Sociology as a Career

What can I do with a sociology degree?

Anyone who has ever studied sociology has probably heard this question many times from friends, family members, and co-workers. The truth is a degree in sociology will prepare you for a career in a wide range of fields and occupations. Ask most job recruiters what skills they look for in college graduates and most will rattle off many of the proficiencies you learn by studying sociology: writing and speaking clearly; working cohesively in a group; thinking strategically and critically; being able to conceptualize the bigger picture; and collecting and analyzing data. By gaining these skills through your sociology coursework you will be ideally positioned to pursue any number of professional positions when you graduate.

Sociology provides you with a broad and versatile path for careers in policy, human services, criminal justice, business, or research, among others. According to ASA 21st Century Careers and the “What Can I Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology?”(2007) survey, more than 80 percent of the students surveyed 18 months after graduation were employed. Of those, 27 percent were in social service/counselor occupations, 16 percent in administrative support, 14 percent in management, 10 percent in sales/marketing, 8 percent in teaching, 8 percent in services, 7 percent in professions including public relations and information technology, 6 percent in social science research, and 4 percent in others.

Need proof? Just read through our alumni profiles to learn about the varied experiences of some of our SUNY New Paltz sociology graduates.

For additional information check out some of the many sources available through the American Sociological Association.

You may have heard of these sociologists

The list of prominent figures that hold a sociology degree is quite extensive and diverse. While many are not necessarily Sociologists with a capital “S” it shows that you are in good company. Here is a list of some names you may have heard of:


  • Wellington Webb, mayor of Denver, Colorado
  • Brett Schundler, mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Annette Strauss, former mayor of Dallas, Texas
  • Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Roy Wilkins, former head of NAACP
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson
  • Rev. Ralph Abernathy
  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S. Senator of New York
  • Shirley Chisholm, former Congresswoman from New York
  • Maxine Waters, Congresswoman from Los Angeles, California
  • Barbara Mikulski, U.S. Senator from Maryland
  • Tim Holden, Congressman from Pennsylvania
  • Cardinal Theordore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, D.C.
  • Saul Alinsky, father of community organizing
  • President Ronald Reagan (double major in sociology and economics)
  • Emily Balch, 1946 Nobel Peace Prize winner (a social worker and social reformer)
  • Francis Perkins, social reformer and former Secretary of Labor
  • Richard Barajas, Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court
  • Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States
  • Cory Booker, former Mayor of Newark, New Jersey and U.S. Senator for New Jersey


  • Saul Bellow, novelist
  • Regis Philbin, TV host
  • Dan Aykroyd, actor/Blues Brother
  • Robin Williams, actor/comedian
  • Paul Shaffer, bandleader on David Letterman Show (and before that, Saturday Night Live)
  • Dinah Shore, singer
  • Ruth Westheimer, the “sex doctor” 
  • Kalpen Suresh Modi, White House Liaison for Arts and Humanities (also known as actor Kal Penn from the television show “House” and the “Harold and Kumar” movies)
  • Guy Carawan (MA in Sociology)  folk musician and musicologist
  • Bong Joon-ho, Korean director
  • Ron Moody, actor
  • James Blunt, singer
  • E.J. Dionne (Social science BA and PhD in Sociology) columnist and author


  • Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympics gold medalist and civil rights activist
  • Alonzo Mourning, Miami Heat
  • Bryant Stith, Boston Celtics
  • Brian Jordan, Atlanta Braves
  • Joe Theisman, NFL quarterback
  • Eric Bjornson, Dallas Cowboys
  • Bobby Taylor, Eagles cornerback
  • Ahmad Rashad, Sportscaster

And there are more...