Sociology Degree Guide

Sociology is often defined as the study of society – specifically its structure and its problems. Indeed, the concept of sociology underpins many of the welfare systems in place within the UK today, and because of this it’s important that there are a number of experts with knowledge in this field.

Sociology as a subject deals with topics like race and gender (to name just a couple of the things you’ll be touching on), and how these things relate to society as a whole. You’ll be asking a lot of big questions about things like class structure and crime and punishment, and you’ll be carrying out plenty of research on everything from social change to human rights.

Sociology degree guide

What A-levels do you need?

Subject requirements are fairly relaxed when it comes to sociology; many universities won’t ask for any specific subjects, but most will look favourably upon the social sciences and any other humanities subjects you might happen to have up your sleeve. Specific grade requirements will, as usual, vary depending on the uni – Southampton want ABB for their sociology BSc, while Abertay University’s sociology BSc requires CDD.

What are your study options?

Most sociology BAs will be three years in length, although some universities will offer four-year degrees that incorporate a placement year or a year abroad. Many unis will also offer joint honours courses that combine sociology with the likes of psychology, law, or criminology (along with plenty of other combinations).

Sociology is a predominantly academic approach towards the study of society, as opposed to social work which is more hands on in nature. As such, most lessons will take place within a lecture setting, with learning being reinforced through group discussions, seminars and tutorials. In terms of modules, you’ll likely cover a broad range of theories and methods in your first year before being given the chance to specialise towards the end of your degree (you’ll be able to choose modules on things likes media, social theory, violence and social harm, and the sociology of racism, to name a few examples).

Due to the research-based nature of sociology, the majority of assessments will consist of written assignments (essays) or examinations. The number of contact hours will be low, and you’ll be expected to do plenty of independent research (expect to spend a fair bit of time in the library).

Why study sociology?

If social relationships are something that interest you, sociology may be the perfect course for you. The subject will provide you with an insight in to society and why the people in it think and act the way they do, and can lead into a wide range of different opportunities and careers. This is one of the main strengths of the course; like other humanities subjects, it won’t limit your job prospects.

You should also get on well with sociology if you enjoy discussing theories and ideas; you’ll get plenty of opportunity to meet and chat with like-minded people, so you’ll be able to explore and debate issues as much as you like (and this will be encouraged on the course).

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After your degree…

Upon graduation, there are a number of different career options available to those with degrees in sociology. Many students opt to pursue roles in the social sector or within the hospitality industry due to their understanding of other people’s needs and how to meet them. Similarly, there is also the option of finding work within journalism, or even in the charitable sector as a fundraiser.

For those looking to pursue more vocational career paths, there are a number of different postgraduate study options. Some students study for the Graduate Diploma in Law in order to pursue careers within the family law sector, while some take a PGCE and go in to teaching. There are also a number of different research courses available for sociology students, so you can consider doing an MA (and then maybe even a PhD) if you want to stay in academia.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – you shouldn’t feel at all limited in the jobs you apply for after you graduate. If you want to go to work for a big graduate employer like KPMG or PWC, then go for it (they often employ humanities and social science graduates, so don’t feel put off just because you didn’t study maths or economics).

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Q & A with a sociology graduate

Phil Harris studied sociology at the University of Liverpool...

Why did you decide to study sociology at university?

I have always been interested in how different people are treated, both socially and politically, so sociology was the perfect course to satisfy my ongoing curiosity as to why there is social inequality in the world.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of your course?

My favourite part was the study of social theory as I’ve always been a Marxist at heart, and it allowed me to investigate socialist theory more deeply.

What was the least enjoyable aspect of your course?

The worst part of my course was a module I did on the sociology of education – I didn’t feel like it taught me anything. I hated it, and so didn’t put as much effort as I should have done into the coursework, which ended up significantly affecting my final marks.

How did the course prepare you for your job?

If you’re hoping to work with people in any capacity, sociology is an excellent subject to study, and because it’s quite a flexible qualification there are lots of different careers open to you. One thing to note though is that it’s not necessarily the best course if your primary aim after graduation is making a lot of money…

How do you think a degree in sociology might help graduates seeking employment?

My course taught me to treat everybody equally. I’m a tour guide now, and I always take care to ensure everyone is able to enjoy the tour, whatever their social background.

How did the course prepare you for your job?

My course taught me to treat everybody equally. I’m a tour guide now, and I always take care to ensure everyone is able to enjoy the tour, whatever their social background.

What would you like to go on to do in your career in the future?

I’m thinking of eventually giving up tour guiding to do something more socially rewarding — studying sociology instils that urge in you. It also makes you a very good communicator though, and I’m a natural performer, so maybe I should be a stand up comic instead!

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