Students who enjoy studying sociology and who do well in their courses may want to consider a professional career as a sociologist. In order to pursue a professional career in sociology, it is necessary to attend graduate school. There are over one hundred graduate programs in sociology in the United States. All of them offer at least the M.A. degree in sociology and most of them offer the Ph.D. degree. It is possible to gain employment as a researcher in some organizations or as an instructor at a community college with only an M.A. degree. However. a Ph.D. degree is required for to gain employment as a faculty member in a four-year college or university or as a senior researcher in most government agencies, research institutes, or corporations. In addition, these positions usually require applicants to possess demonstratable skills in research methods and statistical techniques.
M.A. programs typically require the successful completion of two years of graduate coursework and independent study, including courses in theory, research methods, and statistics, as well as the completion of a thesis . Ph.D. programs usually require the successful completion of an additional two to three years of graduate coursework and independent study, including additional courses in research methods and statistics, as well as the completion of a dissertation.
Most of the students who are admitted to graduate programs in sociology apply for and receive financial assistance in the form of a research or teaching assistantship. The stipends paid to research and teaching assistants are usually sufficient to pay their living expenses and tuition costs. In general, graduate programs require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from three of their professors, a copy of their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, and a copy of their transcripts. In order to be considered for financial assistance, most students submit their applications by the end of the year prior to the year they plan to enter graduate school.