What is Sociology?
Sociology is the branch of the social sciences that uses systematic methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine our knowledge about groups, organizations and societies, and their interactions with one another and the natural environment. A major goal of sociology is the application of this knowledge in the pursuit of human welfare and social justice, and the development of fair, effective, and sustainable institutions and policies.
Sociology is the most interdisciplinary discipline of all the social sciences. Sociologists regularly study and contribute to History, Anthropology, Geography, Political Science, and Economics, in addition to a variety of interdisciplinary fields such as Women’s Studies and Global Studies. Our methodological skills are varied, ranging from ethnography to statistical work on large databases, from discourse analysis to historical studies. Sociologists use their in-depth training, highly-developed skills, and diverse methodological tools to identify and critically analyze social phenomena, trends, and policies. They design and conduct innovative research on critical issues related to: criminology and criminal justice; political economy, poverty and globalization; race, gender, sexual, health and environmental disparities; population and migration; human values and political action.
No matter one’s career aspirations or academic interests, sociology offers something for all students and helps them to effectively respond to the challenges they will face in the 21st century. Because it addresses many dimensions of collective human existence, sociology provides valuable preparation for areas of study such as criminology, social work, community planning and urban development, human services, history, political science, education, and environmental management.
Pre-law students find that courses such as Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Law and Society provide a solid foundation for pursuing a legal career. Journalism and communication students are better able to report and analyze events after taking courses such as Social Justice and Social Change, American Society, Collective Behavior, Social Movements, and Sociological Research. Students in Women’s Studies find courses such as Gender in Society, Gender and Crime, American Society, and Family provide a solid understanding of gender issues and the new roles women are playing in the United States and the world. Students in Child and Family Studies find our Family, Social Psychology, and Juvenile Delinquency & Social Policy courses highly relevant to their education. Students interested in understanding the human dimensions of environment management and policy find courses such as Introduction to Environmental Issues, Introduction to Global Studies, Environmental Resources, Social Values and the Environment, Population, Community Sociology, and Social Justice and Community Service particularly valuable for advancing their educational and career pursuits.
Career Opportunities in Sociology
College graduates who major in sociology can secure employment in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Because training in sociology emphasizes the collection and analysis of both numerical and non-numerical data, sociology graduates commonly find work in research organizations, including market research consultant agencies, survey research firms, and government research departments. Because an education in sociology stresses how and why human groups get along and do not get along, sociology majors frequently secure employment as personnel managers, loss prevention specialists in corporations, and as technical assistants in law enforcement agencies. Because sociology course work familiarizes students with community life and collective mobilization, sociology majors frequently serve as directors and staff members of organizations that deal with community relations and neighborhood activism. Sociology majors also commonly find work in health and social welfare agencies, and in professions such as counseling, education, and law. Our students also find important work with non-profits and NGOs, including Amnesty, Oxfam, Teach for America, Americorps, Peace Corps, and World Relief. Finally, sociology majors may also continue their interest in studying society by undertaking graduate work in sociology and other social sciences.
Salary Trends in Sociology
A degree in arts and sciences prepares students for many types of careers. Your college major is not necessarily the deciding factor in your career choice. As with any degree, pre-professional experience (for example, volunteering, work experience, and internships) increases your chances of obtaining the job you want and affects your potential salary.
High School Preparation
While you are still in high school, there are many ways you can prepare yourself for eventually becoming a sociology major and then following a related career path. Concerning high school course work, if possible you should sample a broad range of social science classes, sociology included. Because university-level training in sociology requires mastery of basic computational and statistical skills, completing a full sequence of math courses in high school is a wise idea. A university education in sociology is also enriched by previous exposure to courses in the humanities, most notably history. Since specializing in sociology may well lead to a career in which you work intensively with people and help to solve people-related problems, participating in extracurricular activities and organizations, both inside and outside of high school, should prove to be useful preparation. Examples include taking part in school government and volunteering to aid senior citizens and disadvantaged youth in your community. Finally, because sociology focuses on the dynamics and patterns of social life not only in Tennessee or the United States, but also all over the world, seize whatever chances you have to spend quality non-tourist time outside of the region and the country.
How to Major in Sociology
Students declare their major at the Sociology main office and are then assigned an academic advisor who will help you design a program of study for the major. If you so choose, you may declare a special concentration in Criminology & Criminal Justice or Environmental Issues, each of which features attendant requirements.
Requirements for Sociology
The major consists of 30 hours of upper-division hours in sociology. Students must complete either Sociology 110 or 120 (or 127) with a grade of C or above. They must also complete either Math 115 or Statistics 201. They are required to take Soc 321 and Soc 331 and at least two 400-level courses.
For a concentration in Criminology and Criminal Justice, students must complete all the pre-requisites and upper-division courses required for general majors, as well as 24 credit hours of upper-division sociology courses. These courses include Sociology 350 and 451, two courses from either 449, 452, 453, 455, or 456 and four additional courses selected in consultation with the advisor.
For the concentration in Environmental Issues, students must complete all the prerequisites and upper-division courses required for general majors as well as 24 hours of upper-division sociology courses. These courses include Sociology 360, either 442 or 446, two courses from 344, 465 or 495, and four additional courses in consultation with the advisor.
Highlights of Sociology
The undergraduate sociology program features the theme of Social Justice. Faculty members teach courses and conduct research on social justice issues through their interests in criminology, gender and race, environmental issues, political economy, and globalization. The program provides a learning environment that integrates theory, research and public policy to facilitate understandings of major social problems facing local communities, the nation and the world and helps identify their causes, consequences and possible solutions. International and intercultural dimensions of these problems and others related to race, ethnicity, class, gender and human rights are identified and discussed. The Social Justice theme is emphasized in courses such as Social Justice and Change (110); Introduction to Global Studies (250); Introduction to the Study of Environmental Issues (260); Social Inequalities (340); Race and Ethnicity (343); Power and Society (344); Environment and Resources (360); Gender and Society (375); Comparative Poverty and Development (442); Modern World System (446); Race, Ethnicity, Crime and Justice (452); Gender and Crime (453); Off-Campus Study: Internships in Sociology (492); and Social Justice and Community Service (495). The latter two courses offer qualified seniors the opportunity to gain career experience while receiving course credit through a College-approved Service Learning component and provide field work experience within various service agencies and non-profit organizations.
The Criminology and Criminal Justice and Environmental Issues concentrations provide in-depth understanding, research skills and identifies emerging developments and research opportunities within these two major sub fields of Sociology. Both are nationally recognized undergraduate programs and are major areas of focus within the department’s graduate studies.
Outstanding students majoring in Sociology may apply for one of our honors concentrations and are eligible for the prestigious Gertrude Hurlbutt Scholarship Award and other department awards and recognitions.
Ready for the World is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century. Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus. Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings. Visit the Center for International Education web site (http://web.utk.edu/~globe/about.shtml) or the Ready for the World web site (http://www.utk.edu/readyfortheworld/) for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.
Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.
Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.
Academic Plan and Milestones
Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.
To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.
For More Information
Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies
901 McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37966-0450
The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.