Sociology is the science of human relationships, the means by which people and groups behave towards each other, as well as socio-economic developments and changes. Sociologists study the origins, growth and interactions of human groups, for example; families, tribes, communities and social institutions such as: religious, political and economic groupings, ethnic groups and social classes.

They study the behaviour and interaction of groups, trace their origin and growth and analyse the influence of group activities on individual members. Sociologists can specialise in a wide range of areas, for example: social groupings, social stratification and mobility, racial and ethnical relationships, social psychology, as well as political, economic and applied sociology.

Other directions include research, demographics, gerontology and clinical sociology. Sociological research involves collecting information, analysing and interpreting data that is collected through surveys, in-depth interviews, case studies and other methods.

Sociologists also study social processes and phenomena, such as social deviant behaviour, group friction and migration. They may investigate topics on a large scale such as housing conditions, recreational patterns, drinking patterns and drug abuse as it occurs in groups of people, or they may examine the effects of different styles of leadership on individuals in small groups.

The sociologist can work in a variety of fields:

  • Social psychology
  • Clinical sociology
  • Political sociology
  • Economic sociology
  • Applied sociology
  • Research
Academic sociologists teach at universities; research sociologists do full-time research; administrative sociologists assist personnel sections; and planning sociologists are concerned with development and planning. Many sociologists work at universities, doing research and giving lectures. Since sociology overlaps many related fields of study, sociologists may interact and cooperate with psychologists, economists and town planners and do market and consumer behaviour research.

Personal Requirements

  • interested in human beings and their behaviour
  • intellectual curiosity and an inquiring mind
  • able to get on well with people from every population group or class
  • analytical skills and objectivity
  • able to undertake independent research
  • mathematical and statistical ability for research work
  • above-average intelligence
  • able to speak and write well and concisely

How to Enter


Schooling & School Subjects

Complete your National Senior Certificate (Matric), or equivalent with a Bachelor's pass. In addition, meet the university minimum entry requirements.
Compulsory Subjects: None

What to Study

Degree: Sociology may be taken as a major or subsidiary subject to form part of the BA degree or diploma. Sociology can be studied at all South African universities. Related fields of study in which Sociology is a compulsory subject, are as follows: Nursing, Social Work and Town and Regional Planning.

Post-graduate study: Those who wish to turn Sociology into their occupation require post-graduate qualifications. Those with post-graduate training in Sociology may be employed as academic sociologists attached to universities as lecturers, research sociologists attached to the HSRC, at research institutes, universities and other organisations; and administrative and planning sociologists (persons employed in large organisations and industries in which a sound knowledge of human relations is essential, for example liaison officers and personnel managers and persons concerned with planning and development).

At certain universities, Sociology and Industrial Sociology are also offered for degree courses in Commerce, Economic Sciences and Administration.
Industrial Sociology is concerned, inter alia, with management / labour relations in complex industrial societies. It prepares students for careers in industrial relations, either in the field of management or in trade unions.


  • universities
  • government departments, municipalities and administration boards
  • non-governmental organisations
  • research institutions such as Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Further Information

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
134 Pretorius Street
Pretoria, 0002
Tel: (012) 302-2000

Any university sociology department

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work as an assistant to a research sociologist or as an interviewer for a market research company
  • undertake a relevant research assignment at school and/or enter a research project in the behavioural sciences section of the annual regional Science Expo
  • speak to a sociologist about this career
  • read the works of sociologists, historians and political scientists

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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