Introduction to Applied Sociology

Here’s a brief visual overview about how sociology is used beyond universities. Applied sociology is the use of sociological concepts and methods to answer specific client questions and to address community concerns. This video covers: what is sociology? What sorts of questions and problems can applied sociology address? What type of work do applied sociologists do?

The Sociology of Doing Nothing, Probation and COVID-19

Image of Bucharest, Romania. A large white bus drives past in a whirl and large buildings are in the background. The street in the foreground are empty, and one man looks transparent and diminutive in the background

This is the second article from our special series on Applied Sociologists and the COVID-19 Pandemic. Dr Marian Badea works as a Probation Inspector in the social policy sector, in Bucharest, Romania. Marian analyses reports and coordinates activities of probation officers in 42 regions. COVID-19 social distancing laws have radically altered how probation officers carry out their work. Probation officers usually carry out observations through face-to-face visits. Initially, being directed to carry out their work remotely over phone and email was seen as a loss of their role. However, over time, probation officers grew to embrace new opportunities to focus on health and building rapport with clients. Marian shows how the sociology of ‘doing nothing’ (in this case, not carrying out face-to-face visits) opens up alternative ways to rethink justice work during COVID-19.

Marian Badea is a White man with short hair who is wearing a purple jacket and glasses.

By Dr Marian Badea

I’ve spent 18 years working as an applied sociologist in the field of probation. For the past five years, since 2015, I have been working in the research and development (R&D) department of the National Probation Directorate, at the Romanian Ministry of Justice, which is a state government organisation. I started my career in 2001 working directly with probationers, as a Probation Counsellor, and I did this job for six years. I then spent seven years coordinating the activity of the 42 probation services in Romania, as a Probation Inspector. (The Romanian Probation System consists of 42 local probation offices and one coordinating department, the National Probation Directorate.)

I did a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2002, and a PhD in 2009 at the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Bucharest. 

I’ve worked on many research projects over the years, including: ‘Assessing, monitoring and outcome measurement system for offender’s rehabilitation and reintegration of the offenders’ (2016-2017); ‘Drug users in pre-trial detention: a human rights issue’ (2011-2012); and ‘Deculturation as effect of detention. Resocialisation in the context of the regressive and progressive regime of prison sentence execution’ (2009-2013).

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Using Applied Sociology to Provide Care to Student Residents During COVID-19

Two young people stand together wearing COVID-19 face masks. On the left is a White man and on the right is a Black woman

This is the first article from our special series, Applied Sociologists and the Covid-19 Pandemic. Benjamin Drury works as a Resident Head, in the not-for-profit sector (service delivery), in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Writing in April 2020, Benjamin discusses how his role looking after the needs of students on campus has changed under lockdown, with much of his support moving online. He shows how training in qualitative research methods helps with his reporting duties, and how the works of C. Wright Mills, Emile Durkheim, W.I. Thomas, Talcott Parsons and Patricia Hill Collins have helped him think through the impact of COVID-19 and his work as a practitioner.

Headshot of Benjamin Drury. He is a White man with short hair and wears black glasses
Benjamin Drury, Jan 2019 (pre-COVID-19)

By: Benjamin Drury

During my time as an educator, and even today as I pursue my doctorate in Education, my applied sociology background – medical sociology specifically – expanded to include education as a key component of health and wellness. As I witnessed the extent to which the deck is stacked against certain populations (e.g. Black and Latinx students) I knew it was time for me to exit my role as tenured professor – which I found to be far too restricting – and moved back into the field of applied sociology.

Currently, I serve as Dean of Instruction at a vocational training school in Chicago, Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative, and Resident Head at a residential college in the Midwest. Paired with 4 contingent faculty appointments, and a three-year-old son… I keep plenty busy. Presently, my role as Resident Head is particularly interesting.

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Call for Submissions: Applied Sociologists and the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

Poster cut out image of medical surgeons looking down. They wear masks

I work in a policy team responding to the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Sydney, Australia. This is not our regular job; but it has become a large part of our work. Like many people, our directive has completely shifted. Our team is voluntarily working from home, with the blessing of a supportive management team. We are a multidisciplinary, applied research team. Our fieldwork, workshops and other activities have been impacted, but we have plenty of other work that can be done from home.

My work priorities have changed. Some of my projects have new timeframes, other trials may be on hold, and I’m focusing my contribution on our team’s policy advice and research for partner agencies. Currently, we are preparing advice on how to enhance public communications, how to address behavioural issues in following public health advice, and how to plan ahead to ease the burden on the healthcare system. This direction may change, if the pandemic goes the way of some other nations.

Other parts of our organisation cannot work from home as their work is in frontline services. I am lucky to have the safety of a permanent role, paid sick leave should I need it, and other provisions such as relatively good access to technology.

My personal life is inconvenienced, but manageable. I have an injury and health issues that I can nurse largely from home. Like most people I have lost some comforts (no toilet paper!), but I have friends who are helping. I am in isolation away from my family who live in another city, which is tricky as I have family responsibilities to fulfil as a Peruvian person. All in all though, I am in a relatively safe position.

I’ve been thinking about how the situation here, in a large city that is not yet practising enforced social isolation, is not the same as how other applied sociologists might be experiencing the pandemic. As such, I’m opening up submissions from applied sociologists working on policies, programs and services to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

I’m seeking short and timely reflections from applied sociologists from around the world. An ‘applied sociologist’ is defined as a sociology practitioner working outside academia. Tell us about how you’re using sociological theories, concepts, methods or practices to address issues emerging from Covid-19, from coordinating public health responses, to improving public communications, providing policy advice, meeting the needs of homeless people, providing care to vulnerable and high-risk groups, and more.

Submissions

We are looking for written submissions, in English, between 500 words to 1,000 words, via this GoogleForm.

We will also accept video or audio submissions in English of no more than 10 minutes to answer the same questions as the form below. If you’d prefer to be interviewed via video or audio, contact Zuleyka.

Due to the evolving nature of this pandemic, we are looking for short, and quick, turnaround. Submissions close Sunday 12 April, 11:59 pm AEST. If you’d like to contribute, but this deadline poses a problem, please get in touch with Zuleyka.

You will be provided editorial support to prepare your story for publication (free of course!).

For your submission, we ask for some background about your job and answers to these three key questions:

  1. What do you do in your paid work?
  2. Tell us about the social context where you live, and how has your work shifted to respond to Covid-19?
  3. How are you using applied sociology in your day-to-day work to directly respond to Covid-19?

All submissions will be published as a compilation, or a series of blog posts, on SociologyAtWork.org, in early May 2020. It is your responsibility to seek clearance for publication from your employer, prior to submission.

If your submission is accepted for publication, we will require a high-resolution photo of you to accompany your post.

If you’re interested, we also welcome any other photos, videos or artwork related to your work that is relevant to your submission. It is your responsibility to seek appropriate permissions and copyright, so it would be best to submit images you own.

Exclusions

Unfortunately, everybody’s work and personal life has been impacted by Covid-19, including paid work moving to online environments. However, we are looking for discussion on the work that applied sociologists are already doing to directly address Covid-19, not ideas on what should happen. As such, we do not accept submissions from:

  • Sociologists who are not actively working on Covid-19
  • Submissions from academics
  • Op eds or articles on what you think ought to happen

Sociology at Work is a not-for-profit, run on a volunteer basis by Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, who uses her own money, time and resources to keep our community going. As such, please note that submissions are not paid.

If you’re an applied sociologists who fits the criteria, and you want to tell your story, fill in this GoogleForm.

Applying for an Applied Sociology Job

Welcome to part four of our series on Careers in Applied Sociology. We started with the issues graduates encounter in establishing their careers. Next, we covered some steps on how to look for work. Then we looked at how to tailor your CV and resume. Today, let’s touch on some tips of how to get started on writing your application. Let’s go!

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Creating a CV and Resume for Applied Sociology Jobs

Colleagues here is your belated third instalment in our January 2019 feature on Careers in Applied Sociology. Thankfully, you’ll still get your fourth instalment in a couple of days! The first post painted the issues sociology graduates experience in finding applied work. The second post gave tips on how to look for work. Today we’re going to look at how to write our CVs and resumes.

Sociology graduates often base their CVs and resumes on examples from academia, possibly because some academics make theirs publicly available and this is the model graduates follow. Academic examples are not a useful model for most applied sociology jobs (publications near the front, for example). Many candidates will send out the same CV/ resume to many places and wonder why they don’t get a call back. Creating a targeted CV or resume fit for purpose will help you get ahead of the pile!

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How to Look for Work in Applied Sociology

This is our second post in the 2019 series of Careers in Applied Sociology. The first post gave an overview about the challenges and opportunities in finding satisfying work. This post provides advice about how to get started in your career path. We begin with some options you might consider as a sociology graduate, finding opportunities for work, and setting up a targeted job search.

This is a preliminary guide only, of course, so do what feels right for yourself. Let’s move onto a few general tips on finding work strongly connected to your sociology degree.

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Challenges and Opportunities in Applied Sociology Careers

Hello colleagues. Today is the first of a new series of posts about Careers in Applied Sociology. This first post sets up the issues sociology graduates experience. In follow up posts, I provide advice on how to start your job search; preparing your CV and application; managing the interview; and negotiating pay.

A longitudinal study published by the American Sociological Association, “What Can I Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology?,” follows a cohort of USA-based sociology students who graduated in 2005. The first report shows these sociology graduates are highly satisfied with the conceptual training they receive. Further research also shows these sociology majors are highly employable, as most find a full-time paid work within the first two years of graduating. At the same time, while around 90% of graduates are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, most are not working in roles closely related to their degrees. The stronger the connection between their role and sociology, the higher the career satisfaction, and overall happiness with having majored in sociology.

Sociology graduates identify gaps in the skills they are taught. Namely, there needs to be a stronger focus on vocational training. Let’s look first at the research about the type of jobs sociology graduates secure, as well as their career satisfaction. We then see how race and gender impacts these outcomes.

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Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year, colleagues! May we all continue to make a better world through sociological action.

I have a few blog posts ready to kick start 2019! Starting from tomorrow, we’ll have a weekly series over January, on Careers in Sociology. We’ll cover the issues and opportunities for graduates, how to look for applied work, creating a CV, starting a consultancy, and from there, there’ll be other fun pieces. Watch this space!

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Stars and golden decorative lines on the sides. Writing in the centre says: Applied sociologists, in 2019, let's continue to "Produce positives social change through active intervention." (Bruhn 1999) Happy New Year!'

The Sociological Imagination

‘Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.’

Today’s sociology quote is from C. Wright Mills’ classic, The Sociological Imagination. Mills argues that people sometimes feel “trapped” by their troubles or their personal circumstances . For example, people have obligations to their families, they have commitments at work, their actions are restricted by fear of gossip in their friendship groups, or they might feel as if they have to live their lives in particular ways because society forces this upon us.

At the same time, most people understand their lives as being unique. Falling in love, the type of jobs we end up pursuing or those we miss out on, the decision to live alone or the types of families we form – these are all choices that are mediated (or shaped) by the the time and place we live. People rarely think about their life choices – nor the lives of others – as the outcome of institutions and history.

Societies have a tendency to view certain lives negatively: being homeless, being unemployed, teen pregnancies, addiction, incarceration – people often blame the individual for pathways that “deviate” from the norm.

Some people might think about a handful of external influences as having direct impact on their lives – religion, family or perhaps the media – but they do not always see the complex interplay between various social forces. Sociology makes this connection between the individual (biography) and broader social structures. This is why Mills says that in order to understand an individual we must understand history and vice versa.

Sociology Careers in High Demand

In 2011, Career  Cast ranked the job of sociologist 11th amongst all professions in the USA, based on Department of Labour measures of work environment, stress and hiring outlook. In 2013, The Wall Street Journal announced that sociology was in 19th place in its list of best jobs. They drew on data by the USA Bureau of Labour focusing on five measures: “physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook.”

Sociology skills remain in high demand in government, the not-for-profit sector and in the corporate world.
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