be able to command a larger income.

Overview of a Master's in Sociology


What Sociology Master’s Degrees are Available?


This is a tricky and confusing issue. There is a general guideline for universities about the criteria for a program being a master of science or master of arts, but the reality is that individual schools do not necessarily all follow those guidelines for social science programs. It is best to research each school's offerings and see what the difference is at each school between a MS or MA in the social science field. At one school, a master of science will signify a greater emphasis on research methodology, while a master of arts will signify that there is a greater emphasis upon comprehensive knowledge of the field. Other programs have the master of science degrees which require students to complete a thesis, as opposed to a comprehensive examination.

Admission Requirements


Many of the top-ranked programs expect students to have at least a 3.0 GPA from their bachelor's degree program. Some expect upper-division coursework in sociology or a related social science field as a requirement for admission. Often, programs will expect letters of recommendation from professors and employers. A statement of purpose is often also required for admission. Some programs also require students take the GRE as a condition of admission.

How long does it take to earn a Sociology Master’s?


Often, a master's degree in sociology will take about two to three years of full-time study. If the student has to complete a thesis, it will likely take longer to complete the program. Also, students who need to work and attend school or who have family responsibilities often need to take a less than full-time course load, so it will take them longer to complete their degree. It is important to ensure that you can complete your requirements on time. Some programs have a narrower window for completion of coursework. Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships and grants that can cover the costs of living expenses so that they can devote full-time to completion of their program, if possible.

Potential Careers in Sociology with a Master’s


  • Sociologist -
    A sociologist is tasked with researching groups, organizations, institutions, or other societal conglomerations and evaluating data on social problems and questions. After collecting and analyzing research data, they advise their employers or clients on the best course to take in order to solve the problems and issues.
    The average annual income for a sociologist is: $56,000.
  • Research Analyst -
    A research analyst will create and evaluate research data. They will create reports based upon the findings of the data and create plans for utilizing the information gleaned from the data to create organizational change.
    The average annual salary for a research analyst is: $54,100.
  • Health Policy Research Analyst -
    Health policy research analysts analyze data about healthcare policy issues. They evaluate the data for presentation to governmental agencies, private organizations, and non-profit organizations in order to inform and improve healthcare policy.
    The average annual salary for health policy research analysts is: $59,500.
  • Community Program Coordinator -
    A community program coordinator creates and maintains programs and services within a community. They have to begin with needs assessments in the community, plan activities in order to provide outreach to members of the community, write grants to fund community projects, and evaluate programs to ensure they meet goals.
    The average annual salary for community program coordinators is: $41,800.

Options to Advance


One obvious avenue for advancement in careers with a sociology degree is simply to gain more experience in the field. This can be gained with internships as well as paid experience working in the field. Another avenue for advancement is gaining more research and analysis skills. Students who have their master's degree in sociology are often at the lowest rung in their process of learning how to utilize their research skills fully.

Graduates of master's degrees in sociology may want to enroll in a doctoral program in sociology in order to pursue higher-level employment with greater responsibilities and more pay. Their doctoral program will provide them more in-depth skills in data analysis, current theoretical trends, and research methodology. This will help the graduate move toward careers that involve more data analysis, collection, and research. This allows doctoral graduates to work as higher-level sociologists, market research analysts, researchers, and university faculty members. All of these positions have commensurately higher pay than that garnered by those with only a master's degree in the field.

Best Master of Science in Sociology Programs


The following five universities were top-ranked by U.S. News and World Report for their Master's in Sociology programs:

  • Ohio State University
    Columbus, Ohio

    Ohio State's Master of Arts in Sociology program has small classes and intimate access to world-class faculty and research opportunities. The goal of the master's program is to prepare the student for all aspects of their doctoral program. Students will end their program with a master's thesis and an hour-long oral examination that pertains to the thesis.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • University of California – Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California

    UCLA will only accept applicants for admission to their graduate programs in sociology if the candidate intends on staying and completing their doctoral degree as well. There are 42 quarter units of coursework and a master's paper that must be completed and approved for the Master of Arts in Sociology to be conferred upon the candidate. The goal of the master's paper is to prove that the student has the requisite skills to advance to candidacy in the doctoral program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
    Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    UNC Chapel Hill offers a Master of Arts in Sociology. Graduates will be prepared for either teaching or research careers in the field. Students receive a strong foundation in sociological theoretical issues, statistics, and research methodology. Partnerships with the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science and the Carolina Population Center allow students to work on hands-on research projects.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • University of Wisconsin - Madison
    Madison, Wisconsin

    The university will only admit students who intend on moving past their master's degree to the doctoral degree. Once students are in the program, though, they may opt to complete only the master's portion and move into the career field. Many who stay through completion of their doctoral degree end up in research or teaching at a university, while others go on to work for the government, non-profits, or with private organizations. There are over 10 organizations that the university partners with, so that faculty and students have many opportunities for real world research and application of sociological theory.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Sociology
  • University of Chicago
    Chicago, Illinois

    As with many of the other top-ranked universities in the country, UoC offers a master's degree in sociology only for those who are intent upon continuing through their doctoral program. For students who are not sure if they want to continue through the doctoral program, they offer a unique multi-disciplinary Master of Arts in Social Sciences program. The latter is a one-year program that affords students close access to their world-class faculty and research. Students can choose to concentrate on sociology, psychology, political science, history, economics, anthropology, or take an interdisciplinary focus. They take nine graduate courses and submit a master's thesis. Students are provided weekly mentorship sessions to aid their research. There is a strong focus on both research and writing at a professional level.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Social Sciences
    • Master of Arts in Sociology, as a part of doctoral program

Traditional Schools Offering a MS in Sociology


  • Arizona State University
    Tempe, Arizona

    ASU is regionally accredited and highly ranked by both Forbes and U.S. News and World Report for its innovative programs and high value. The faculty includes Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. ASU claims that 87% of their graduates receive job offers within 90 days of graduation. The program is applied and hands-on. Coursework includes social change and leadership issues as well as a course on social justice. There is a capstone project, but no thesis is required. Also, applicants do not need to take the GRE, but they must have a 3.0 GPA from their bachelor's degree in order to be considered for enrollment. You should be able to complete the program in 15 to 18 months.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • University of Alabama - Birmingham
    Birmingham, Alabama

    UAB has a master's in sociology that a full-time student can complete in a year. There are courses in applied sociology and applied psychology and a smorgasbord of elective choices. The capstone can be completed in one's own local community. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA from their bachelor's degree program, and they need to have at least 12 units in their bachelor's program in the social sciences. Their online programs cost the same for all students, even those out-of-state.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Applied Sociology
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
    Richmond, Virginia

    VCU has a two-year master's degree in sociology. Their program has a strong focus on working in urban environments and has an emphasis on research, culture, and theoretical underpinnings of the field. Students begin their research projects in their second year of the program. You will need three letters of recommendation in order to apply to the program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Sociology
  • New Mexico State University
    Las Cruces, New Mexico

    NMSU has a two-year master's in sociology that has a heavy emphasis on analysis of data. This helps NMSU graduates move higher in their careers, since data analysis and research are leadership skills that usually get more emphasis in doctoral programs. Students can choose to work on a thesis or on a non-thesis program. Coursework includes quantitative research, sociological theory, migration across the world, and educational sociology. You will need to have completed three sociology courses at the upper level in your bachelor's program and have a 3.0 GPA. Some candidates are admitted on a provisional basis with a GPA of less than 3.0.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • Sam Houston State University
    Huntsville, Texas

    Sam Houston allows students to choose from four tracks: environmental, social change and development sociology; sociology of cultures and institutions; stratification sociology; or applied sociology. This is a two-year program with small class sizes. Students can complete more core coursework so that they can write a thesis, or they can take more elective coursework so they can take a comprehensive examination. As in most programs, a 3.0 GPA is the minimum requirement for applicants.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Sociology