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Masters Degree in Sociology

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As a social science, sociology is intimately concerned with how people, their systems of living, and organised society work. It is a research-based discipline, and undertaking a masters in the subject gives a lot of scope to the individual to tailor their learning to their particular interest.

Entry requirements

To apply for a Masters Degree in Sociology, candidates will need to hold a bachelors degree. The precise requirements for candidature will vary between institutions, but a first degree in a social science is a good start for those wishing to undertake postgraduate study in the field. Students may also be able to transition to the masters following a degree in an unrelated field, but may need to demonstrate aptitude in the research methods required by the masters.

Areas of study

Most masters of sociology degree courses will comprise a set number of core modules alongside optional modules that the student chooses depending on their academic interests. The broad range of research areas that falls within the remit of sociology is one of its most attractive features. It enables students to focus on their particular area of interest. Some of the areas that students can specialise in include:

Social inequality: Students of social inequality look at factors that affect opportunities for members of a society. These factors can include class, finance, ethnicity and political status. Students may analyse the effect of inequality, such as how unemployment or social exclusion impacts upon health, culture and political engagement.

Politics: This area of the subject looks at how the political institutions of a society function, and how political attitudes shape a society. Students could look at how political trends have shifted over time or compare different political systems in terms of their social cohesion.

Gender: Students specialising in gender look at how gender difference impacts the domestic, professional and political spheres on a culture and society. Research could focus on how gender differences in access to childcare, domestic work, consumption and leisure activities affects individuals and the larger community.

Media: As one of the primary means by which a society communicates on a large scale, the media is an important area of study within the sociology discipline. Masters students could conduct research into how the spheres of media and politics interact, how access to a variety of media affects a culture’s political views, or how new media such as the internet is impacting on the democratisation of media.

Environment: Environmental sociology concerns how manmade environments affect their inhabitants, and how those environments impact upon the natural world. Students could choose to analyse how political philosophies have affected the built environment, at how manmade environments affect the wellbeing of those who live in them, or how elements of the natural world – such as water and fossil fuels – become politicised. 

Methods of study

Most universities offer Masters Degrees in Sociology as a taught postgraduate course. However, alongside tuition from skilled lecturers, students are also likely to undertake practical research, particularly for their concluding thesis, and this may involve qualitative or quantitative research and practical data gathering. A typical course at a UK university will be one year full time or two years part time. Most courses are campus-based, but some institutions may offer distance-learning options. 

Student case studies

How these areas of study can be tailored to an individual’s interests can be seen in these case studies of current students.

Heidi Esbenson is working on a masters degree focusing on low-income single fathers and how they experience fatherhood with a focus on the intersection and impacts of gender and class.

Iona Chis studied a Masters Degree in Sociology to find out more about the possibilities and limitations of the public sector in collaborating with, and supporting community organisations.

Joe Rigby focused on sociological research methods to explore the reality of how research actually gets done, as well as the more expected focus on why certain methodologies are deployed and for what ends.

Career opportunities

A Masters Degree in Sociology opens up a wide range of potential career opportunities.

Many students go into politics, working on policy or conducting research for governmental agencies. Others work in the charity sector, while sociology can also prove useful for industries such as journalism and HR, which are people-focused.

A Masters Degree in Sociology is also the first step necessary for those wishing to pursue a career in the academic sphere. Students would subsequently undertake a DPhil course, transitioning to a PhD, and then combine research with teaching. 

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