Sociology/Social Studies

Sociology/Social Studies


Sociologists examine subjects encompassing a vast array of human behavior: crime and punishment, the formation and dissolution of families, bureaucracy in organizations, conflicts between classes, and global inequalities. Sociology focuses on the way individuals’ lives are embedded within multiple social contexts that facilitate and constrain the range of possible actions. These contexts include generation, occupation, gender, religion, sexual orientation, family, health, nation, race, and ethnicity among many others. Students study and examine these phenomena with a variety of scientific tools, including collecting and analyzing statistical data and conducting surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews.

As a Sociology major at Western, students learn how humans behave and interact in groups — whether small groups like families or large groups like religious organizations, and how one’s position in the larger society shapes life chances and experiences. Sociology students develop an aptitude for critical thinking, improve their writing ability, and gain competence with statistical computing that will enhance their future career options. The department is dedicated to providing quality instruction in several specialized areas of study in Sociology. The four major specializations in our department include Family and the Life Course, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Population Studies, and Social Organization/Social Inequality.

Completion of the BA Sociology/Social Studies major leads to an endorsement in social studies. To receive a recommendation for state of Washington certification for secondary education, students must complete the “teacher certification” program. See Secondary Education for program admission, completion, and teacher certification requirements.

The Sociology Department is part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Sociology majors have won the Presidential Scholars Award five times in the last 11 years, more than any other department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

 “I am interested in public policy and making things better at a zoomed out broader level. Sociologists just like to do that!”  

-Batu Dashnyam, Student

Beyond the Classroom

Sociology students have the opportunity to participate in faculty-led study abroad programs, gain applied skills through service learning internships, and coauthor research papers with our faculty. 

The sociology department actively encourages students to pursue learning opportunities abroad, particularly through faculty-led programs. The department believes a global perspective is critical to understanding core sociological concepts, but to also better understand their own culture. Faculty-led study abroad programming often counts for upper-level major requirements, and travel courses may serve as a student’s capstone project on programs led by Sociology faculty — to places like Kenya, China, and India.   

Sociology students are also encouraged to pursue internships placements for credit towards the major. Data show that sociology students who take part in internships have enriched learning experiences and find it much easier to find employment later.

Sociology students have completed internships with:

  • Allied Arts
  • Bellingham Planning Commission
  • Bellingham Police Department
  • Bellingham School District
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Brigid Collins
  • Catholic Community Services
  • Division of Children and Family Services
  • Law Offices in Bellingham
  • Northwest Youth Services
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Whatcom County Drug Court
  • Whatcom County Juvenile Corrections
  • Whatcom County Juvenile Court
  • Whatcom County Juvenile Probation
  • Whatcom County Public Defender's Office
  • Whatcom County Sheriff
  • Whatcom Crisis Services Sexual Assault Program
  • Women Care Shelter
Portrait of Dr. Glenn Tsunokai

Awarded the  inaugural  Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award

Professor Tsunokai was recognized for the 50 students he has mentored through Senior Thesis projects, several of whom have published research articles with Professor Tsunokai.

Dr. Glenn Tsunokai

Careers and Graduate Studies

Many Sociology graduates enter professions such as law, education, social services and criminal justice work while others pursue graduate training in Sociology.  

Employers of Recent Western Graduates:

  • AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Bellingham School District
  • College Forward
  • MSR Communications
  • Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe
  • SDL, Inc.
  • SeaMar Visions Youth Treatment Center
  • State of Washington Juvenile Rehabilitation Center

Western graduates who pursue graduate studies are doing so at such schools as: 

  • Pennsylvania State University: Sociology (PhD)
  • University of Hawaii: Education (MA)
  • University of Nevada-Reno: Criminal Justice (MA)
  • Western Washington University: Rehabilitation Counseling (MA)

Sample Jobs

  • Teacher: Secondary Education

Requirements and Course Details

To learn more about this program, including grade requirements, a course listing, how to declare the major, and more, see the Program of Study Details.