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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. Sociology programs that are top-ranked help grad students who are used to working as sociologists or in human services to utilize sociological theories combined with sociological analysis and sociology research methods in order to create long-term solutions to these issues. That is why the very best Master's in Sociology degree programs tend to stress research methods and methodology in their offered courses, as well as the use of data and statistical analysis in order to solve real world social problems using relevant experience gained during each graduate student's career. Whether they take their courses as full-time or part-time students, on-campus or online, the more background and hands-on application of critical analysis, general analytical skills, and research methods that a student can demonstrate once they complete their graduate training in a sociology program, the better they will fare in the job market and the more easily they will reach their career goals after they leave school. Luckily, these degrees are available through online offerings because schools understand that professionals need to have the ability to take their courses when they have time, and online learning is the best way to do that. Even programs that require some in-person courses offer much of the degrees through online, asynchronous classes.

It is interesting to note that many of the top-ranked, traditional sociology degree programs in the country that are on-campus, such as those at U.C. Berkeley, the 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 sociology program on the way to completion of their doctoral degree. As explained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 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; these are the most commonly found online.

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Positions such as sociologists, research analysts, and healthcare or public policy analysts tend to have a master's degree and relevant experience 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, public relations specialists, and other postions in social services and within the realm of social sciences. 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 who can take on full-time sociologists positions. However, those who already have jobs can complete their degrees online and gain promotions or upward movement into jobs better suited to their new educational level.


It can actually be 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 graduate will likely not have truly honed their research skills in social sciences 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.

Top 10 Best Online Masters in Sociology Programs

  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $12,014
    • Out-of-State: $24,498
  • Net Price: $14,808
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Retention Rate: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Total Enrollment: 80,065
  • Undergrad Students: 65,492
  • Graduate Students: 14,573
  • Grads Salary: $75,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 19:1
  • Arizona State University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $5,184
    • Out-of-State: $18,023
  • Net Price: $10,407
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Retention Rate: 72%
  • Graduation Rate: 51%
  • Total Enrollment: 14,268
  • Undergrad Students: 11,591
  • Graduate Students: 2,677
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • New Mexico State University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $8,424
    • Out-of-State: $19,962
  • Net Price: $16,834
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
  • Total Enrollment: 21,639
  • Undergrad Students: 13,032
  • Graduate Students: 8,607
  • Grads Salary: $74,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $6,660
    • Out-of-State: $6,660
  • Net Price: $11,172
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Retention Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 55%
  • Total Enrollment: 48,668
  • Undergrad Students: 39,206
  • Graduate Students: 9,462
  • Grads Salary: $76,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 24:1
  • American Public University System
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $9,132
    • Out-of-State: $9,132
  • Net Price: $21,296
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 70%
  • Total Enrollment: 37,348
  • Undergrad Students: 30,952
  • Graduate Students: 6,396
  • Grads Salary: $72,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 22:1
  • Louisiana State University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $3,438
    • Out-of-State: $14,503
  • Net Price: $6,355
  • Acceptance Rate: 81%
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Total Enrollment: 6,787
  • Undergrad Students: 5,748
  • Graduate Students: 1,039
  • Grads Salary: $60,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • Fayetteville State University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $5,112
    • Out-of-State: $12,456
  • Net Price: $11,682
  • Acceptance Rate: 94%
  • Retention Rate: 73%
  • Graduation Rate: 48%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,958
  • Undergrad Students: 10,153
  • Graduate Students: 5,805
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 16:1
  • Texas Woman's University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $10,260
    • Out-of-State: $10,260
  • Net Price: $10,991
  • Acceptance Rate: 84%
  • Retention Rate: 68%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Total Enrollment: 8,807
  • Undergrad Students: 8,215
  • Graduate Students: 592
  • Grads Salary: $64,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 14:1
  • Morehead State University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $5,765
    • Out-of-State: $13,109
  • Net Price: $13,632
  • Acceptance Rate: 85%
  • Retention Rate: 74%
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Total Enrollment: 21,480
  • Undergrad Students: 18,235
  • Graduate Students: 3,245
  • Grads Salary: $66,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 20:1
  • Sam Houston State University
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  • Graduate Tuition
    • In-State: $8,164
    • Out-of-State: $15,697
  • Net Price: $18,160
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Retention Rate: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Total Enrollment: 11,327
  • Undergrad Students: 9,917
  • Graduate Students: 1,410
  • Grads Salary: $70,000
  • Student-to-faculty: 18:1
  • South Dakota State University
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Overview of a Master's in Sociology

What Sociology Master’s Degrees are Available Online?

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. Some schools may only offer MA degrees online and require some in-person sessions for those earning an MS, even if much of the courses are available online.

Admission Requirements

Many of the top-ranked programs expect students to have at least a 3.0 GPA from their sociology 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. It's also good to know that online students will have all the same admission requirements as those who attend on-campus.

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

Often, an online 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, whether they attend online or not, 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. Even online programs often have a max amount of time you can spend earning your degree. 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.

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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: $57,400.
  • 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: $56,400.
  • 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: $62,900.
  • 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: $48,900.

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. Some students immediately move into earning a doctorate degree online in order to rectify this.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to have a master’s degree to be a sociologist?

Generally, most sociologist roles in the US will require that you have at least a master’s degree. This is even more vital for roles that perform any kind of counseling or private consulting services. While you can get into social work with a bachelor’s degree, moving into a sociologist position will need more than accrued experience after your undergraduate degree. This is because of licensure requirements that exist all over the US. Additionally, if you decide that you’d like to teach at the college level, then you are likely to need a PhD as well as your master’s. This, much like psychology and counseling, is a field that has very high educational requirements.

Is sociology an easy degree?

If you earned your bachelor’s degree in something other than sociology, then you might be concerned about the difficulty of moving into the field of sociology for your master’s degree. However, if you earned a bachelor’s in psychology, counseling, social work, or another related major, then you probably already have a solid foundation in the courses you are likely to take in a sociology master’s program. While the major does not require high-level mathematics or regular STEM classes, there will be some math and statistics involved, and these are going to be more in depth than any courses you took at the undergraduate level. It will also require quite a bit of reading and analyzing information, as well as memorization of facts. However, as long as you have already completed all prerequisite courses, you can probably stop worrying about the difficulty of the major in general.

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