but what do they do?

Social workers (9%), elementary and middle school teachers (6%), counselors (4%), managers, all other (4%), lawyers (3%), secretaries and administrative assistants (2%), postsecondary teachers (2%), police and sheriff’s patrol officers (2%), human resources workers (2%), first-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers (2%), social and community service managers (2%), sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing (2%), and education administrators (2%).

According to the American Community Survey, those are the most common occupations for  full-time employed people ages 25-55 who were sociology majors in college. To put this in context, I made a graph showing the links between occupations and majors.

16 thoughts on “but what do they do?”

  1. I really like what youve done with the data. I work at Census in this topic and I made these info graphics that might also be helpful for your students and their families. It combines all the social sciences together but Sociology does tend to be very interdisciplinary. Theres a link at the bottom as well to a table with about 50 common jobs, how far they go in school and what their earnings look like.



    1. Aww shucks. The graph was actually quite easy. I used the d3 javascript library, which is what the cool kids at the New York Times (where Mike Bostock works now) are using these days. I found a sample script where the data could be in .csv format with three columns (major,occupation,count) and then used the old copy and paste.

      The New Yorker recently had a great looking map of craft breweries using d3. I’m hoping to remix their code the next time I need a US map.

      One of the many advantages of d3 is that you can learn from other people’s code (it is in plain text either in the HTML file or in a linked script) and usually get their data. If you poke around in the New Yorker script, you can find a link to the Google Spreadsheet where they store the data. Likewise, when the Times did a thing on convention speeches, I “borrowed” their data to do my own analysis.


  2. It would be evil to point out that you’re already married, Tina, and bigamy is illegal (even given its value as a survival mechanism during the equivalent of a Three Dog Night) in the Great White North.

    “The graph is made with D3.js using the Sankey plugin.”

    “Michael Bostock and GitHub, both of San Francisco, announced the engagement of their spawn, D3, to Ms. Tina Fetner of Hamilton, Ontario.”


  3. any suggestions on easy ways to print this? i’d love to put it on my office door. printing directly from the website and print-to-pdf gives me accounting through engineering but cuts off the bottom bit of the table.


  4. When I looked at unemployment rates by college major for people 25-30 in the state of New Jersey (this was for a presentation to honors students in our major), sociology ranked was quite high relative to other majors. I imagine it would be similar in other states, except perhaps in places with very tight labor markets.

    I wonder how much of this reflects the skills that students have coming in. The average SAT among sociology majors likely ranks near the bottom.

    If I had a child who performed well academically, I can’t imagine recommending he or she go into sociology (unless of course there was real passion for it.) It doesn’t make sense from the perspective of prestige or employment.

    On the other hand, if I had a child who was struggling academically, i.e. had trouble with math, etc., sociology might at least provide this person a way to graduate from college with a respectable average and without an enormous amount of struggle.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of people who graduated as sociology majors tried another major initially, and how that compares with other majors. I suspect that a fairly substantial percentage of students entered sociology after finding that they couldn’t make the marks in another major. Certainly describes myself. Maybe this is too obvious to be stated, but it seems clear that sociology (and communications) serve as ‘residual majors’ that serve the latent function for colleges of boosting enrollment and graduation rates without sacrificing the quality and reputation of programs that people generally see as more vital (i.e. the various competitive allied health professions, etc.) Here I’m not talking mainly about elite schools, but rather the comprehensive universities and community colleges.


    1. I’d love to know how you came up with that unemployment rate. I count only 36 folks between the ages of 25 and 30 in the 2011 ACS who live in New Jersey and were sociology majors.

      Nationally, the unemployment rate for young sociology majors seems about one point higher than other social science majors for this age group, although the difference is not statistically significant in my quick models.


      1. I was mistaken about my sample; sorry for speaking too soon.

        Sample was actually 25 – 65 year olds residing in New Jersey pulled from 2009, 2010 and 2011 ACS.

        I ran logistic regressions to get predicted unemployment rates after adjusting for age, sex, race, eventual degree obtained and year of survey. (Not sure this was the best way to do this.)

        I should have mentioned that, strangely enough, economics and marketing majors had higher unemployment rates than sociology majors.

        Although it probably won’t be of interest, in case it is:

        I also looked at:

        * Percentage who had gone on to graduate school by major among those 30-35 (in NJ)
        * Sector of employment for sociology majors 25 – 65: 58% were in either government or non-profit sector
        * Most common occupations among soc majors

        Presentation downloadable at:
        Dropbox doesn’t render it all correctly, but it is downloadable.


      2. Why do you consider it surprising that marketing and economic majors have higher unemployment in your sample? Could it be, perhaps, that your prior biases about the quality of sociology clouded your judgment?


    2. Yes, I think you’re right: my biases did cloud my judgment about this to some extent. The unemployment rate among econ majors surprised me because my understanding is that:

      * Quantitative skills correlate fairly strongly with labor market demand
      * To graduate as an economics major, I would think a student has to have met a certain threshold with respect to quantitative skill.

      On the other hand, the relatively high unemployment rate among economics majors in New Jersey between 2009-2011 is perhaps not surprising given the shedding of financial industry jobs during that period, of which econ majors would make up a disproportionate share.


      1. You can use the industry or occupation variables to look at the unemployed populations across those majors.


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