Humans & Behavior


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* = Minors are not technically a degree, but can be pursued to supplement a bachelor's degree

Sociology is the scientific study of human social behavior. It considers how society influences individuals, and how individuals influence society. Sociologists describe and explain the actions of persons, groups, organizations, classes and entire societies. 

They also design and evaluate social programs and public policy. The study of sociology includes social theory, research methods, social stratification, race relations, social change, criminology, demography, sex roles, religion, social psychology and human ecology.

My Sociology degree from CU Boulder has been invaluable in preparing me for success. Thanks to the advice and encouragement received from my CU professors, I received multiple highly competitive fellowships, enabling me to complete a double PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. The quality of education I received from CU Boulder was invaluable: I still refer to my notes from my undergraduate classes!"

Boroka Bo, BA 2012

Did you know that Michelle Obama holds a BA in Sociology from Princeton University? She follows in the footsteps of a number of influential civil-rights leaders who also have sociology degrees, including Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Abernathy and Shirley Chisholm.

A major in Sociology prepares students to both live in a changing world and change the world they live in. Sociology is a social science focusing on human society, including structure, systems, culture, and interpersonal interactions. Sociology students will explore a large array of social topics and phenomenon using the sociological imagination. A background in Sociology greatly adds to a student’s understanding and acceptance of the world around them, as well as their own role in society.

A Sociology degree produces strong research, data analysis, writing, and reading skills, as well as an ability to work with diverse groups. Additionally, Sociology fosters innovation, communication and critical thinking skills. These are all key aptitudes 21st century employers desire.

The Department of Sociology at CU Boulder is also one of the best in the nation, ranking #42 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

In addition, the department has a number of excellent and award-winning faculty, including a CU Distinguished Professor, three Fulbright scholars, a Guggenheim fellow, numerous fellows for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, American Council of Learned Societies, Andrew W. Mellon and numerous book and teaching awards.

The Department of Sociology is nationally recognized in several areas of research, focusing broadly in five categories: Environment, Hazards and Disasters, Gender and Sexuality, Criminology, Qualitative and Interpretive Sociology and Population Sociology.

Their diverse faculty also include several who have joint affiliations with institutes and centers like the Institute for Behavioral Genetics, Institute of Behavioral Science, Center for Values and Social Policy, CU Population Center and Natural Hazards Center, and other departments like Anthropology, Environmental Studies and Women and Gender Studies.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in sociology, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.

  • The International and National Voluntary Service Program (INVST) is a two-year academic program emphasizing sustainable development, ecological conservation and nonviolent social change. The program combines coursework with experiential learning and is affiliated with the Departments of Political Science and Sociology. 

  • Majors can apply to the Sociology Honors Program. Graduating with honors requires a) a grade point average of 3.3 or higher, b) successfully completing two honors seminars and c) writing and defending an honors thesis based upon original research. Students who graduate with honors receive a designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude depending upon the overall quality of their work.

  • Study abroad provides another enriching opportunity for students of sociology. Your firsthand experiences abroad can provide you with valuable insights into the culture and nature of other peoples, and on-site study in a foreign culture can add new dimensions to your perception of human societies. The university offers more than 100 programs around the world, and you may spend from a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program selected. You may earn credit that counts as if you had taken the course here, sometimes fulfilling core or major requirements. Language study is a prerequisite for participation in many programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

  • In addition to formal course work, as a sociology major you are encouraged to undertake volunteer or paid work relating to career interests. This often involves working with people who have special needs: delinquents, poor people, old people, unemployed workers, abused women, troubled children, etc. The Volunteer Clearing House, an on-campus center that coordinates volunteer activities, is a useful resource for locating such work opportunities. Internships provide another avenue for doing sociologically-relevant work.

Sociology majors have the academic background suitable for many types of entry-level positions. A graduate with a degree in sociology may work in government as a researcher or data analyst; in business as a manager, writer or editor; in social services as a caseworker, group worker or restitution officer; in public health as an interviewer or demographer; in conflict resolution as a mediator; or in community relations as a neighborhood organizer.

Graduates may also wish to earn a master's or doctoral degree in order to teach at the university level, design and supervise research projects, or act as a private consultant to government agencies, industries, families and organizations engaged in research, community service or social change.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2017-18 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and 0-5 years of experience is $46,289;
  • median salary for 10-plus years of experience, $76,159.

Estimated Sociology Salary Info

At CU Boulder, Sociology graduates earn less than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $67,429, based on a pool of 537 alumni who graduated between 2011 and 2018. This amount is also lower than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 2016-2026 job growth for sociologists with a master’s degree will be flat, slower than the 7 percent average for all jobs.

The Department of Sociology has an extensive alumni network working in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Alice Fothergill (PhD '01), associate professor of Sociology, University of Vermont

  • Melissa D. Kanack (BA, Honors, '11), is a plastic surgeon practicing in La Jolla, California

  • Boroka Bo (BA, Honors, '12), Sociology/Demography PhD candidate in sociology/demography at the University of California, Berkeley, recipient of a Soros Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowship

  • Christopher Klene (BA, Honors, '16), project coordinator at the nonprofit Center for Health Progress