Every college student studying anything other than concrete, job-specific fields (think accounting or education) has heard the dreaded question “What are you going to do with that?!” after stating their chosen studies. Parents and older siblings tend to say it the most, but potential employers have been known to also question a student’s choices. If you have ever found yourself asking someone you love this question, or had it asked of you, I am here to assure you of the best possible answer: anything you want! If you study a field that you love, such as sociology, chances are good that when you graduate, you won’t be looking for a job in computer science (otherwise, that would have been what you loved to study). So the best news is that whatever degree you get, if you love it, chances are excellent that you will also love what you are able to do with it!
I have never once seen a job posting asking for someone with an undergraduate degree in Sociology, so I naturally received the horrible question regularly after I chose my degree plan. What was worse was that I didn’t have an answer; I simply was fascinated by the effect of group status on an individual’s choices. So I studied what I did and hoped (and prayed) that one day, a job would open itself up to me.
I didn’t get a Social Work degree and I’m not a licensed social worker, but most jobs requiring some education in behavioral science are fairly flexible as to what individual degree you may have received. Social work itself, particularly child welfare work, was tested and found wanting; I have never been very good at being one individual cog in a giant, complex wheel. It opened a door, however, to a job that I previously never knew existed – that of forensic interviewing.
Forensic interviewing is an advocacy and legal process crucial to the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of sexual abuse and assault of children. A job relatively unknown to the public was the same job I loved more than anything else. I couldn’t do it forever – you have to be ready and able to take a break from jobs like that. It was, however, an amazing job that also opened other new doors. I went on to more non-profit advocacy and administrative work, doing everything from grant writing to running the largest social services department in my region. Now I freelance, allowing myself to write professionally, guiding non-profits, parents, and children towards healthier, happier lives.
Sociology has already taken me to and through several different career paths, and I graduated with my degree only five years ago. When I began freelancing, I did so voluntarily and refused interviews for regular, full-time positions, even in this economy. Whatever educational path you choose, remember that it also chose you for a reason. Believing in what you do, finding it interesting, and doing it well will take you much farther than getting a degree simply to get a job. It certainly has for me.