In Summary - Sociologist / Social Researcher
Sociologist / Social Researchers typically work in the following Career Sectors:
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The Work - Sociologist / Social Researcher
Sociologists use scientific methods to develop surveys and undertake statistical analysis. For example, to examine urban inequality, researchers may take a random sample of adults from selected households. They may ask a series of questions to find out about the adult's experiences of employment or their residential preferences.
Quantitative research involves large samples (usually more than 100 people) and measurable data. Qualitative research uses smaller numbers of people and concentrates more on people's opinions and experiences. Focus groups, made up of a small number of selected people, are encouraged to discuss a particular topic. Researchers may also interview people on a one-to-one basis.
Computers are normally used to analyse data and produce statistics, graphs and models. At the end of the project, researchers write a report that sets out research aims, results, conclusions and recommendations. The findings of a completed project are often presented to interested parties.
Social researchers help to form and monitor social policy in central government departments. They use census records to study and predict changes in population structure and movement. Knowledge of public attitudes to diet, drugs, crime and alcohol helps the government to set health care targets and produce public information literature. Research into crime (for example, domestic violence) helps the police and may lead to changes in the law.
In local government, research tends to be very specific to policy. Researchers help local authorities by producing information on housing, education, social services and planning. For example, they survey people's opinions about the state of housing, or the impact of a new road designed to relieve traffic congestion.
The government and market research organisations are interested in consumer attitudes and behaviour. They may assess consumer behaviour by asking people about their decisions to save or borrow money, or to buy houses and cars. This helps the government to assess confidence in the economy, and manufacturing industries to identify new products and markets.
Most commonly reported Work Tasks
- Prepare publications and reports containing research findings.
- Analyze and interpret data in order to increase the understanding of human social behavior.
- Plan and conduct research to develop and test theories about societal issues such as crime, group relations, poverty, and aging.
- Collect data about the attitudes, values, and behaviors of people in groups, using observation, interviews, and review of documents.
- Develop, implement, and evaluate methods of data collection, such as questionnaires or interviews.
- Teach sociology.
- Direct work of statistical clerks, statisticians, and others who compile and evaluate research data.
- Consult with and advise individuals such as administrators, social workers, and legislators regarding social issues and policies, as well as the implications of research findings.
- Collaborate with research workers in other disciplines.
- Develop approaches to the solution of groups' problems, based on research findings in sociology and related disciplines.
Most commonly reported Work Activities
- Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Analyzing Data or Information Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Thinking Creatively Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Training and Teaching Others Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Interests - Sociologist / Social Researcher
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
Creative people are drawn to careers and activities that enable them to take responsibility for the design, layout or sensory impact of something (visual, auditory etc). They may be atrracted to the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design activities, such as architecture, animation, or craft areas, such as pottery and ceramics.
Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.
The Social person's interests focus on interacting with the people in their environment. In all cases, the Social person enjoys the personal contact with other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.
Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
As a Sociologist / Social Researcher, you should have an interest in social developments, trends and attitudes. Social researchers need an investigative and analytical mind and a thorough approach to their work. You must be able to plan and carry out surveys, be familiar with other research methods, and know how to use statistics.
Good communication and interpersonal skills are needed to design questionnaires and gather information from people. You will also need to be able to explain your findings clearly, both verbally and in written reports.
Researchers must look out for bias and ambiguity in the methods they use to collect or interpret data. You should be aware of the danger that research findings can be interpreted in different ways, especially by people with opposing views and agendas or political parties.
Computing skills are very important, because they are used to produce statistics, graphs and models.
Social researchers often work to deadlines both in setting up a survey and reporting findings, and need good organisational skills and the ability to work under pressure.
If you are not particularly good at statistics, there is still the possibility to work in social research. Many organisations separate their researchers into those who design surveys and those who analyse statistics. However, you must understand sampling designs and survey methods.
Entry Requirements - Sociologist / Social Researcher
Pay & Salary - Sociologist / Social Researcher
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 18k - 50k
Last Updated: March, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.