Sociology Advising Guide

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work

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What is Sociology?

Working together: The Bachelor and Master of Arts in Sociology!

Sociology is the study of social life, focusing on society, the individual in society, and social change.  Using various research methodologies, sociology offers descriptions as well as explanations for social realities and inequalities, which may guide social policy initiatives and programs for social change.  At The University of South Alabama, the sociology program concentrates on crime and deviance, environmental sociology, family and aging, gender and sexuality, medical sociology, religion, social psychology, social stratification and mobility, and work and labor markets.  In addition to working closely with sociology faculty, students can collaborate with faculty in anthropology and social work and can simultaneously pursue an undergraduate certificate in gerontology.  We strive to improve our social world within both local and global communities, working with community partners to increase life chances in our collective pursuit of social justice.

The mission of the Bachelor of Arts Program in Sociology is (1) to teach the student core sociological perspectives, (2) to expose the student to a range of sociological topics for investigation, (3) to provide the essential skills for social research and analysis, and (4) to prepare the student for the Master of Arts in Sociology or related fields, or for an applied career in professional settings.

The mission of the Master of Arts Program in Sociology is to provide students with advanced training in sociological theory and social science research methods for enhanced understanding of several specialized subject areas of sociology:  crime and deviance; environmental sociology; family, aging, and the life course; gender; medical sociology; religion; social psychology; stratification and mobility; and work and labor markets.  In addition to working closely with sociology graduate faculty, students can collaborate with graduate faculty in anthropology and social work and can simultaneously pursue a graduate certificate in gerontology.  The Master of Arts Program in Sociology, designed for full-time students to finish in four academic semesters, can prepare students for doctoral-level study or for careers in teaching, private industry, government, or community and social service.


Career Opportunities in Sociology

Sociology offers a wealth of opportunities, especially for students who complete the Bachelor and Master programs. Although Sociologists work primarily in University settings, from University administration to Faculty, the strong social justice theme in Sociology guarantees opportunities in local, state, and federal government, for-profit and not-for-profit foundations, and research institutes.  Sociology also offers a wealth of professional organizations that will serve to focus students on their career objectives.  Please explore what Sociology has to offer:

American Sociological Association:

Southern Sociological Society:

Mid-South Sociological Association:

Society for the Study of Social Problems:


Salary Trends in Sociology

Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area. 

As a result, A&S are majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:

“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.

Another longitudinal study concluded that:

"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."

Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary, with Math, Philosophy, International Studies, Physics, Political Science, Chemistry, and Journalism all scoring in the top 10 among all majors in rate of salary growth to mid-career.


High School Preparation

Many students are not exposed to Sociology until college; however, even if your high school does not offer Sociology courses, there are still high school classes you may find useful before entering college and declaring a major or minor in Sociology. Depending on your particular interests in Sociology, please consider taking coursework in social studies, history, or other social sciences, and math (statistics is especially useful). Computer skills are important, as are good writing skills. Courses that encourage critical thinking, to question our social world, are especially useful.


How to Major in Sociology

Requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology:

Credit Hours A minimum of 35 semester hours in Sociology, including:

SY 109 Introduction to Sociology

SY 112 Social Problems 

SY 376 Modern Sociological Theory

SY 381 Research Design

SY 382 Research Analysis 

AN 100 or 101 Introduction to Anthropology

At least 17 of the 35 semester hours required for a major must be taken in upper division courses (300-400 level). SY 475 is recommended for students contemplating graduate work.   No more than six semester hours of Directed Studies may be used in meeting the major requirements. Students pursuing a degree in Sociology also must have a minor in another discipline.

Requirements for a Master of Arts in Sociology:

Students can apply for admission to the Master of Arts Program in Sociology to begin study in the Fall, Spring, or Summer semester. However, it is highly recommended that students apply for admission to begin study in the Fall semester as per the academic structure of the Master of Arts Program in Sociology. See below, and The Graduate School, for important application deadlines.

The following Requirements for Admission to the Master of Arts Program in Sociology supplement the categories of admission as stipulated by The Graduate School.

Requirements for Admission

Regular Admission

  1. Baccalaureate degree or coursework in a social science discipline from an accredited institution of higher education.
  2. 3.0 or higher cumulative grade point average across all completed undergraduate courses.
  3. Completion of the University of South Alabama Graduate Application for Admission.
  4. Official academic transcripts from each college or university attended, even if the applicant did not earn credit at the institution.
  5. Combined score of 300 or better on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. GRE scores older than five (5) years from the date of application for admission to the Master of Arts Program in Sociology will not be accepted.
  6. Submission of a statement of purpose—approximately two (2), single-spaced pages in length—that provides an intellectual autobiography of the applicant, an indication of the applicant's areas of specialized interest within sociology, and a description of the applicant's academic and career goals.
  7. One (1) writing sample, preferably generated for evaluation in completed coursework toward the baccalaureate degree.
  8. Three (3) letters of recommendation that detail the applicant's capacity for success in, and for timely completion of, a master's program of study. Letters of recommendation should also address the applicant's ability and willingness to work cooperatively within the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work and cooperatively among the University of South Alabama's broader academic community. A minimum of two (2) letters of recommendation must be written by college or university faculty members who are familiar with the applicant's academic work.

Applicants who wish to be considered for financial assistance through a Graduate Assistantship must also include with their admission application materials a University of South Alabama Application for Graduate Assistantship. Letters of recommendation for these applicants should additionally consider merit for paid financial assistance through a Graduate Assistantship. Applicants who wish to be considered for Fall admission to the Master of Arts Program in Sociology, and for a Graduate Assistantship, must submit all appropriate application materials to the Office of Graduate Admissions by March 15. Review of admission and Graduate Assistantship applications will begin immediately thereafter and continue until all available Graduate Assistantships are awarded.


Special Programs, Internships, and Directed Studies 

We encourage students to take advantage of the many hands-on opportunities in Sociology available to them while at USA.  Numerous internships are also available with area institutions including: Area Agency on Aging; Bay Area Food Bank; Center for Fair Housing; Gulf States Health Policy Research Center; Mobile Police Department; Inner City Mission; USA Center for Healthy Communities; USA Office for Study Abroad; and Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center

Students are especially encouraged to engage in independent research with faculty through Directed Studies, Senior Theses, and Honors Theses. Funding for faculty research often allows faculty to employ undergraduate research assistants. Students should check with the department chair about funded research opportunities. 

The USA Certificate Program in Gerontology has its academic home in the department; students may minor in gerontology or earn a certificate at the undergraduate or graduate level. The department is also affiliated with academic programs in Forensic Sciences, Museum Studies, and Native American Studies and with the Center for Generational Studies and the Center for Archaeological Studies. Dr. J. Steven Picou, former department chair, is Director of the Coastal Resource and Resiliency Center.


Sociology Highlights 

The Sociology MA program typically funds 3-5 assistantships, including departmental assistantships and research assistantships.  Last year, the MA program graduated six students.  Graduate faculty are active in research and professional organizations and encourage student participation.  Faculty members are Principal Investigators or Co-PI’s on new grant awards of over $2.61million and additional active grants of $7.98million.  These grants support graduate students and provide venues for undergraduate involvement in research. 

Community engagement is a priority for Sociology faculty, as demonstrated by their volunteer work in a wide variety of community-based organizations and charities including: Alabama Board of Social Work Examiners, Alabama Contemporary Arts Center (formerly Centre for the Living Arts), Bay Area Food Bank, Children’s Policy Council, Council Traditional School, Drug Education Council, 15 Place, Girls Explore Math and Science (GEMS), Gulf Coast Exploreum, Historic Blakely Foundation, Housing First, Junior League, League of Women Voters, One Mobile, Mayor’s Leaders Now, Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mobile Homeless Connect, Mobile Medical Museum, Mobile Youth Works Council, Prichard Preparatory Academy, Project Hope, and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.


Study Abroad Opportunities 

The University encourages all students to participate in study abroad and makes programs available to let students go all over the world and study many different topics. It is particularly easy for Sociology majors to do so, since one of the University’s cornerstone programs, "USA in the UK” program, is run by a sociology faculty member, Dr. Doug Marshall.  Under his leadership, Sociology will always be a part of study abroad opportunities.  For Sociology majors, study abroad expands their ability to recognize, describe, and theorize global and local issues outside of the United States.

Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development.  Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities.  It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence.  When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it.  When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.

Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more.  There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs. 

Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.

You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad ( team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program.  You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.

Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at to begin your research.  The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs.  You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?


Academic Plan

Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years. 

To see a sample academic plan for this major, please click here.  Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.


For More Information

Please contact Dr. Roma Hanks ( or Dr. Chris Freed ( with any questions about our programs. 

You can find us on campus at:

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
5991 USA Drive North
Humanities Building Rm. 34
Mobile, AL 36688-0002
Phone: (251) 460-6347
Fax: (251) 460-7925

Department website