Sociologist Career Profile
Sociologists study human society and social behavior through the prism of group formations and social, political, religious, and economic institutions. How individuals interact with each other within given contexts, the origin and development of social groups are important indices by which the sociologist conducts his research and draws conclusions.
Because of the breadth and scope of this field, sociologists usually specialize in one or more of a number of areas. Areas of specialty include education, family, racial and ethnic relations, revolution, war, and peace, social psychology, gender roles and relations, and urban, rural, political, and comparative sociology. Sociologists have keen senses of observation and analysis, and abundant and natural curiosity. Because they are engaged in observing, analyzing, defining, testing, and explaining human behavior, there is virtually no area of modern life in which a sociologist's research or conclusions are not valuable.
From advertising to industry to criminology to medicine to government, sociologists and the research they conduct can enhance sales, improve productivity, shape social policy, resolve social conflicts, promote political platforms and influence lawmakers. The presidential election of 1996, for example, turns on the tide of voter sentiment regarding the controversial issues of welfare, immigration, and abortion rights. Sociological researchers, with their evaluations of the relevance and effectiveness of social programs, have shaped and will continue to shape the direction and tone of political life as we know it. "Every political action committee, every group or organization with an agenda to introduce, extend, eliminate, or maintain legislative policies have or will at some time employ the services of sociologists," says one professor of sociology. "There are a vast number of social programs which are on the budget cutting block (such as funding for abortion clinics, AIDS research, welfare, and Medicaid). Sociological research is an invaluable tool in determining the impact these cuts will have on its constituents."
Sociologists must be meticulous and patient in carefully observing and gathering notes on a particular subject. Some "results" are measurably slow in manifesting themselves and could take months or years. Statistics and computers are central to a sociologist's work, but so too are qualitative methods such as focus group-based research and social impact evaluations. Preconceived notions must give way to scientific methodology of data collection and objectivity, as they must be open to new ideas and social and cultural situations. Strong analytical skills, statistics, data gathering, and analysis, qualitative methods of research, survey methods, computer techniques, and counseling and interviewing skills are all part of the core of sociology. For more information on major employers, associated careers, major associations, and career profile of sociologists... check out www.review.com. (A service of the Princeton Review)