Sociologists study the social causes and consequences of human behavior, ranging from the intimate family to the angry mob; from crime to religion; from the divisions of race and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; from the why and how of social control to movements against oppressive social control; from the why and how of production to problems of inequitable distribution of resources; from abundance and health to poverty and pollution. Few fields have such broad scope and relevance as sociology.

For the student, sociology provides assistance in values, model and tool development for looking at one's self and the world, and generates new ideas for problem-analysis and problem-solving. In addition, it offers a range of research techniques which can be applied to many areas, such as crime and criminal justice, personnel management and business, urban and community planning, the provision of health care, problems of poverty and welfare, student development and Christian ministry.

As a graduate from Northwestern’s sociology program, you’ll be qualified for numerous career opportunities: teaching in high schools, colleges, and universities; researching for business, government, or research institutes; working in health care and social service programs; working in industry as personnel managers and quality control analysts; working in policy implementation and planning for various communities and agencies; working in the criminal justice system as law enforcement personnel and probation or parole officers; working in urban and community planning. In addition, sociology is a popular major for students planning careers in such professions as law, business, education, urban planning, social work, student development, counseling, politics, public administration and the ministry, with graduate or professional training required or advised in most cases.

The sociology faculty provide opportunities for study of cultures and cultural groups both in North America and abroad. They offer exposure to practicing sociologists in various fields; provide field trips, internships, career guidance; and challenge the student to integrate "book learning" with practical involvement in contemporary social problems.

Sociology department homepage

Major requirements

Sociology electives: 4 credits
SOC 101SS - Principles of Sociology
(4 credits)(IGE option under Self and Society) An introduction to sociology, its major concepts, tools and perspectives. This course provides an understanding of societies; of culture; of major social institutions such as the family, religion and education; of social inequality; and of social change.
SOC 202 - Social Problems
A discussion of myths and facts leading toward an understanding of many social problems, such as sexual deviance, drugs and alcohol, health care and illness (physical and mental), crime and delinquency, violence, wealth and poverty, inequality of opportunity, work, aging, sex inequality, racial minorities and discrimination, education, family problems, war, pollution, ecology and population. Emphasis is placed upon difficulties in defining, critiquing and proposing meaningful solutions.(4 credits)
SOC 210SS - Marriage and Family
This class employs the sociological imagination to think about what "family" is and how the social world has shaped both families and the images and ideals that suggest what families or marriage should be. This class will use the tools of sociology to think critically about "family" as a social institution. We will wrestle with various ways of defining what family is, work to understand how families are shaped by the social world, and ask if using the sociological imagination can help us to look at current debates about family in a new and productive way. (4 credits; alternate years, consult department)
SOC 290CC - Cultural Anthropology
(4 credits)(NWCore option under Cross-Cultural Engagement) This course is about learning a way of seeing and understanding other cultures and our own culture(s) - introducing and drawing on ideas and insights from the field of Cultural Anthropology. In a globalizing and increasingly interconnected world these ideas and insights can serve a critical need in helping us understand and learn how to live in with cultural diversity and complexity. Thus the value of this course is in learning a new way of seeing and understanding, a way that helps us think about what it means to be human, a way that helps us understand and live with our neighbors -- locally and globally.
SOC 304CC - Ethnicity, Power and Identity
(4 credits)(IGE option under Cross-Cultural Engagement) This course develops a sociological perspective on ethnicity, power, and identity. Sociologists frequently seek to balance an emphasis on both the general patterns that we observe across social phenomena and the uniqueness of each specific case. The primary goal of this course is not simply learn the characteristics of specific historically marginalized populations. Instead, this course will seek to answer the question: What is the relationship between power, ethnicity, and identity? Our readings and discussions will shed light upon this question from different perspectives. Along the way, we will also draw upon learning materials that address the unique historical situations of specific groups as they endure and struggle against power imbalances (for example, the African American Civil Rights Movement).
SOC 340 - Research Methods
A comprehensive introduction to sociological research methods with emphasis on survey research. An opportunity for sociology majors or others to apply this methodology in the conduct of major research in an area determined in consultation with the instructor. Finished research reports will be considered for presentation at various sociological association meetings. Prerequisites: SOC101 or equivalent. Recommend general education writing requirement, (4 credits, alternate years, consult department)
SOC 401WI - Sociological Theory
In this course, we are going to consider a number of sociological theorists and ideas. We will not attempt a comprehensive examination of theory, either classic or contemporary. Rather, we will dive deeply into a number of texts to explore how theory can give us unique insights into the social world and the ways in which the social world shapes the lives of individuals. And we will contemplate if, instead of just interpreting the world in various ways, these theories suggest ways in which to change it. Prerequisites: SOC101, sociology major or permission of instructor. (4 credits; non-yearly, consult department) (Writing Intensive)
SOC 417 - Internship
(4 credits may apply toward the major)
SOC 450SRx - Justice as a Skill and Commitment
This course is the senior capstone to a student's entire Northwestern education. The course challenges students to thoughtfully reflect on and integrate their education in their major and across the curriculum with their personal, intellectual, spiritual, and vocational life. In particular, the class will consider the challenge of determining what it means to pursue justice in one's life and vocation. Through reading, discussing, writing, oral presentations, and a capstone research project students will address the questions: Who have I become? To whom and I responsible? How will we live in the world? (4 credits)

Cognate requirements

Choose one course
PSY 100SS - Exploring Psychology
(4 credits)(NWCore option under Self and Society) In this course students learn how, using methodologies such as observation, survey and experimentation, psychological science explores the causes and consequences of human action. An overview of major findings from the field of psychology such as biological bases of behavior, learning and memory, motivation and emotion, human development, personality, intelligence, psychopathology and therapy, the effect of others on individuals will be discussed and students will be encouraged to apply this knowledge to their own views and actions. Students will consider why the integration of faith and science in understanding humans is important and will explore ways of accomplishing this integration.
PSY 214x - Social Psychology
This course involves the study of the way individuals think about, influence and relate to one another. Topics include: attitude change, social thinking, conformity, obedience, persuasion, prejudice, aggression, altruism, roles, norms and environmental influences on social behavior. The major aim of the course is to encourage an appreciation of the relationship between personal and situational determinants of social behavior.Prerequisite: PSY111, 221, or SOC101.(4 credits)

Total credits required: 40