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Sociologists study human interactions and how human behavior affects and is affected by cultural influences and social structures. Graduate-level sociology students prepare for careers in research, data analysis, government, psychology, policy, and business. Based on 2021 data, sociologists can expect to earn $92,910 annually.

An online master’s in sociology degree is typically completed in 18 months to two years. The average course load is 30-40 credit hours, but some programs may require as many as 60. According to 2020-2021 data, tuition, and fees for a master’s degree program are approximately $12,394 for public schools and $26,621 for private schools.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Sociology Program

Choose your area of study

Sociologists have many career paths to choose from, including social work, law, criminal justice, public relations, advertising, public policy, and more. Critical thinking, research, data analysis, and complex problem-solving skills are essential for any sociology-related work.

Because opportunities for sociologists are so broad, master’s degrees in sociology are typically either a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA). The MS degree primarily involves sociology’s technical and scientific aspects, while the MA degree focuses on the humanities.

Research schools and programs

While online programs should be just as rigorous as in-person programs, there will inevitably be differences. As you research potential schools, you will not only want to ask questions about cost, program length, etc. You’ll also want to ask about online accessibility, downloadable course materials, and video and audio quality.

In addition, you may want to consider the following:

  • How does the online course differ from the traditional course?
  • Who created the course and curriculum?
  • Is the course synchronous (follows a set schedule) or asynchronous (accessible at any time)?
  • Is all course material available at the beginning of the course?

Prepare for tests and applications

While a bachelor’s degree in sociology is not always required for admission to an online master’s program, an undergraduate degree emphasizing analytical studies and research methods will be advantageous. Most schools will have a 3.0 minimum grade point average, but this requirement may be waived if you have impressive test scores or practical experience in the field.

You’ll likely be required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or an equivalent standardized exam. In addition, your test scores, along with letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, personal statement or essay, and curriculum vitae, will also be required with your application.

Select your program

As you make your final decisions regarding your online program, contacting your school’s online student services might be helpful. Even if you do not have the opportunity to visit your campus physically, you can still make yourself familiar with the program’s support services and how accessible they will be should you need some help. Knowing what services are available to online students is always a good idea.

Also, be sure to ask if there are online meetups for students where you can ask questions about the program’s sense of community. Are there any homework or study groups? Are there any mentorship programs or academic advisors available online? Finding the answers to these questions may help solidify your final selection.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Your school’s financial aid department should have counselors to discuss your payment options. They can help you research scholarships, grants, and tuition assistance programs that can help you finance your education.

If you are taking out loans, your financial aid counselor will help you understand the difference between the types of federal student loans available to you. You can get a head start on this process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

Best Online Master's in Sociology Degree Programs

Arizona State University

New Mexico State University

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sam Houston State University

Virginia Commonwealth University

Texas Woman’s University

Texas A&M University at Commerce

Fayetteville State University

South Dakota State University

Morehead State University

University of West Georgia

Troy University

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How We Rank Schools

This list focuses on master’s degrees in sociology. The two most common graduate degrees in this field are a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS).

To make a list of high-quality programs that are accessible to all students, regardless of availability or geographic location, we concentrated on reviewing programs that are offered entirely or primarily online.

All the schools on our list have regional accreditation, meaning they meet the highest quality standards in postsecondary education. Other schools and employers widely accept degrees and credits from regionally accredited institutions.

We evaluated each program based on cost, course offerings, outcomes, flexibility, faculty, and reputation. We then calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Sociology Program?

Depending on the program, you will be expected to complete at least 30 credit hours, with some programs requiring up to 60 credit hours. On average, most programs are designed to be completed within two years.

Sociology encompasses a range of qualitative and quantitative studies. You’ll take statistics, research methods and design courses, psychology, anthropology, data analysis, and sociological theory.

At the master’s degree level, you can narrow the scope of your studies toward a specialization. You may choose more quantitative or qualitative research and will likely be able to perform an original research study. If you are using your master’s program as a stepping stone toward a doctorate, you can focus on your academic scholarship and leadership and teaching skills.

Some typical concentrations at the master’s level include:

  • Social demography
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Theory of diversity
  • Family relationships
  • Social movements and social change

Potential courses you’ll take in an online program to earn a master’s degree in sociology

  • Sociological Theory. Students examine the evolution of contemporary and classical sociological theory, including an overview of the most influential ideas from the founding of sociology to the present day.
  • Social Statistics. Students learn various statistical models, including the general linear model and multiple regression analysis. This course also covers disruptive statistics, probability theory, and nonparametric statistics. These models are then applied to statistical research.
  • Seminar on Occupations and Professions. This course covers the hierarchies of occupational status and how social identities are tied to work roles. Students examine questions about cultural norms and balances of power and evaluate problems in measurement.
  • Intersectionality. Students explore the methods, theories, and epistemologies of intersectionality. This course tracks the origin of intersectional thought from its development to contemporary works.
  • Sociology of Gender. Students examine how gender is reproduced in identity, interactions, discourse, organizations, and institutions. This course covers foundational theories and contemporary debates in the sociology of gender. Students also examine how gender is reconfigured at the individual and collective levels.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Sociology?

Career outlook

Obtaining an online master’s degree in sociology equips graduates with critical thinking, research, and analytical skills that are highly valuable in various sectors. Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), sociologists earn a median salary of $98,590 a year, although those in the top ten percent of the field can earn $166,040 or more. Job prospects are bright for sociologists, as the BLS anticipates that this field will grow over the next decade by roughly five percent, which is faster than the economy as a whole.

Career paths

Growth in the sociology field is driven by the increasing need for sociologists to study and address complex societal issues, such as healthcare disparities, crime, and social justice. Graduates often find employment in roles that require data analysis, research design, and the ability to understand and address complex social dynamics. The adaptability of this degree allows individuals to pursue careers that align with their interests and specialization. Here are some common career paths for individuals with a master’s degree in sociology:

  • Community outreach coordinator — develops and implements outreach programs for nonprofits, government agencies, or healthcare organizations
  • Human resources specialist — recruits, hires, and manages personnel within organizations
  • Market research analyst — studies consumer behavior, market trends, and competitive landscapes to help businesses make informed decisions
  • Academic advisor — provides academic guidance to students at the secondary or higher education levels
  • Criminal justice researcher — performs criminal justice research, studying issues related to crime, rehabilitation, and the criminal justice system

Research Analyst

Earning Potential: $51,970-$105,130 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in sociology or a related field

A research analyst gathers and evaluates data to extract meaningful insights for organizations. They design research methodologies, collect data through surveys or experiments, and apply statistical and analytical techniques to draw conclusions. Research analysts work in various fields, such as market research, social sciences, and public policy, to investigate trends and inform decision-making. They play a crucial role in generating evidence-based recommendations, helping organizations make informed choices, develop effective strategies, and address complex issues. Effective communication of research findings through reports and presentations is integral to their role in facilitating informed decision-making processes.

Social Services Manager

Earning Potential: $53,230-$124,800 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in sociology or a related field

A social services manager oversees programs and initiatives that support individuals and communities in need. They work in a range of settings, including social service agencies, nonprofits, and government departments. Social services managers are responsible for program planning, budgeting, and resource allocation. They ensure that services meet the needs of vulnerable populations, including older adults and children, as well as individuals facing economic challenges. They also supervise social workers and support staff, ensuring proper documentation, client assessments, and compliance with regulations. These managers play a crucial role in improving the well-being of individuals and communities by facilitating access to essential social services and advocating for those in need.

Policy Analyst

Earning Potential: $52,180-$125,470 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in sociology or a related field

Policy analysts research and analyze complex societal issues and public policies to provide evidence-based recommendations. They work for government agencies, think tanks, or advocacy organizations. Policy analysts collect and assess data, conduct studies, and evaluate the impact of existing policies. Their findings help shape legislation and inform decision-makers. They communicate their research through reports, briefings, and presentations, aiming to make policies more effective and responsive to social needs. Policy analysts often specialize in areas like healthcare, education, or environmental policy, playing a crucial role in addressing societal challenges and improving the quality of public programs and services.

Online Master’s Degree in Sociology Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online program for a master’s degree in sociology?

Admissions counselors can provide individualized advice on what you’ll need to meet your chosen program’s requirements. Typical graduate admissions will require the following documents:

  • Official transcripts. These inform the admissions team of your grade point average, the amount of coursework you’ve completed, and the rigor of your undergraduate work.
  • Letters of recommendation. These should come from your professors or supervisors of any field work you have done. Colleges typically ask for two or three letters attesting to your readiness for graduate school.
  • GRE scores. Not all schools require standardized testing scores, but some scholarships and fellowships may ask for them.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae. Include any professional memberships, volunteer experience, educational research, or publications.

How much does an online master’s degree in sociology cost?

Every program will vary in cost depending on its policies and course load. Some schools offer in-state student discounts and fee waivers, while others require more out-of-pocket expenses due to specific technology requirements (e.g., lab fees, software, and computer specifications). Your financial aid counselor can help explain and itemize all your potential costs.

However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual graduate tuition cost is about $26,621 at private schools and $12,394 at public universities.

How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in sociology online?

On average, completing an online master’s in sociology degree program takes 18 months to two years. Some schools will offer summer classes or accelerated programs that can shorten the duration of your program, but this may be difficult for students who work full-time or have family responsibilities. Typically, full-time and part-time students follow the same course progression and complete the same number of credit hours, regardless of the time it takes to complete the program.

Is an online master’s in sociology worth it?

Earning an online master’s degree in sociology can be highly worthwhile for individuals seeking versatile career opportunities and a deep understanding of societal dynamics. This degree equips graduates with valuable research, analysis, and critical thinking skills, which are essential in a wide range of professions.

Moreover, online programs offer flexibility, allowing students to balance their studies with work and personal commitments. For those passionate about addressing social issues and making a positive impact on society, a master’s in sociology provides a strong foundation for a rewarding career.

Salaries for sociology-related positions vary widely based on job responsibilities, location, and other factors. For example, someone working as a market planner could expect to make a median salary of roughly $72,497, according to

Online programs offer flexibility, allowing students to balance their studies with work and personal commitments. This can make them especially appealing to adult learners who are already in the workforce. There may also be financial savings, as online programs will not have the costs of room and board or travel expenses.

For those passionate about addressing social issues and making a positive impact on society, a master’s in sociology provides a strong foundation for a rewarding career.

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