Sociology Program

Sociology is the study of human societies. We ask basic questions like “why do humans do what we do” and “how does society work”. Along the way we pick up essential human questions like: What does it mean when we say that we live in a socially constructed reality? What is the place of the individual in society? Do we have “free will,” or are our personal actions determined by social forces? Is social life really what Thomas Hobbes called the “war of all against all”? Why do we have social order?

If you have ever thought about questions like these or find yourself concerned with social issues, then you may want to consider a degree in sociology.  Humans are social beings and we interact in a social environment. Sociology is the scientific discipline that studies human behavior and social interactions of individuals, groups, organizations and whole societies. Sociology is a science, and was identified in the 1830s as one of the five “mother sciences” along with astronomy, chemistry, physics, and biology, and as such overlaps with other social sciences (political science, economics, psychology, and anthropology) though we maintain our unique perspectives. Sociology focuses primarily on contemporary societies, though we incorporate a historical and developmental perspective.

The sociology program at Marshall University offers students the opportunity to study the intricacies of social life: how to negotiate the collaboratively constructed institutions through which our social world works, how social stratification affects opportunities for individuals and groups, how to critically analyze the problems inherent in the way we construct society, how to empirically determine the facts we construct into truths. The social and analytical skills developed through the program are essential for any job dealing with people and organizations – especially those dealing in multiethnic and global environments and that require breadth and adaptability.

You do not often see jobs with “sociologist” in the title, but a BA with a major in sociology is recognized as an excellent preparation for a wide variety of occupations, especially for careers in social policy, education, union organizing or other social movements, health care, criminology, aging network, industrial or public relations, marketing, human resource management, organizational research, or community and social services. Of course, Marshall University’s sociology program also offers an excellent preparation for professional degrees and /or advanced degrees in sociology. A 2009 study by ranked sociology as the eighth most appealing job in its analysis of 200 occupations based on job characteristics such as perceived work environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands, security and stress.

The sociology program at Marshall University seeks to ensure that each student develops a solid foundation in the principles, theories and techniques of analysis in the discipline. While allowing for a great deal of flexibility to accommodate students’ diverse interests, the curriculum ensures that students are introduced to social theory, stratification and institutions and courses in the basic methods of the discipline.

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology focuses on applied sociology and anthropology, especially the analysis of social and cultural issues, policies and trends in Appalachia. We also offer courses in social theory, with an emphasis on inequality. Anthropology majors may participate in a summer field school that provides hands-on experience in archaeological excavation at significant local sites. Sociology majors may be placed in a local community organization or public agency through SOC 470, Sociological Field Experience.

Undergraduate Degree Opportunities

Students majoring or minoring in sociology are strongly encouraged to discuss with an advisor (in the department and/or in the office of the dean of the College of Liberal Arts) ways in which the requirements in the major/minor simultaneously cover parts of the general education requirements in the College of Liberal Arts and/or the Marshall Plan.

For major requirements, please refer to the Academic Map for Sociology. Refer to the catalog of courses for Sociology.

The very best Sociology students are encouraged to consider graduating with Departmental Honors. To graduate with honors in Sociology, a student must enroll in two subsequent 3 credit courses for a total of 6 credits over one year; a 3 credit SOC 485 Independent Study and SOC 493 Senior Seminar II (Capstone) will be the ordinary sequence, but if necessary the courses can be taken in the reversed order.

The prerequisites for obtaining permission to pursue the Honors in Sociology option are: the student must be a declared Sociology major in Junior or Senior standing, have a GPA in all concluded sociology classes of a minimum of 3.5, and have a written agreement with a faculty member, who will act as the advisor. In the first term, the student will prepare a study plan and literature review for an independent research project; at the end of the term, this work must be presented to a committee of at least three faculty members who will together determine the grade.

The prerequisites for pursuing the second term of the honors option include: an “A” in the first term, a GPA in all concluded sociology classes of a minimum of 3.5, and written permission by the advisor. In the second semester, the student will conduct the proposed research project and report her/his findings (the report will ordinarily be a written paper, but can be supplemented by presentations in other media – an exhibition, a film, etc.). At the end of the term, this work must be presented to a committee of at least three faculty members who will together determine the grade. The grade “A” for the work in the second term will be recognized on the students’ official transcript as “Graduating with Honors in Sociology.”

Students DO NOT need to be in the Honors College to pursue Departmental Honors in Sociology.

A minor in sociology requires at least 15 credits. As listed below, 9 of these credits constitute the core of the minor. The reminder of the required credits can be taken from any class with the prefix SOC. A maximum of 6 credits below 300-level can be counted towards the minor.

The required core of the sociology minor consists of 9 credits (3 classes):

  • SOC 200 Introductory Sociology
  • SOC 344 Social Research I
  • SOC 360 Sociological Perspectives

Masters Level Opportunities

For more information visit the Graduate Program in Sociology.

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Contact Us

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Smith Hall 727
One John Marshall Drive
Huntington, WV 25755-2678
Tel: 304-696-6700
Fax: 304-696-2803