What can I do with a sociology degree?

What do sociology majors do after graduating?

To give you an idea of what might be possible, here are profiles of a few of our recent alumni:

Gustavo Medrano, ’17

Gustavo Medrano

Gustavo Medrano, ’17 

Community Affairs Specialist, Children’s Institute


What makes you excited about your job?

My responsibility is to coordinate all community affairs within the South Los Angeles service area in collaboration with early childhood services and clinical and community service programs. I raise public awareness of the organization and its work and raise awareness within the organization of the community needs. The most exciting aspect about my new position is that I am listening to the needs and wants of my home, my community, South Central LA. I was born and raised in this area and I know that my neighborhood has been affected by institutional racism, drugs, violence, poverty, and more. Being able to support my community makes me excited. 

What steps did you take to get to where you are now?

It’s hard to say what steps I actually took to get where I am now. I started my career being a tutor then transitioned into being a survey interviewer, public policy intern, campaign organizer, and lastly the community affairs specialist position. I have different expertise in education, research, policy, grassroots, and capacity building.

If I could pinpoint particular steps I took, its (1) take classes that are relevant to your future aspirations, (2) get involved on campus (3) find jobs/internships/research assistant positions that equip you with a variety of skills, (4) graduate, and (5) network. Your career path or goals may not be linear and that is okay. 

How did your Sociology degree prepare you for your current position?

My degree gave me the ability to think critically, evaluate, and communicate with my community. I am serving a community that is entrenched with various social issue. The homicide rate among young folks and adults, in South Central, is almost double compared to any other part of the county. We have over 41 percent of households that live below the federal poverty levels. Disadvantaged communities are not entrenched in poverty and violence because of the residents, but because of social consequences and causes of structural discrimination and negligence. Sociology taught me to look beyond the taken-for-granted views and develop a macro point of view that the reveals the root causes of the issues surrounding us.

What advice do you have for current Sociology students?

Network and look into the opportunities that the Department of Sociology is providing. If your professor’s lets you know about programs, internships, fellowships, or jobs, apply! I remember when my professors informed me about the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship. I initially didn’t want to do it. Then I applied, and it was the best decision I made during my undergraduate career. It has opened so many doors. That’s another piece of advice! APPLY TO PPIA! Also, feel free to network with alumni from Sociology Dept.

Jennifer Mendoza, ’17
Jennifer Mendoza
HIV Tester and Counselor, Radiant Health Centers
MSW Candidate, CSULB
What makes you excited about your job / graduate program?
I currently work for a CDC grant called RADAR that provides free and confidential HIV/STD testing for Latino Men that Sleep with Men (MSM). As an HIV Counselor and Tester, I provide risk reduction counseling, education, and assistance with obtaining medical care. The most exciting aspect about my position is being able to implement culturally competent care to the LGBTQ+ and Latinx community. It is a privilege to be able to empower my clients to take control of their sexual health.
(See Jennifer’s appearance on Buenos Días Familia!)
What steps did you take to get to where you are now?
I was first acquainted to the AIDS Service Foundation, Orange County as an Intern. During my internship, I was introduced to various departments and had the opportunity to shadow health educators at local testing events. This was the perfect exposure to work with diverse populations and network with community leaders. After graduation, I continued volunteering at the organization and was sponsored to earn my HIV Counseling and Testing certification through the State Office of AIDS. This opportunity helped me gain the skill set I needed to transition into my current position.
How did your Sociology degree prepare you for your current position / graduate program?
My degree in Sociology has prepared me with the tools to critically analyze the disproportional rates of HIV/AIDS. Through a sociological lens, I can understand how socio-economic status, race, and culture play a role in accessing HIV care and resources. Most importantly, Sociology has helped me identify and understand the complex issues and intersectionality among the communities I serve. My passion to mend the gaps of high-quality HIV Care is the primary reason of returning to CSULB and pursue my Master’s in Social Work.
What advice do you have for current Sociology students?
My biggest piece of advice would be to intern or volunteer at any organization/ company that works with a population or issue you are passionate about. There are so many departments and positions available that you may have not been aware of. Even if you have a busy schedule, I would recommend joining an advocacy group or club. This type of involvement is great for networking and finding your niche.
Ashley Woody, ’14

Ashley Woody

Ashley Woody, ’14

PhD candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Oregon

My research lies at the intersection of race/ethnicity, urban inequality, and Asian American studies. I am also a Graduate Instructor in Sociology and Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon.

Right now I’m working on my dissertation titled, “Eating the City: Race, Restaurants, and Gentrification in Portland, Oregon” which examines the racialized politics of space and culture in gentrifying neighborhoods across Portland, Oregon. In particular, this project addresses the role of the restaurant industry in gentrification and places focus on the ways Asian American communities are implicated in gentrification struggles.

I also recently published my Master’s research in Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. My article, “They Want the Spanish but They Don’t Want the Mexicans”: Whiteness and Consumptive Contact in an Oregon Spanish Immersion School” examines the racialized consumptive practices of whites who intentionally seek out contact with communities of color. 


What makes you excited about your graduate program?

I am an unapologetic sociology nerd, so the fact that my job is to teach sociology, work with  students, and conduct my own research makes me excited. Being in a PhD program can be challenging mentally, financially, and socially, so my love for sociology and teaching about issues of race/racism is what keeps me going. Teaching is my chosen avenue for cultivating social change, so one of my objectives as an instructor is that students leave my classes not only with content knowledge, but also with a sense of hope and tools they can use to evaluate and help solve social problems in multiple contexts. The University of Oregon is a historically white institution, so I make sure my office door is always open for first-generation, students of color/ queer students of color to feel seen and supported. This is where I find the most meaning as a graduate student in sociology.


 What steps did you take to get to where you are now?

When I was an undergraduate at CSULB, I didn’t even really know was a PhD was. I’m the only person in my family to have pursued a graduate degree. While I knew I loved sociology and the classes I was taking, I really had to be convinced that getting a PhD was possible. Some of the most integral people in this process were Dr. Michael Barnes and Dr. Kerry Woodward. Both helped me navigate the application process and choosing a program. Their mentorship and friendship sustain me to this day.

As an undergraduate, I was also part of the Honors program. At the time Professors Nancy Martin and Oliver Wang led the program and they were great guides who helped walk us through the research and writing process. Being familiar with research and having a polished writing sample from my Honors thesis was key in strengthening my graduate school application materials.

To stay grounded and to keep from burning out, I also make sure to carve out time throughout the year to be home in Orange County with friends and family. I was raised by some tough Vietnamese women who taught me to work hard, be strategic, and hold family close. I learn just as much from them as I do in spaces of higher education, so I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am without them.


 How did your Sociology degree prepare you for your current program?

I can’t stress enough how critical my undergraduate sociology classes were to my intellectual development. I learned in graduate school that not everyone in sociology thinks critically about intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. but my sociology classes at CSULB helped me see these connections early on and shaped my critical approach to understanding power and inequality. I also received excellent training in sociological theory at CSULB. I know theory classes can be some of the most challenging, but the knowledge I gained from these classes prepared me more deeply engage in theoretical discussions in graduate seminars. Lastly, I had great teaching role models at CSULB! Now that I’m a sociology instructor, I find myself using similar teaching strategies and content as instructors I learned the most from most as an undergraduate.

Being a CSULB sociology alumni also routed me toward programs like the CSU Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program (CDIP), which provides mentorship, financial, and professional support to doctoral students who aim to work as tenure-track faculty in the CSU system. As a recently selected CDIP fellow, I hope to one day return to the CSU as a faculty member- an ambition that is deeply shaped by the quality education I received as a sociology major at CSULB.


What advice do you have for current Sociology students?

While it might not be your first instinct, I encourage you to make connections with professors. Most of us want to support you! Utilize the resources and opportunities the university has to offer, whether it be writing tutoring, health/mental health services, going to academic talks, the child development center,  supplemental instruction, the LGBTQ student center, etc. Most importantly, channel the skills and knowledge you attain as a sociologist to support communities you care about. We are trained to make the world a better place.


What are some common career pathways for sociology majors?

While sociology majors can pursue a wide variety of fields and professions, the following  documents can help you explore common career pathways:


What kind of graduate programs do sociology majors pursue?
A partial list of graduate programs where our alumni have been admitted:

  • JD, Fowler School of Law, Chapman University
  • JD, Stanford Law School
  • Master of Arts in Teaching, UC-Irvine
  • Masters in Counseling, California Lutheran University
  • Masters in Public Health, UC-San Diego
  • Masters in Public Policy, University of Michigan
  • Masters of Science in Information, University of Michigan
  • Masters in School Counseling, CSU-Long Beach
  • Masters in School Counseling, CSU-Northridge
  • Master of Social Welfare, UCLA program
  • Master of Social Work, Azusa Pacific University
  • Master of Social Work, CSU-Los Angeles
  • Master of Social Work, CSU-Long Beach
  • Master of Science in Mathematics, CSU-Long Beach
  • Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) at UC-Irvine
  • Master of Urban Planning (MUP), University of Southern California
  • PhD, Sociology, UC-Irvine
  • PhD, Sociology, University of Oregon
  • PhD, Sociology, University of Pittsburgh
  • PhD, Sociology, Uppasala University, Sweden
  • PhD, Sociology, University of Washington
  • PhD Sociology, York University, Canada


Additional resources

  • Occupational Outlook Handbook: Provides background information on what specific careers entail (Duties, work environment, education required, job outlook, pay, etc.).
  • California Colleges: This website provides information on responsibilities, work activities, salary and potential growth for specific careers. In addition, California Colleges also includes academic knowledge, skills, and interests necessary for such careers. 
  • Candid Career Videos: Videos of CSULB Alumni who are current professionals. Within the videos, they provide insight into their careers, loves/challenges, how to prepare, and other helpful advice. Students may explore by career titles or College Majors (where students can learn about the careers CSULB Sociology Alumni are currently doing).