Career Spotlight: Teaching

A Look At Teaching Careers In the Field Of Sociology

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Teaching sociology is not like teaching other disciplines. The specific topics and cases are always changing. You could teach a class for twenty years and have new material each time. From a teacher’s point of view, this keeps things fresh and interesting.

Sociology is offered in some high schools, however the majority of teaching jobs are in community colleges, two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and universities.

Sociology is not only taught to future sociologists and to undergraduate students as part of their liberal arts education. It also forms an important part of pre-professional programs in law, education, business, medicine, engineering, social work, and nursing. In addition to the standard college and university courses, sociology courses are popular with adult and continuing education programs.

Teaching sociology differs across settings. A general introduction for high school students requires different skills than does a course for college seniors. These differ from leading an advanced research seminar for doctoral students. For many, teaching represents a desirable occupation with considerable job security and the satisfaction of facilitating learning for students who are struggling with the most intriguing issues that sociology addresses. What is most important is that you include preparation for teaching as part of your graduate work – avail yourself of any seminars, workshops, or discussions on the campus – in the department or at the institution's teaching center – to develop expertise and practice in teaching, including the preparation of a teaching portfolio.

Many teaching positions, particularly in universities and four-year colleges, require research activities. Institutions vary according to whether they place greater emphasis on research or on teaching as the primary route to advancement. Some institutions place more emphasis on teaching, and many are attempting to achieve an optimum balance between research and teaching.

When you investigate an institution, be sure to examine its mission statement and faculty handbook and also determine your own personal research versus teaching level desires.

Skill and Experience Requirements

The requirements for teaching jobs vary by institution, however almost all will require an MA or Ph.D. in sociology. Likewise, the workload and expectations of you also vary by institution and by position. Besides the full-time workload at a major college or university, there is also the option to teach one course at a time as an adjunct professor at a community college or to teach online through the increasing number of online colleges. All of these situations will have varying requirements. Check individual institutions for their individual requirements.


The salaries of sociology instructors depend greatly on such factors as an instructor's education level, experience, tenure and employer. Tenured sociology professors with doctoral degrees who teach at leading universities earn the highest salaries, while community college instructors with master's degrees earn less. The good news is that salaries have risen over the past decade for sociology instructors of all ranks, according to a survey by the American Sociological Association.

Sociology instructors in colleges and universities earned an average annual salary of nearly $72,000 in 2009, the most recent year for which salary data were available, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salary levels ranged from $34,640 a year for the lowest-paid 10 percent to $120,610 a year for the top 10 percent. The median salary for college and university sociology instructors was $64,430. Faculty rank also plays a role in salary. Full professors earned the most money, with their salaries averaging $91,406 a year. Associate professors' salaries averaged $67,396 a year and assistant professors earned nearly $56,000 a year.

Search for teaching jobs or other sociology careers in your area.


American Sociological Association. (2011).

Hall, S. (2011). The Average Salary For Sociology Instructors.