Thursday, September 22, 2011

To Parents of Sociology Majors

Dear Mom or Dad,

If your son or daughter is majoring in Sociology, don't worry. He or she will get a job. I won't claim that a Sociology major is a fast track to being rich, but I do think it can enrich a person's life and well-being. Seriously. If your child is majoring in Sociology, it probably means your child has a deep curiosity about the world. It probably means your child doesn't take things for granted, that (s)he doesn't view things as being "obvious" or "common sense." Your son or daughter is likely attracted to Sociology in order to make sense of the world. Simply put, your child is a thinker, and that's a good thing. The Sociology major develops critical thinking skills. The Sociology major develops problem-solving skills. The Sociology major develops communication skills. And a Sociology major is a sign that a student takes an interest in diversity and can work well with others.

Okay, you say, that's fine, even nice, but how about some practicality here? No problem. Think of all the jobs that aren't tied to a specific major. The person who sold you your last car probably has a college degree. But they didn't major in Car Sales. The person who helped you buy auto insurance or home insurance has a college degree. But they didn't graduate with an Insurance degree. The person you call when you have questions about your health insurance plan is likely to be a college graduate--and they didn't graduate in Health Insurance. You get the point. There are lots of jobs that don't exclude Sociology graduates. Keep in mind that if you don't pay your bills, you might get a call from a debt collector--and who knows, the worker might have a degree in Sociology!

Alright, maybe those jobs don't excite your mind and maybe your son or daughter wouldn't be happy at those jobs. Well, let's look at other options. Is your child thinking about law school? A degree in Sociology is good preparation for law school. Does your child want to help people? Meaning, might they go into Social Work or Counseling? To move up the ladder, they'll eventually earn a Master's degree in Social Work or in Counseling -- and a degree in Sociology won't prevent them from getting into those graduate programs!

Maybe your son or daughter would like to travel abroad to make a difference in lesser developed countries. Surely you've heard of the Peace Corps -- a perfect opportunity for Sociology majors! Maybe your child (who won't be a child forever--face it, they're actually grownups!) would like to teach English in Japan or Korea. Again, perfect for a Sociology major. If that's too much adventure for your taste, maybe you can convince your son or daughter to make a difference at home -- see AmeriCorps for example.

I've only scratched the surface here. There is much more available to the Sociology major. Sociology majors work in jobs that assist developmentally disabled individuals. They work in jobs that educate and counsel young people who are from disadvantaged (and sometimes troubled) backgrounds. They work in law enforcement.

In sum, Sociology majors do lots of things. In my experience as a Sociology professor who has talked careers with many students over the years, I find that students in Sociology are eager to help people and make a difference in life. They aren't always motivated by money and material goods. But don't worry, to major in Sociology is not to end up living in the Poor House. You can make a good living as a Sociology major. And what good is it if your child has a major that is more directly connected to making a lot of money but that major doesn't make your child happy? The happier your child is, the harder they will work at school. If they love Sociology, they will do well in Sociology. They will find a path to a job, even if the path bends now and again. Please don't stifle your child's interest in Sociology. Encourage it! Tell them to earn good grades and to get an internship. Tell them to volunteer during the school year and in summer. You know that life is about relationships and connections. And so teach your child to make connections through internships and volunteer opportunities (examples are United Way and Habitat for Humanity).

On a final and personal note: I majored in Psychology as an undergraduate. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology. My friend's father was an influential administrator in our local school system. He encouraged me to get a graduate degree in Psychology so that he could get me job at the local high school as a counselor. I followed my heart and earned my Ph.D. in Sociology instead. Now I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Niagara University and have been Chairperson of the department for five years. Not everybody who studies Sociology will end up being a professor someday, but it's my hope that Sociology leads them to happiness and fulfillment, as it did for me.

26 comments:

  1. This post is wonderful! I will be graduating in May with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology with a concentration in Human Services. I am constantly being asked by people around me what I will do when I graduate and how come I did not go into business or international relations. It is not the best feeling telling everyone that I am not in the career game to make money and have the best life. I am in the game to help people along; that is what makes me happy. I may not make loads of money but I also will not hate my job and the people I work with. Thank you for this post! It is a great reminder of why I am studying Sociology.

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  2. Hi Michelle. Thanks for your comment. I love your comment that you're "in the game to help people along." Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  3. As a parent, I was so pleased to read your post that had been forwarded to us by our daughter. You put into writing what my husband and I have discussed (endlessly) our daughter informed us of her decision to change her major from English to Anthro/Soc her sophomore year in college. She is now a junior and has never been happier or more fulfilled. During one of the orientation meetings I attended with our daughter the summer before her freshman year, a professor stated that the philosophy of the college was that upon graduation students would be prepared, not for specific jobs, but for the FUTURE. Little did I imagine how rich this future would be for our daughter who decided to study anthropology/sociology.

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    1. This was a fabulous post. It's really encouraging, because you basically described me in a not so small nutshell. *contemplating taking the leap toward Sociology*

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  4. Help! My girlfriend wants to be a Sociology Major and I don't like it! I am a Civil Engineering Major, have had a couple of internships, and will be graduating in two more semesters. My girlfriend is four years younger than I and she recently graduated from High School. She is completing her second semester at the community college that I went to a few years back. She originally wanted to study Radiology, but then decided to look into Sociology because she found out that her neighbor had been raping his daughters. This made her realize that she wanted to help rape victims, I am glad she is excited, but I am not! I want her to make a high salary, I do not want to be the sole provider for our family, I plan to marry her by the way. I know this blog is directed to the parents of Sociology Majors, but do you have any advice for the Boyfriend's of women who chose to study sociology? Sometimes I think that the fact that I can potentially earn a rather high income, assisted her in switching her major, because she knows that I will be there to support her financially. It pains me to say, but I do not want that, I want her to be able to contribute more. I love her and I want us to live with the highest combined income possible. I agree with your entry, if I was a parent of a college bound teenager, I would tell them to choose a major that can at least pay your bills and can help you fend for your self. However, that is the perspective I would have as a parent, but I am looking at it from the perspective of a boyfriend, and I do not like it. Please help!

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    1. Just to be clear, I am not the author of this article!

      However, I can tell you right now that what you are asking of your girlfriend will probably be the demise of your relationship and potential future together.

      It is not unreasonable to want a spouse to contribute more to the financial side of your household, but in this case, I doubt she will come around. She left a career path with higher earning potential for something she finds psychologically, emotionally and possibly spiritually more fulfilling. I highly doubt anything, including you wanting her to make more money, will get in the way of her pursuing this newly chosen major that brings her so much happiness.

      If you two decide you want to stick it out through this "problem", you will most likely eventually begin to resent each other and that gets ugly VERY quickly. Have you asked her if she would be willing to take on two jobs if you feel she is not contributing enough with just one? There's also the fact that she is still young and could change her mind in terms of her career path...

      But even then, being pushed to choose money over personal fulfillment could result in her feeling overworked and that her affinity for sociology is undervalued and under-appreciated in the eyes of the person who should be her number one supporter on nearly EVERY level (love, family, money, etc.)

      Overall, I don't see any of this working out too well, but that's my two cents on the matter... Best of luck!

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    2. She should run away from you as fast as possible. Maybe when you grow up and realize happiness isn't based on income she'll come back.

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    3. 1) Dating someone who is still in high school = creepy.
      2) Demanding that you choose their major and career = creepy.
      3) Asking strangers on the internet for advise on how to successfully do all of this = super creepy.

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    4. How could you possibly be so controling? I think you need to end it now before this goes any further and you become another abusive husband, who is living so beyond his means that he does not even care what his significant other wants to do with her life. Why continue? All you care about is money? You are probally going to end up as a lonely old man.

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    5. You are perfectly entitled to a wife of your choice. You obviously have thought this out through as to what kind of life and life partner you choose. Your choice is a rational, planned one, as opposed to that based on love, understanding and enabling. I am sure there are plenty other girls whose thinking matches yours. So go ahead and look for such a partner and do gently let her down NOW rather than make her life miserable life long

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    6. This is a horrible think to ask of her! if she finds fulfillment in this major then let her pursue it. It is great of her to want to pursue something to be able to help others. If I was her I would run as fast as possible the other direction from your materialistic self. I pray that you find your true happiness and realize that it is not MONEY

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  5. Wonderful post! I got a sociology: Human services degree and I went on to get a Masters of Divinity, which I am currently working on. The degree has set me up very well for what I'm learning at seminary and I also just have a desire to help people. With that desire and my love of God I hope to help people by being a pastor. Sociology is awesome!

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    1. Heidi, thanks for writing. And I couldn't agree more: sociology is awesome!!!!!!!!!

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  6. I never regretted getting my Ph.D. in sociology or all the years I spent teaching in the field. My former students, many of them sociology majors, are represented in more careers than I can count, including journalism, teaching, D-I university athletic department administration, law, medicine, social work, the corporate environment (one is a risk management specialist) and sports at the professional level. I'm going to save your essay and direct anyone straight to it if they dare to question the value of a degree in sociology! Thank you!

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  7. I just want to thank folks for reading this post. I especially appreciate examples of different paths people have taken with their sociology degree.

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  8. Hi, I hope you don't mind if I quote from your post? Cause you basically describe our course in such eloquence. I am graduating with a sociology degree soon, and just feel sad that whenever people come to know that I study sociology, they either mix it up with psychology or ask, "So what can you do when u go out to work?" There is so little understanding about what we study and how we can contribute to society, unlike the recognition given to, say, business admin or communications people...

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    1. Good luck to you. Let us know what you do with your sociology degree. Of course you can quote from this post!

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  9. I just want to say that I'm attending college to major in Sociology. Upon graduation, I'm going to live a happy life in a dumpster. Thanks mom and dad!

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  10. Great post! I initially entered university with the intention of majoring in history, and was also greatly (and remain) very much interested in politics. I had a cousin in university who told me that she had taken a sociology course and said I would find it interesting. So I took an introductory soc course in my first year and soon came to the conclusion that "I think I'm a sociologist" (OK saying that sounds a bit pretentious today, but it does demonstrate how excited I was about it) and soon switched to sociology in my second year. I ended up writing the top thesis in my department the year I graduated. My interests sort of straddled the line between sociology and political science, and I ended up in a Ph.D. program in political science and going that direction, but I still very much appreciated my undergraduate training in sociology.

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    1. Thanks for reading! And thanks for sharing a positive experience with sociology. I appreciate it. Sociology students go in many directions, and you are proof positive of that. Cheers!

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  11. Thank you so much for posting this letter. I am a Sociology Degree holder and love everything about it. You described me to a "t" critical thinker, problem solver, communication skills, takes an interest in diversity and can work well with others. The funny thing is my career path the last 10 years has been a collector! So glad I read this, it helped me to see how Sociology has helped me grow and question everything :)

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  12. Hawwlllpp! I am a teenager and an O LEVEL student. I AM doing it from The City School Bahawalpur Pakistan and I am in the first Year of O level. Here we were provided with 3 groups to chose in o levels; Science group, Computer Studies and The Business studies. As i was neither interested in the computer, nor in the business so i chose Science group. I am very much interested in SOciology that i cannot express my love for it. I don't know much about sociogu but if its about living for others or at least helping them, I wolud LOve to do it. INFACT, I am dying to do it! I simply love sociology and social service in terns of creating a better society and just to make a change. One of my favorite personality is Mother Teresa! Now i hope you would have guest my zest for the field. My school , or I should rather say Cambridge is providing us an option to appear in additional subjects along with the subjects of our selected groups and Sociology is one of them!!!!! But the sad part of the story starts here that my parents do not want me to chose sociology as an additional subject as the want me to focus on Biology and they want me to go in medical science llater on and become a doctor! But I am really not interested in medical!! whenever I tell them this, the sat, "Medical is a respectable field and it gives you more money (unfortunately, almost all of the parents in Indo-Pak think the same) and what field will you chose in sociology come on tell us, is there any good one" Now how could i tell them that no field is good pr bad. A profession is just a profession and its what you chose to become and you feel happy in! I need help from everyone who will see my post. Please guide me the path to sociology.Tell me the FIELDS concerning sociology and like after doing O levels in science and sociology as an additional one (if my parents allows :/ ) what should e next??? please help me and take me out of this feeling of distress and confusion. waiting for us answers! Thanks!

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    1. There is a Medical Sociology subfield, info here: http://www.asanet.org/medicalsociology/

      The MCAT now has Sociology content on the exam, info here:
      http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/medical-school-admissions-doctor/2014/12/23/determine-if-you-need-psychology-sociology-classes-for-mcat-prep

      Good luck to you!

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