Sociology is concerned with the study of human social interactions, social behavior, and the influence of society upon this behavior. More specifically, sociologists examine the behavior of individuals as members of social networks and groups such as the family, the work group, organizations, communities, and societies. One prominent component of sociology is the scientific study of crime and the criminal justice system, known as criminology. Students who major in sociology at Montana State University select either the general sociology option or the criminology option, with many overlaps between the two concentrations.

The sociology curriculum at Montana State University emphasizes the application of knowledge and skills to national problems and social issues. The statistics and research methods training that our students receive are also cornerstones of a social science education and valuable skills in the contemporary labor market. The content and organization of courses are designed to provide a base of knowledge about human interaction and societies, and to teach particular skills which are useful in interpreting social and cultural events. In addition, studying criminology within the context of a sociology program gives students valuable insights on the intersections of crime, victimization, and other forms of social inequalities. For instance, being a law enforcement officer is not just about responding to crime, but is as much about responding to crisis and trauma. Our criminology students have the opportunity to both learn about crime, victimization, and criminal justice, and learn about the structural determinants of these phenomena.

Given the broad range of specialty areas within this field, sociology majors receive an education which prepares them for employment in a wide variety of occupations. Many of our students pursuing the criminology option go on to work in local, state, or federal law enforcement, and for corrections or criminal justice agencies. Many of our students pursuing the general sociology option go on to careers in social work, counseling, case management, and human and social services. Our program also prepares students for postgraduate education in sociology, criminology, criminal justice, and law school.

We deliver our sociology and criminology options through a flexible course schedule that includes a high number of elective courses. Students pursuing either option can use this flexibility to create additional areas of focus on subdisciplines such as medical sociology, victimization, stratification, or corrections. Our faculty are committed to an undergraduate education that provides several opportunities for students to get involved inside and outside of the classroom. Many sociology and criminology courses include large engagement components, where students work individually and in small groups on problem-solving activities. Faculty in sociology sometimes pair their courses with local organizations to help provide data and recommendations on pressing local issues such as food and housing insecurity and a sense of belonging in the Bozeman area.

Students also have opportunities to get more directly involved with our faculty. Members of our faculty regularly oversee independent studies, helping students explore their own interests with faculty guidance. Students also have opportunities to assist faculty with research projects. We are an undergraduate-only department, and often rely on undergraduate research assistants since we do not have graduate research assistants. Students have been involved in a wide variety of research tasks, including literature reviews, qualitative interviews, fielding and coding surveys, and analyzing and preparing results. This often provides students with opportunities to present research at conferences or get author credit on faculty research publications.

Finally, students can get directly involved in the community through our internship program. Students who complete an internship overseen by the department can earn academic credit for their work. Our department maintains a number of good relationships with local organizations and agencies that provide students an opportunity to work as an intern in law enforcement, corrections, and social and human services. These internships are a great opportunity to get more practical engagement with prospective fields, and often work as a springboard to future employment.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to learn more about our program!