Practicing Sociology in Pakistan: Applying the Discipline

Graduates say, “We have sociological knowledge, but how do we apply it in the field?” “How are we practicing sociology in Pakistan?”

Growth of Sociology in Pakistan

Sociology has the potential to outgrow its present status despite the challenges it has to face in the context of the Pakistani society due to economic and socio-political reasons. Presently, the scope of sociology is quite vague for graduates as soon as they enter the job market. Speaking in terms of the future and present of sociology in Pakistan, as a graduate in Sociology, we are facing an identity crisis. At one hand we see ourselves with the ability to identify the opportunity to apply our extent of sociological knowledge in different problem areas.

Whereas, on the other hand, we see the many industry professionals challenging the scope of our degree and telling us that there is no room for sociologists in their organizations. However, if we decide to go for postgraduate studies, Sociology is again becoming obsolete as a discipline to pursue a postgraduate degree in. Recently, the Higher Education Commission has halted admissions in many MPhil and PhD programs of Sociology because of no revision in the syllabus, low quality of research work (not contributing enough to the research and development of the society), and the quality of education overall.

Challenges of Practicing Sociology in Pakistan

“Jack of all trades and a master of none” is a dilemma of almost every graduate except for those who have had the opportunity to define their interest in their discipline by the end of their undergraduate studies.

This is done either through selection of a major—i.e., Sociology in my case—or through research work where most enthusiastic students choose topics that feed their curiosity. For instance, I predefined my research interests in the area of psychosocial development and rehabilitation using a multi-systemic approach. The challenge begins when the graduated sociology student steps into the job market where the interviewer asks them about what makes them eligible to apply for a certain position, which commonly are Human Resources, Administration, Public Relation, to name a few.

Only a few of us who have the habit of self-study and discourses with the experienced ones are able to convince them about their eligibility, but still we are disqualified on the basis of not having the educational qualification (MBA, MPA, BBA, etc.) to secure the position. The downside of our job market is that our organizations are not structured in the way to recruit applied sociologists; in other words, they do not have a position for an applied sociologist and they are reluctant to employ a new graduate with a degree that the majority of the recruiters have no knowledge about.

Sociology vs. Social Work

Very often Sociology is confused with Social Work, so when we enter the job market, the recruiters refer to us as social workers and that we should go seek employment opportunities in the non-profit/ non-governmental organizations. Even in the non-profit agency they hire social workers/ sociologists as volunteers because welfare work comes from selflessness, as is largely known; and this is how these organizations run mostly.

There is more to welfare work than fundraising, which is planning, evaluating, monitoring, and implementing different rehabilitation programs and interventions. The interventionist itself is what we call, in other words, an applied sociologist or a social worker as well. Here, the flaw comes under the subject of what we study during our undergraduate education. Courses like Clinical Sociology, Alternate Conflict Resolution Methods, Social Policy & Practice etc. are less theory and more practice-oriented. But, again, we never get the chance to practice our learning in the field during our undergraduate studies.

Social Work is More Practice Oriented in Pakistan

Keeping this in mind, Social Work is a more practice-oriented discipline, so for applied sociology to strengthen its roots in our country, there is a need to include practice-oriented and intervention-related courses like case work, group work, etc. in the Bachelors (Hons.) Sociology program

This addition would help Sociology majors understand the role of a sociological practitioner in different problem areas. But, then again, even social workers do not earn enough unless they innovate in the job market; however, the discipline is comparatively more popular than Sociology. Still, the presence of sociological theories in the curriculum of Sociology gives it an edge over Social Work.

Sociology vs. Psychology

Sociologists, when described as clinicians—i.e., working in a clinical-setting—is commonly confused with the work of psychologists. Clinical Psychologists proceed to take Advance Diploma in Clinical Psychology (ADCP) after post-graduation which provides them with in-depth supervised training in psychological assessment, diagnosis, and psychotherapies. In the case of clinical sociologists, this sort of program is not provided.

The first and foremost reason behind this is that sociology is not recognized as a behavioral sciences discipline, as compared to Psychology. Secondly, Clinical Sociology has not been introduced in Pakistan yet. So far, Psychology is more popular and developed discipline than both Social Work and Sociology.

What Psychology lacks here is intervention at the community-level. There are no such known works by community psychologists; and dealing with groups and community is undoubtedly the forte of Sociology and Social Work. To promote clinical sociologists as practitioners, we need to include specializations and courses in a variety of helping modalities, similar to that of ADCP.

Promotion of Sociology in Pakistan

Sociology in practice can cover the whole multisystemic spectrum, spanning from individual-level to community-level intervention in any industry for varying problem areas. The skills of a sociological practitioner make them eligible to work outside of academia and the non-profit industry—i.e., within corporate, commercial, MNCs, etc. To promote both applied and clinical sociology, we need to take some important steps.

  • The more evolved disciplines like Psychology and Social Work can collaborate with sociologists to utilize the sociological/theoretical knowledge in the field with them.
  • Curriculum of Sociology should include courses from Psychology, Social Work, Human Resources, Public Administration, etc. in order to help the students specialize in their desired subjects or take them as minors to maximize the chances of employment for sociologists after graduation.
  • Application of sociology in different industries and/or organizations should be prompted by research.
  • Research for different industries and organizations should be directed towards making enough impact that can help in the introduction of positions for and induction of  applied sociologists in those companies. (Read more on The Scope of Research in Pakistan, linked here)
  • During undergraduate studies, students should be sponsored for internships in different organizations by the university department itself.
  • Students should be engaged in projects alongside the thesis submission, which will pay off in the long run after graduation.
  • Students can take up their projects as start-up ideas and promote social entrepreneurship by bringing them into the notice of different incubation centers in Pakistan.
  • Designing proposals and launching projects as a part of undergraduate  Sociology curriculum can help graduates in innovation in the job market.
  • All these steps will eventually help create opportunities for sociologists to pursue Applied & Clinical Sociology both academically and in their professional life as well.
  • Reenactment of Pakistan Sociological Association as a functional body representing and coordinating sociologists from all over Pakistan is a need of the hour.
  • Collaborating with sociological associations globally will help promote the sociologists of Pakistan.

Final Thoughts on Practicing Sociology in Pakistan

To conclude, the prospect of hiring Sociology majors is quite meek right after their graduation in Pakistan. This is due to the inadequacy of the undergraduate studies curriculum, which does not enable its students to meet the requirements to compete in the job market.

To tackle the problem of not having enough sociological practitioners in Pakistan, we need to take certain steps and align with other practice-oriented disciplines like Psychology and Social Work. This can be done through integration of more practice and intervention related courses in the curriculum, which is currently lacking; another hindrance to meet a high employment rate outside academia for Sociology majors.

Psychologists and social workers can also collaborate with sociologists in the development and rehabilitation industries to introduce the practice side of Sociology in the job market, in the beginning. Moreover, a practicum and/or project along with graduate research thesis should be endorsed as well in the curriculum besides coursework.

All the aforementioned steps can be instrumental for Sociology as a discipline and its graduates in Pakistan in saving its status as well as gaining recognition in different organizations as we hope to see applied and clinical sociologists working side by side with other professionals in different organizations.

What is Applied Sociology? History, Definition, and Jobs

Graphic created to represent Applied Worldwide and Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology; Practicing Sociology in Pakistan: Applying the Discipline
What is Applied Sociology?

Maham Abid

Maham is an MPhil in Education Leadership and Management from Lahore University of Management Sciences. She has majored in Sociology and Socio-cultural Studies. Maham believes in developing support systems for positive youth development and resilience-building using systemic and multi-sectoral approaches and finds education as a sustainable tool to achieve that. Maham has been self-published twice. Her works comprise poetry and digital art.