In short, Lester F. Ward described applied sociology as using sociological skills and knowledge to improve the well-being of society. There are a wide variety of ways that sociologists can practice applied sociology. Over the course of running Applied Worldwide, we have had the privilege to practice sociology in different domains and report the stories of many other applied sociologists. In this article we would like to show some examples of applied sociology in real life.
Thanks to all of the sponsors of our Profiles of Applied and Clinical Sociologists project including, Sociologists for Women in Society, Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, British Sociological Association Applied Sociology Group, Canadian Sociological Association Applied and Community Engaged Sociology and the American Sociological Association section Sociological Practice and Public Sociology.
Examples of Applied Sociology
As previously mentioned there are a variety of domains in which sociology can be applied. Health and medicine, technology, and education are some of the popular sectors in which sociology is practiced, but we have compiled the list below to show some of these examples of applied sociology.
Applied sociologists work with communities to improve their social and economic well-being. This can involve a variety of activities, such as conducting needs assessments, developing community plans, and implementing programs and services. At times this work may involve finding ways to empower underprivileged groups within a community. At other times community development work may involve community organizing.
The applied sociology work that takes place in community development is vast and diverse. Click through the following links for some examples of professional applied sociologists working in community development!
- Melissa S. Fry, PhD: Applied Research and Education Center
- Kate Butler, PhD: Empowering Young People
- Emily Milne, PhD: Applied Sociology & Community Partners
- Johanna P. Bishop, EdD, CPT: Making Communities Resistant to Human Trafficking with Sociology
- Sara J Cumming, PhD: Improving Group Outcomes
- Rebecca Joy Tromsness, MA: Advocating for the Value of Work
Applied Medical sociology
Applied sociologists study theories such as the social determinants of health and illness. Applied medical sociologists use these theories to work toward improving health outcomes and access to healthcare services. This can involve research on topics such as sex and gender differences in healthcare, patient safety, and patient safety, as well as the development of inclusive health practices.
Applied medical sociology is another list where we have many examples in our profiles of applied and clinical sociology. Applied Worldwide Director of Research Services is also an applied medical sociologist, so you may be interested in reviewing some of her work as well!
- Chloe E. Bird, PhD, FAAAS, FAAHB: Using Sociology to Address Sex and Gender Differences in Health Care
- Catherine van de Ruit, PhD: Applied Sociology and Patient Safety
- Austin H Johnson, PhD: Health Services for LGBTQ People
- Karen Albright, PhD: Sociology in Health Services Research
- Lorella Palazzo, PhD: Improving Patient Outcomes
Applied sociologists examine the relationship between society and the natural environment, and explore ways to promote sustainability and environmental protection. This can involve research on topics such as the impact of climate change on communities, the role of social movements in environmental activism, and the development of environmental policies.
Sustainability is a popular concept of study in sociology and beyond, so addition to the following examples, I imagine this to be an area where opportunities will expand dramatically in the near future.
- Hilary Burrage, MSc: Sociology Theory, Research, and Praxis
- Abdulkarim Umar, MSc: Environment and Community
- Dr. Federico Farini: Creating Sustainable Impact
Applied sociologists study the causes of crime and delinquency, and work to develop and implement criminal justice policies and programs. This can involve research on topics such as the impact of poverty and inequality on crime, the effectiveness of different policing strategies, and the rehabilitation of offenders.
Criminal justice and criminology are also popular areas of study in sociology with a high demand. I have noticed that many of the applied criminal justice jobs I have seen are with government agencies or non-profit advocacy groups. So there is a chance that this is a less profitable area of applied sociology than places like technology or medicine. Once again, that is just an anecdotal observation.
- James Frazier, LPC, CSOTP, CCS: Using Sociology in Sex Offender Treatment Programs
- Miriam Boeri, PhD: Alternative Drug Treatment Practices
- Jackie Henke, PhD: Data Analyst for the Court of California
- Lauren Gant, MA: Criminal Justice Systems in Colorado
Applied sociologists study the social factors that influence educational outcomes, and work to improve educational opportunities for all students. This can involve research on topics such as racism in schools, the role of teacher expectations, and the development of effective teaching methods.
Applied educational sociologists represent our largest group of examples. From equal opportunity and diversity projects, to innovative teaching methods we have some great examples of sociologists working in education.
- Sophie Nathenson, PhD: Widespread Wellness through Sociology
- Karine Coen-Sanchez: Developing New Consciousnesses to Fight Racism
- Professor M Seedat-Khan, CCS: Simply SMART Sociology
- Megan Nanney, PhD: Equal Opportunity and Diversity Research
- Gina M. Finelli, PhD: Sociology and Family Business Advising
- Jillian Lain: Developing Educational Programs with Sociology
- Teresa Crew, PhD: Diversity in Higher Education
- Talking to Dr. Bruce Ravelli on Teaching Applied Sociology
Applied sociologists study the structure and functioning of organizations, and work to improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness. This can involve research on topics such as the impact of organizational culture, the design of effective work teams, and the management of conflict.
Churches, libraries, businesses, hospitals and most other places you can think of are all organizations. Organizational sociologists understand that organizations have similarities despite how different their form and function may appear. This understanding can help organizational sociologists to provide valuable knowledge to any type of organization.
- Ayesha Adaranijo, PhD: Design Programs and Operations
- Professor Robert Dingwall: Strategic Advice and Evaluation
- Anthony F. Buono, PhD: Driving Organizational Change
- Josh Packard, PhD: Organizational Strategy and Management
Applied sociologists use their knowledge of social behavior to help businesses understand their customers and develop effective marketing strategies. This can involve research on topics such as consumer behavior, product adoption, and the impact of advertising.
One interesting element of business research in sociology is branding. With the current social media environment, branding is important for professionals in any field. Sociologists have unique knowledge from micro-level theories and symbolic interactionism that can be valuable to businesses working on branding.
- Melissa Scardaville, PhD: Sociology Contract Research Firm
- Gary David, PhD: Analytical Insights and Design Solutions
- Andrew C Cohen, PhD: Advertising and Brand Strategy
Applied sociologists use their research skills to evaluate the effectiveness of social policies and programs. This can involve research on topics such as the impact of welfare reform, the effectiveness of educational programs, and the implementation of environmental regulations.
Government policies or organizational policies, as far as the big picture goes policy analysis is about applied research methods. You have to know what questions to ask and apply the appropriate methods to get the answers.
- Mindy Fried, PhD: Policy Analysis and Social Justice Issues
- Swakshadip Sarkar, MSc: Policies Impacting LGBTQ People
- Scott Davies, PhD: Informing Policy Decisions
Applied sociologists study the social impact of technology. They can use this knowledge to help develop and implement technology in a way that is beneficial to society.
Technology is a tricky one because job security is volatile at many companies in tech. We have published a couple of articles at Applied Worldwide that might help you research the current trends with sociologists in technology. Sociologists, The Tech Industry Needs You! and Analysis of Sociology Jobs in the Tech Industry
Applied sociologists study the global interconnectedness of societies. They can use this knowledge to help address global challenges such as poverty, immigration, and environmental degradation.
It goes without saying that sociology is valuable in the current context of foreign affairs. This is one area of sociology where I personally would like to see a lot more practical application!
- Özlem Altıok, PhD: Feminist, Teacher, Scholar, & Activist
- Dr. Maro Youssef: Using Sociology to Improve Foreign Policy
- Janet Mancini Billson, PhD: International Consulting
Our final group is program evaluation. As applied sociologists we not only look at what problems exist but also attempt to provide solutions. It is not enough to simply put a solution in place, we also have to monitor and evaluate whether the solution is working as intended.
Applied research methods skills are required in effectively evaluating whether a program is working. This is why program evaluation is a popular career choice with sociologists that excel in diverse research methods.
- Ethan Czuy Levine, PhD: Anti-violence Advocacy & Sociology
- Cara Margherio, PhD: Improving Equity in STEM Fields
- Colleen A. Schoenfeld: Using Sociology to Increase Equity
- Mary Virnoche, PhD: Supporting Equity in Higher Education
- Grace Morris, MA: Sociology and Program Evaluation
Final Thoughts on Examples of Applied Sociology
These are just a few examples of the many ways that applied sociology is used to address real-world problems. Applied sociologists work in a variety of settings, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, and educational institutions. They use their knowledge of sociology to help improve the lives of individuals, communities, and society as a whole.
Applied sociology is a diverse and growing field with a wide range of applications. It is a valuable tool for understanding and addressing the challenges facing our world today.