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 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 309 - Sociology of Gender
An examination of the topic of gender, predominately using a sociological perspective. The study of gender from a sociological perspective develops an appreciation for how social structure, institutions and culture shape gender roles and the lives of those who play these roles - at the same time that gender roles shape culture, institutions and social structure. Attention will also be given to the "inherent or constructed" debate about gender roles, the role of the media in shaping gender, and the intertwining of gender and family, politics, work and religion.(4 credits, alternate years, consult department)
SOC 340 - Sociological Research
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 351WI - Ethnographic Research
An overview of ethnographic methods, goals, and the theoretical assumptions underlying them. Ethnography, the description and analysis of human life or culture, is based on qualitative fieldwork. The goal is to understand the "native's" point of view, to learn from people rather than study them. Students will have an opportunity to practice fieldwork methods and write a brief ethnography. (4 credits; alternate years, consult department) (Writing intensive) Note: Preceding course recommendation: SOC290.
SOC 401 - Sociological Theory
The study of major theories and theorists, addressing such theories as functionalist, conflict, social exchange, symbolic interactionist, ethnomethodological/ phenomenological, and sociobiology. Emphasis is placed on how various perspectives impact and alter our understanding of reality, of causation, of the past, present and future. Prerequisites: SOC101, sociology major or permission of instructor. Recommend general education writing requirement. (4 credits, alternate years, consult department)

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


Students intending to do graduate work in sociology are urged to take MAT375, Econometrics with Regression Analysis, and SOC341x, Philosophy of Social Science.

PSY214x cannot double count for both a sociology elective course and the cognate requirement.