Even though only a small percentage of sociology graduate students generally pursue a Ph.D., also known as a Doctor of Philosophy, those who do earn the prestigious degree benefit from additional mentoring experiences, on-the-job training and research projects, as the American Sociological Association reports in the publication “Idealists Versus Careerists: Graduate School Choices of Sociology Majors." These experiences help qualify candidates for high paying and highly competitive jobs.
Although individual university requirements vary, candidates seeking a Sociology Ph.D. must demonstrate competence in sociological analysis, including an in-depth understanding of research methods, statistics and related theories. According to the website for sociology doctoral candidates at Princeton University, which ranks first in the nation among graduate level sociology programs in the nation by "U.S. News & World Report," students must complete two major research papers suitable for publication, pass a comprehension examination and write a dissertation that demonstrates a thorough understanding of sociology before earning their Ph.D.
Careers in research are some of the most common career paths for people who earn a Ph.D. in Sociology. A Ph.D. in Sociology proves to employers that a candidate has the inquisitive skills, perseverance and intelligence needed to work in research centers. Sociology Ph.D. recipients often pursue research careers in a variety of sectors, including nonprofit organizations, businesses, government agencies or at the university level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Earning a Ph.D. degree in Sociology is beneficial to sociologists interested in teaching at universities or colleges around the world, according to Princeton University. Graduate students pursuing a Sociology Ph.D., benefit from the additional interaction with the faculty at their university, as well as faculty from other highly respected universities. This additional exposure increases their industry connections and may help them find highly competitive teaching positions at the university level after graduation, as Peterson's reports, a company that helps students with test preparation, college planning and career exploration.
Earnings and Employment
Even during times of high unemployment, all Ph.D. recipients earn significantly higher salaries and experience lower levels of unemployment than those with less education, according to Elka Jones, economist for the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth of professional sociology jobs to increase up to 18 percent by 2020. However, the occupation is still relatively small compared to other industries, so competition for professional sociology jobs will remain significant. A Ph.D. in sociology can help give candidates an advantage when they are applying for highly-sought-after positions.
- Princeton University: A Guide for Prospective Students
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Sociologist
- Princeton University Sociology Department: Career Paths of SOC PH.D.s
- American Sociological Association: Idealists vs. Careerists: Graduate School Choices of Sociology Majors
- University of Minnesota: Nonacademic Careers in Sociology
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Beyond Supply and Demand: Assessing the Ph.D. Job Market
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Sociologists
- American Sociological Association: Paying Attention to the Master’s Degree in Sociology
- Peterson's: What Value Can Be Found in Most Ph.D. Programs?
Amy Pearson earned dual bachelor's degrees in management and horticulture. She is a licensed elementary teacher for kindergarten through sixth grades. Pearson specializes in flower and vegetable gardening, landscape design, education, early childhood and child development.