I enrolled myself in a BA Sociology Honours degree in 2014, with a score of 85%. Initially I was apprehensive about the subject, but who isn’t? I hailed from a commerce background that I thoroughly enjoyed. It would be safe to assume that now I was miserable, for I had to reluctantly pursue a subject that was frowned upon for being inadequate and a sop, with ‘no future’ whatsoever. I had resigned to my fate; it was depressing to watch my counterparts majoring in conventional fields of study that the wise elderly folks considered lucrative and ‘respectable’. I envied them.
For the uninitiated, sociology is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society. It deals with social problems and their root causes, which are often overlooked by mainstream scholars. On the contrary, these scholars stress the significance of economics and science in matters concerning individuals and society, but ironically dismiss the relevance of social studies.
My perception of sociology changed after attending a few lectures in college. The course appeared to grow more interesting with each class. We studied about class, caste, sex and sexuality, religion, kinship, the social dynamics existing in politics and economics, and many other facets of life that we typically discuss over tea. I was quick to develop a liking towards the subject, albeit detesting some particularly theoretical aspects of sociological theory. By now, it seemed to me almost absurd that people discounted this discipline.
For this reason, I thought it necessary that the public deserved to understand not only the importance, but also the relevance and scope of sociology.
MISCONCEPTIONS vs REALITY
Almost every field of study, particularly in humanities, comes with a set of preconceived notions that may discourage a potential student from opting for it. Sociology also faces the task of busting certain myths related to it:
- Despite the fact that sociology is based on predictable social issues, it is not merely common sense. Andre Beteille, a renowned Indian sociologist, expertly describes how sociological thinking and common sense differ.
- Students with lower grades are not the only ones who opt for this discipline. Sociology attracts students with remarkably high grades, as well as students who study the subject as a backup. In this way, it is no different from any other academic discipline.
- Sociology is not synonymous with social work. Social work is the practice of advocating for individuals and communities, while sociology is the study of societies and human interaction. The former does not necessarily need a degree.
- Sociology does not have undergraduate campus placements, but that does not make it a waste. Many humanities degrees offer no placements at the undergraduate level.
- Jobs are not exclusively offered to sociologists who hold a Master’s degree. Like most fields, a Master’s degree enhances your capabilities and would offer better employment opportunities, but this is not exclusively applicable to sociology students.
No discipline comes without its shortcomings, and I do not intend on withholding crucial information that is capable of affecting life-altering changes. Here are some of the limitations of pursuing sociology as a degree:
- Sociology is an extensive body of knowledge. It consists of general information which runs through almost all fields of study. This means that a specialisation or Master’s becomes indispensable if you aim to get a high-paying job and a stable career.
- Sociology requires critical thinking. Do not opt for this subject with the expectation of acing it without first truly understanding how various societies and their dynamics function.
- Sociology is offered by a limited number of colleges, which also happen to be the best in the business. Therefore, getting into a college for Master’s can be a daunting task without putting in additional studying hours.
WHY OPT FOR SOCIOLOGY?
- It is an underrated and an underestimated field of study, which is emerging as one of the most sought-after disciplines in humanities.
- A student of sociology is bound to stand out in a crowd, for the subject provides a broader skill-set by virtue of its all-encompassing syllabus.
- It encourages critical thinking which leads to a well-rounded individual and consequently an ideal workforce.
- It offers potential for joint Honours degrees.
- It prepares you for the future. From government jobs to the corporate sector to leisurely pursuits, sociology prepares you for all tests that the education system could throw at you.
PERKS OF A SOCIOLOGY DEGREE
As mentioned previously, the vast range of the subject allows you to pursue almost every Master’s degree that involves humanities. Furthermore, sociology is a great asset in various fields of employment. These range from criminal justice and law enforcement to advertising, human resources, and leadership training. Government and private services of security, planning, and research, as well as labour rights, adoption, and child care are also areas where sociological knowledge is a coveted skill-set. Sociology is also a lucrative field in education and communication.
There is a large set of well-renowned people who are sociology graduates. One of these is Martin Luther King, Jr., who changed the way the world views civil rights. Closer home, Arnab Goswami is an example of a successful sociology graduate in the Indian media fraternity.
I have come a long way from opting for sociology reluctantly to appreciating it fully as a discipline. The study of sociology has been instrumental in shaping my personality. Today, I am more sensitised than I was two years ago. I understand the subtleties underlying various social institutions and the conditions of oppressed groups. I have discovered that the personal is also political, and that being tight-lipped about social issues solves nothing. Possessing such knowledge has given me confidence in public settings where I can challenge armchair activists who talk about ‘mundane issues’.
Do not discourage students from opting for sociology, or any subject for that matter, simply based on its stereotypes or without properly analysing the facts. It all boils down to one’s aptitude, interest, hard work, and career goals.
To me, it’s not just a degree anymore. It’s my passion.
Guest post by Shreya Sankar, Janki Devi Memorial College
If you have similar stories or a love-hate relationship with your major to share with us, write to us at [email protected].