Why Sociology?

Students often take sociology courses because of an identification with a particular social problem, a generalized commitment to social change, sheer sociological curiosity, or some combination of these reasons.

What do a family, hospital, college, sports team, and global production chains have in common?

Each is an example of a patterned way of organizing relationships between people. Sociology is the scientific study of these patterned relationships. We seek to understand the causes and consequences of these patterns--how they work as well as their influence at the group and individual levels. Sociology is, in short, the science of the forces shaping our social world and ourselves.

In our courses, students learn how to draw on empirical data to understand and disentangle the puzzles that make up our complex social world. Students can then apply these intellectual tools to any variety of settings, from managing interpersonal issues in their own lives to identifying solutions to pressing social problems.

The sociologists in our department study a range of topics, including:

  • Workplace and the family
  • Social movements
  • Sexuality and intimacy
  • Deviance, crime, and law
  • Health, illness, and food
  • Culture and humor
  • Economic Inequality
  • Youth culture
  • Markets and consumerism
  • Race and racism
  • Gender inequality

Many of our majors choose to minor in counseling, housed within our department. Counseling minors can take courses like:

  • Mental Health in Historical Contexts
  • Counseling theories
  • A 3-credit internship at a local organization

Whatever their reasons, students in sociology courses develop unique insights into themselves and their social worlds.

The sociology faculty at IC aims to help students become critical, methodologically informed thinkers and proficient writers. Our courses emphasize the ability to understand human behavior in complex ways, to interpret data, and to communicate those understandings. On an individual level, sociology enables you to gain a better understanding of the social forces that shape your own life, so that you will be better poised to deal with them.

The Sociology Department provides majors with training in sociological theories and methodologies, and we work closely with students to develop their own research interests and projects.

Our graduates make successful transitions into graduate programs and into the workforce. Visit our Careers in Sociology page to learn about career paths in sociology, and our Alumni page to see where IC Sociology Alumni are now!

What is unique about Sociology compared to other Social Sciences?

Unlike psychology, which is generally concerned with individual personalities, brains, or psyches, sociology stresses the importance of group-level analysis--that is, questions about why groups of people behave in certain ways and/or have access to certain sets of privileges and opportunities.

Unlike economics, where analytic models tend to assume individuals to be “rational” utility maximizers, group-level factors such as culture, values, and norms are central to sociological analysis, lending to more complex and realistic understandings of humans and human interactions.

Unlike political science, sociologists are committed to recognizing the significance of human behavior and power dynamics in spaces that may include but go beyond formal systems of power (e.g., the state).

Unlike anthropology, which seeks to understand the human condition broadly through the study of human and cultural evolution across time, sociological analysis tends to be rooted in understanding and addressing contemporary social problems. Sociological analysis also draws on a wider set of quantitative and qualitative methodological tools.