What is Sociology?

Sociology is the study of societies, institutions, organizations, groups, and individuals that is conducted at two different levels.

At the societal level, study is focused on the components of society—biophysical environment, technology, population, social organization and culture—how they are interrelated, how they change, and how they come to shape our collective social existence.  At the individual level, sociologists focus on how the behavior, thoughts, and emotions of individuals are created and modified by the social and cultural conditions in which they live.  Thus, sociology studies society and social life from two different perspectives.

The strengths of the department of Sociology at Maryland, College Park, are the study of population (demography), military sociology, political economy, social psychology, and the connections among gender, work, and family.

The department offers four undergraduate areas of specializations: Social Psychology, Family and Demography, Social Organizations, and Social Stratification.  These specializations can often be integrated with a second major.  This program versatility and the rich experiential learning possibilities of the Washington metropolitan area combine to make the sociology curriculum valuable preparation for a career choice.

Read the American Sociological Association's Report: "What can I do with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology?"

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Undergraduate Areas of Specialization Offered

  • Social psychology is the study of people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in social and cultural contexts.  Social psychologists study how individuals are affected by the societies and cultures in which they live and the groups to which they belong;  how individuals shape their societies and cultures; how individuals develop identities and make sense of their interactions with others; and the processes that play out when individuals interact within and across groups
  • Demography is the study of births, deaths, migration, and family formation/dissolution.  Populations differ markedly with respect to the rates at which they engage in these four basic processes.  Demographers study this variation across countries and over time.  They also investigate, for example, how birth rates vary within countries according to socioeconomic characteristics such as education and race.  The study of demography also emphasizes both how individual decisions add up to group rates and how social and demographic contexts impinge on individual decisions.  Family as a social institution functions as one of the most important contexts in which demographic activities are experienced.
  • Organizations and Institutions are central to social life, and organizational sociologists master the principles of organizations and institutions to think sociological about their world.  Institutions are normative systems built around important functions in society like the family and reproduction; education and the training of children for adult roles; and the military and the defense of society. 
  • Social stratification focuses on the causes, correlates, and consequences of the unequal distribution of power, property, and prestige


Last modified
02/05/2013 - 11:34 am