Sociology studies the ways in which people give meaning to their experience. All human behavior is social. The subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob, from crime to religion, from divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture, from the sociology of work to the sociology of sport. Few fields have such broad scope and relevance. Because sociology seems to offer something for everyone, it may seem surprising that its career potential is just beginning to be tapped.
Thirty years ago, there was really only one visibly prominent career in sociology. To be a sociologist was to be a professor, or at least a teacher of some sort. Although teaching remains the dominant activity among the more than eighteen thousand professional sociologists today, other forms of employment are growing in both numbers and significance. Not all of these jobs are reserved exclusively for sociologists. In some sectors, sociologists are joined by economists, social workers, psychologists and others. All of this represents a growing appreciation of sociology's real and potential contributions.
While the subject matter of sociology holds considerable interest for its own sake, it also offers valuable preparation for other sorts of careers. Sociology is a popular major for students planning futures in professions such as law, business, education, architecture, and even medicine -- not to mention social work, politics, and public administration. Sociology provides a rich fund of knowledge directly concerning each of these fields. Students can link sociology with each of these fields either with a double major or a sociology major and a supporting area in a specialty related to one's intended profession (in such fields as criminal justice, direct human services, planning, or health) organized as part of a sociology major. Sociology also provides many distinctive ways of looking at the world so as to generate new ideas and assess the old. Finally, sociology offers a range of research techniques which can be applied in many specific arenas -- whether one's concern is with crime and criminal justice, client satisfaction with a business firm, the provision of medical care, poverty and welfare, or the problems of peace and war.
For a small core of majors the purpose of the undergraduate program is preparation and training for admissions to graduate programs and eventual careers as sociologists in teaching and research and/or policy development. Majors may also use sociology as a basis for graduate study in related fields, including law, social work, public policy, and human resource management.