What is sociology? Discover if this study path is for you

Why do societies work the way they do? What influences human behaviour? These questions are at the heart of sociology. Let’s find out more about this fascinating field.

A hand holding a magnifying glass over people figurines

If you’re interested in better understanding how our world works, you’ll likely find sociology to be an endlessly interesting field of research.  

What is sociology the study of?

In a nutshell, sociology aims to make sense of society. By asking critical questions about human behaviour, looking for patterns, and gathering useful data, sociologists can create a picture of how a society functions—and suggest how we can improve it. 

The field considers a huge breadth of questions about our lives, such as: How do class, race, and gender shape our circumstances? What impacts marriage or divorce rates? Why are some people religious? What influences social mobility? 

Whereas some disciplines within the social sciences study human behaviour at the individual level, sociology is interested in finding broader social patterns and trends at the structural or collective level of a society. 

Why do we study sociology?

Sociology is used in today's world to explore key social issues. Sociologists investigate social inequalities, why they are caused and why they are reinforced. They even look at how we might change these issues.  

Sometimes, sociological research can influence public policy. By working out where social support is most needed, we can better direct public resources and attempt to make society more equitable. 

According to The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), in Australia, sociology has played a role in areas such as immigration policy, equal opportunity legislation, and the response to HIV/AIDS. 

Sociology areas of study

Sociologists are interested in a variety of topics, but some of the major areas of study within the field include: 

  • families and relationships
  • religion
  • race
  • class
  • gender 
  • work 
  • health
  • pop culture
  • criminal justice. 

How does sociology work? 

In their research, sociologists use both qualitative and quantitative techniques to gather the information they need. 

For example, if you are a sociologist working on a study, you may interview people out in the field about their lived experience. You will also analyse vast datasets to establish interesting patterns or trends. 

As part of your sociology career, you could find yourself researching all kinds of topics—for example: predictors of homelessness, shifting attitudes towards religion, how humans interact with the environment, or the evolving nature of families and parenthood. 

Where can studying sociology take you?

Studying sociology can give you a valuable perspective on the world and teach you to ask critical questions about people and society. 

After your studies, you may find yourself working within the public sector or as a social researcher, or perhaps designing programs that will directly benefit different communities. Find out more about the career paths you may take after graduating

How to study sociology

The most common option for studying sociology in Australia is as a major within an arts degree. 

As an undergraduate student, you’ll be introduced to key sociological research techniques and theories and work towards gaining the skills and confidence to conduct your own research.  

After your undergrad degree, you may choose to pursue postgraduate study to deepen your knowledge of the field and continue researching areas that interest you.  

Where to study sociology

If you are starting at the undergraduate level, you will find many arts degrees in Australia offer sociology subjects. 

For example, you could study a Bachelor of Arts with Griffith University through Open Universities Australia and choose sociology as your major.

If you’re already up to postgraduate level, you may like to consider a degree with a more specialised focus, such as the Master of Arts (Women and Gender Studies) with Flinders University through Open Universities Australia. 


Or explore a range of other sociology courses available online with leading universities.


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