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What does a Sociology Professor do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A sociology professor is a person who has earned advanced degrees in sociology. If a doctorate degree has been earned, professor or doctor may be an appropriate title. Most often the title of doctor is preferred by those who work in research areas; whereas professor is more common for people who teach, and thus profess, what they know to others. Sometimes the term professor is used by people who have a master’s degree in sociology but who teach at a junior or community college or four year university. Given the number of places a sociology professor might teach, job description can be varied.

At four-year colleges and those that offer advanced degrees, a sociology professor is at least partly focused on teaching classes about his field. These could include introductory classes and they may also involve junior/senior level coursework and graduate level work. When there is a large graduate department on campus, part of the job of the professor may be to work with student teachers in the graduate program, who could act as section leaders for very big classes or teachers of smaller ones.

Depending on their interest, sociology professors may make themselves available to those pursing undergraduate or graduate sociology agrees to advise them on courses to take, and to oversee senior, master’s or doctoral theses. Courses taught each term might vary, and some professors have the luxury to design their own classes in the field, or they might be expert in one area of sociology and always teach classes in this area. Some people prefer teaching beginning or introduction to sociology courses while other times a sociology professor is more comfortable in much smaller graduate or upper grade seminar classes.

Many colleges, particularly with graduate and especially doctorate programs have a strong emphasis on publishing. Constantly coming forth with new material accepted in the academic community can add to the sum of knowledge about a specific subject and the reputation of the school. Therefore a sociology professor employed in this environment knows that part of that employment is contributing to the academic literature of his or her subject. In sociology, this often means creating research projects or going back in time to study the sociological aspects of some historical or cultural feature. When current research is involved, professors may invite the participation of students who could work as assistants in gathering or collating data.

In a college with a strong publish/perish environment, the sociology professor tends to teach fewer than five classes, and might only teach three or four. When significant research is underway, the college might not assign classes to the professor at all, but teaching would resume once a project had been finished. This differs greatly from the sociology teacher on a junior college campus, who if full time is likely to teach five classes each term. There is less emphasis on publication in this environment and more stress on helping students take general education courses.

A sociology professor might do some of the following:

    Design and teach classes, preparing all tests, material and grading some or all material.
    Supervise students by counseling or advising them about subject study, becoming advisers for theses, or being direct employers of section teachers or research workers.
    Actively participate in research and scholarly projects for publication.

Other activities a sociology professor might do is consult with or advise the general public or think tanks on issues related to the field, work with a university to develop curriculum standards for the sociology department or work as a department head and represent the concerns of the department to the university.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By RoyalSpyder — On Dec 10, 2013
@Heavanet: I agree with you. Sociology is very important if we want to further understand the culture we live in.

During my senior year at Trinity Christian College (located in Palos Heights), I took a sociology course known as History of the City, and was required to do a project on a Chicago suburb of my choosing. For the suburb, I chose the city of Palos Heights.

During the few weeks spent working on my project, I learned more about Palos Heights than I did during my four years at Trinity Christian College. Not only does sociology help us to get a better understanding of the world around us, but from a cultural perspective, it helps us to come out of our comfort zone.

By Heavanet — On Dec 09, 2013

If you are fascinated by human behavior and how people interact with each other on small and large scales, you would enjoy a career as a sociology professor. Not only would you have the opportunity to teach what you learned through your studies, but you would have the opportunity to engage with people throughout your career. It would also be rewarding to work in a college or university setting, engaging your life's work in a subject you enjoy.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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