By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Sociology?

Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behaviour. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies and how people interact within these contexts by examining the dynamics of constituent parts of societies such as institutions, communities, populations, and gender, racial, or age groups.

The field of sociology studies virtually every aspect of human society: the family, gender, race and ethnic relations, ageing, education, work, population, and many others.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Sociology in the following subject areas:

  • A Basic Introduction and Guide to Sociology – This course is aimed at those who want to get a better understanding of how the societies in which they live have come into being and how and why they operate in the way they do.
  • Bachelor of Arts in Humanities Joint Major: Sociology and Politics – This course lets you examine our society, its structure, its organisations, and ask questions around the complexities of this social world.
  • Sociology and Society – An introduction to contemporary sociology explores everyday aspects of the social world; divisions of race, class and gender; historical perspectives and sociological methods.
  • Diploma in Sociology – Study society and human social relationships.

Studying Sociology in college

There are many courses in Sociology that may take place over a few days, weeks or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. Pre-entry paid or voluntary work experience is crucial. People often become community development workers after working in teaching, youth work, the health sector or other roles within the community. Development work overseas may also be relevant.

Relevant work experience is a good way of demonstrating a genuine interest in the field and is regarded favourably by employers. Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a Sociology course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of community development and social change to improve the quality of life in society.

As a Sociology graduate, you will typically work in an industry with organisations that help individuals, families or whole communities, empowering them to identify their assets, needs, opportunities, rights and responsibilities, plan what they want to achieve and take appropriate action and develop activities and services to generate aspiration and confidence.

You will do this by acting as a link between communities and a range of other local authorities and voluntary sector providers, such as the police, social workers and teachers or by being a part of the local authority. Your role will frequently involve addressing inequality and the projects you work on will often be in communities perceived to be culturally, economically or geographically disadvantaged.

Understanding people within society can also be useful in careers such as market research, retail management and journalism.

Working hours will depend on whether you are self-employed, employed by a company or facility with set business hours or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. Each working day will vary depending on your scheduled activities for that week. You need to be accessible to the communities you serve. This means the work will often include unsocial hours, such as evenings and weekends, so considerable flexibility is required.

Related jobs include:

  • Guidance Counsellor
  • Human Resources Representative
  • Human resources officer
  • Lawyer
  • Management Consultant
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Media Planner
  • Policy Analyst
  • Public Relations (PR) Specialist
  • Social Worker
  • Social researcher
  • Market Researcher
  • Marketing executive
  • Advice worker
  • Community development worker
  • Further education teacher
  • Higher education lecturer
  • Housing manager/officer
  • Police officer
  • Policy officer
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Youth worker
  • Charity officer
  • Civil Service administrator
  • Family support worker
  • International aid/development worker
  • Life coach
  • Newspaper journalist
  • Probation officer
  • Public relations officer
  • Special educational needs coordinator

Further study

After completing a course in Sociology, you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as business and community studies, legal studies, public health or community health, social services management, voluntary sector studies, education, environment or youth work.


What is the main purpose of Sociology?

Sociology is the study of human social relationships and institutions. At the societal level, sociology examines and explains matters like crime and law, poverty and wealth, prejudice and discrimination, schools and education, business firms, urban community, and social movements.

Sociology helps us look more objectively at our society and other societies. It directs attention to how the parts of society fit together and how they change, as well as makes us aware of the consequences of that social change.

What skills could be helpful for a career in Sociology?

If you are thinking about a career in Sociology it could be useful to have some experience with the following skills:

Analytical skills – Sociologists must be able to carefully analyze data and other information, often utilizing statistical processes to test their theories.

Communication skills – Sociologists need strong communication skills when they conduct interviews, collaborate with colleagues, and present research results.

Critical-thinking skills – Sociologists must be able to think critically when doing research. They must design research projects and collect, process and analyze information in order to draw logical conclusions about society and the groups it comprises.

Problem-solving skills – Sociologists’ research typically is focused on identifying, studying, and solving sociological problems.

Writing skills – Sociologists frequently write reports detailing their findings.

Where can I study Sociology?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • Lady Amos (UN Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs), Martin Luther King Jr, Robin Williams and Michelle Obama are all sociology graduates.
  • Social experiments are done to observe people’s reactions to a breaking of a social norm. These are called breaching experiments. For example, if you stand backwards in an elevator, eat with your hands, or stand and talk too closely to someone, people may give you weird looks. This is because you are breaking socially accepted rules which make people uncomfortable.
  • The presence of other people can have a powerful impact on behaviour. When a number of people witness something such as an accident, the more people that are present the less likely it is that someone will step forward to help. This is known as the bystander effect.
  • The need to conform leads people to go along with the group. Most people will go along with the group, even if they think the group is wrong. In Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments, people were asked to judge which was the longest of the three lines. When other members of the group picked the wrong line, participants were more likely to choose the same line.
  • The way we categorize others helps us make sense of the world, but this also leads to stereotyped views. When we categorize information about social groups, we tend to exaggerate differences between groups and minimize the differences within groups. This is part of the reason why stereotypes and prejudice exist.

Mariza Halliday

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