Last May, I just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Sociology from University of California, Berkeley. Whenever people found out about my major, they always ask with a genuine curiosity: “What is Sociology? What do you do?” Sociology is probably one of the least popular majors among Indonesian students studying abroad. In my four years being a Sociology student, I was the only Indonesian in the department. If you are looking at different options for a field of study, or if you are just plain curious, let’s take a peek into Sociology!
What is Sociology?
Sociology is ‘the study of human social relationships and social institutions’ . It covers a wide range of scale, from smaller scope such as the nuclear family or a local neighborhood, to broader scope such as an organization or even a nation. Sociology also includes a diverse array of topic, from marriage, crime, religion, sexuality, economy, education, and so much more. Anything you can think of about your social surrounding, Sociology will cover. By looking at these different aspects of society, Sociologists try to understand how human beings and their behaviors are both shaping and shaped by cultural and social structures.
Sociology is also ‘an overarching unification of all studies of humankind’. During my undergraduate years, I’ve taken classes titled “Sociology of Education” or “Political Sociology”. With Sociology, you are learning about the other fields of study through a different lens, that of a social lens. You learn about various economic systems, political systems, education system, criminal justice system, world’s history, and so much more. Even fields that seem far from the social sciences, such as the environmental study, can be seen through Sociology with a sub-discipline of Environmental Sociology,
What are examples of Sociology classes?
With a wide reach, Sociology undoubtedly has plenty of classes to choose from. I’ll share only a few classes that I found interesting.
- Sociology of Food: Learning about different foods and food movement (vegan, gluten-free movement, organic food movement, etc.) around the world and how it relates to society. For example, in Indonesia, traditional farmers would often have sacred ritual surrounding the production of rice.
- Sociology of Organization: Peering into various organizational systems, such as a big corporations and its chain of command. One example that often comes up in Sociology of Organization is various enterprises in Silicon Valley (the hub for technological advancement) and how they interact within and across companies.
- Sociology of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Finding out what it means and what it takes to become an entrepreneur, as well as the process behind creating an innovation.
- Social Psychology: Understanding group behavior as well as human behavior in a group environment.
- Honorable mentions: Sociology of Sports, Sociology of Technology and Social Media, Sociology of Job Network
What do you learn in Sociology?
Sociology teaches you more than just new information on any topic you want, but it teaches you critical skills that will get you far in life. Sociologists do a lot of research, both qualitative and quantitative, which teaches you important reading and writing skills, as well as encouraging you to be comfortable with numbers, statistics, and equations. In research, Sociologists often conduct interviews or surveys which help improve communication skills. Writing research paper also trains you to explain and defend an argument with solid evidence and logic. In addition, Sociology also pushes you to be critical thinker, always questioning why things are and always reexamining your surroundings.
Sociology also opens up a whole new perspective that introduces you to communities and societies you might never have a chance to know. Last but definitely not least, Sociology gives you the tool to understand societal problems we are constantly facing, such as racism, discrimination, social inequalities, and conflict. As in other things in life, understanding the problem is the first step to solving it.
What can you do with a Sociology degree?
With skill set and knowledge extending beyond a specific subject, graduates with a Sociology degree can go anywhere they want! Many Sociology graduates continue to do research and enter the world of academia. If you’re more interested in the corporate world, Sociologist can also go into human resources and various management positions. Other sectors that Sociology graduates work in includes but not limited to: journalism, politics, non-profit, social services, education, criminal justice, and government. Recently I talked to a researcher from Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI), an organization that seems very STEM-oriented (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He mentioned that the STEM field is currently looking for more people from the social sciences, including Sociology, to work collaboratively for a more comprehensive approach to tackle different issues. It just proves the point that Sociologist is needed everywhere, even in STEM sectors that may seem like a polar opposite.
Hopefully this brief introduction to Sociology can satisfy your curiosity, or even persuade you to go into the field. Our society is huge, diverse, and constantly changing, waiting to be explored. For more information about Sociology, feel free to contact me through LinkedIn.
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Felippa Amanta is currently a senior Sociology student at UC Berkeley. She was awarded the Matsui Scholar for the UC Washington DC Program (UCDC). Among her favorite things are social work, community engagement, children and youth development, women’s empowerment, and terang bulan.
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