The Top 5 Affordable Online Master’s in Sociology Degrees of 2021

The Top 5 Affordable Online Master’s in Sociology Degrees of 2021

The study of human behavior, society, and the structures we develop is called sociology. A master’s degree in sociology will prepare you for careers studying and influencing cultures and structures within communities, workplaces, and systems.

On average, a sociologist earns a median annual salary of $86,110, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).Tuition for an online sociology master’s degree can range from $8,000 to $20,000, depending on your program and resident status. With fairly lucrative careers available to you upon graduation, you can expect a reasonable return on your investment.

Accredited Online College Programs

Most Affordable Master’s Programs in Sociology of 2021

  1. New Mexico State University

    Las Cruces, NM

    A major public college based in Las Cruces, NMSU offers a fully online master of arts in sociology. This 36-credit degree explores the relationship between individuals and society, offering tools to better understand and improve human relationships. The program covers topics such as research design, organizational analysis, the assessment of social change, and diversity management. The curriculum examines a variety of sociological perspectives and includes courses in sex and gender, the sociology of pop culture, sociology of the family, and social issues of the rural Americas. Students complete all courses online, with no campus visits required.

  2. University of Alabama

    Birmingham, AL

    Alabama's flagship public college, UA hosts a variety of distance education programs, including an online master of arts in applied sociology. Comprising 30 credits and nine total courses, this online sociology master's degree includes four required core courses: applied sociological research methods, applied sociological theory, applied sociology, and applied social psychology. Student fulfill remaining credit requirements with several elective courses, including options such as consumer culture and the sociology of death and dying. Degree candidates can also complete an applied sociology practicum that stresses innovation and creativity in professional practice. All students conclude the program with a six-credit, research-based capstone that synthesizes overall program learning.

  3. South Dakota State University

    Brookings, SD

    The largest and oldest public college in South Dakota, SDSU hosts an assortment of online programs, including a unique master of science in sociology – community development. This interdisciplinary degree applies the principles of sociology to practices of community development, training students to address economic, cultural, social, and environmental challenges in communities. Offering a flexible modular course format, the fully online sociology master's degree caters to the needs of working students, making it easy to complete coursework alongside personal and professional obligations. The program includes four unique emphasis areas: working with Native communities, building economic capacity, natural resource management, and nonprofit management.

  4. Ohio University

    Athens, OH

    Based in Athens, Ohio University offers a unique, fully online master of social sciences degree. Geared toward teachers and public administrators, the program emphasizes both social science content and teaching methods, enabling graduates to teach dual enrollment courses that count for both high school and college credit. This interdisciplinary degree covers social science topics from five main perspectives: history, geography, political science, anthropology, and gender and sexuality studies. Courses use a fully online, asynchronous format that enables students to complete coursework at their own pace. At the end of the program, all candidates must complete a proctored final exam at an approved testing center.

  5. Morehead State University

    Morehead, KY

    Based in Morehead, Kentucky, MSU offers a master of arts in sociology with four concentrations: criminology, chemical dependency, interdisciplinary social sciences, and general sociology. Each track requires a total of 30 credits, split between 15 credits of core courses and 15 credits of concentration courses. The 15-credit masters in sociology online core includes five courses: quantitative research for social sciences, globalization, social thought and theory, quantitative research methods, and proseminar in social science. Each concentration track offers a different selection of electives, and most tracks include both thesis and non-thesis completion options. Candidates complete either a six-credit research thesis or an additional two elective courses.

  • Our Methodology, Explained

    Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.
    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 20%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 40%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 15%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%
    A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.

Questions About An Online Master’s in Sociology, Answered

  • What can I do with a master’s in sociology?

    A master’s in sociology can set you up for many careers in fields like social work, human services, policy-making, education, law enforcement, and research. With a master’s you may qualify for upper-level management positions.

  • Is a masters in sociology worth it?

    Advanced degrees typically increase your salary potential. You can earn more money with a master’s in sociology, though it will depend on your field and employer. A master’s degree will also increase your expertise and allow you to choose specializations.

  • How much is a master’s in sociology?

    Tuition costs for a master’s in sociology will depend on the program, the university’s reputation, and whether you’ll be charged out-of-state tuition. Our favorite programs range in price from $8,000 to $20,000.

Affordable Master’s Programs in Sociology Online Overview

An advanced sociology degree will explore society and human behavior at a deeper level. You’ll be tasked with developing and researching your own thesis or project related to sociology. 

Some master’s programs will offer a specialization or concentration like:

  • Community development
  • Global development
  • Medical sociology
  • Social data
  • Social inequality
  • Sociology of religion
  • Law and society

A master’s degree typically takes about two years, though some programs can be completed closer to 18 months. Graduates can then go on to pursue careers as sociologists, social workers, researchers, professors, and more.

Why Should I Get a Sociology Master’s Degree? 

Increase your salary potential
The BLS reports that a master’s graduate earns an average of $12,000 more per year than a bachelor’s graduate. Salary potential will vary by job, too. For example, social workers with a master’s degree can earn 25% more than those with a bachelor’s degree, while social and human service assistants can earn 35% more. 
Expand your expertise

Master’s degrees allow you to specialize your education and set you up for specific career fields. You can choose concentrations and dive deeper into your field of study. Graduates can expect to emerge as experts in their area of specialization.

Career advancement
Many sociology career paths require a master’s degree for entry-level positions. Completing more education will help you advance in your career and become qualified for promotions.
Pursue academia

If your passion lies in teaching others, researching, and crafting theories — you can pursue an academic career in sociology. Academia oftens requires advanced degrees in order to become a prominent member of that community.

What Are the Career Options for a Master’s of Sociology Graduate?

Sociology graduates can apply their degree to many career paths and typically expect an annual salary between $52,000 and $86,000. According to the BLS, sociologists earn a median annual salary of $86,110. The field is also expected to grow 4% over the next ten years. 

If you’re looking for a more local and community oriented way to apply your degree, the social and community service manager career field is expected to grow 17% through 2029 and has a median annual salary of $69,600. 

CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Social Worker$51,76013%
Survey Researcher$59,870-4%
Social and Community Service Manager$69,60017%

Similar Programs

Best Master’s in Social Work Most Affordable Master’s in Human and Family Development Most Affordable Master’s in Human Services

Courses in an Online Master’s in Sociology Degree

    Courses vary widely depending on the master’s program you choose and whether or not it has an emphasis. Some sociology master’s degrees will focus on community development, while others may focus on law. There are some foundational and common courses that you may take.

  • Sociological Research Methods

    This course covers research methods for social sciences. You’ll learn how to:

    • Develop a research process
    • Collect data
    • Design and measure that data
    • Draw conclusions

  • Society and Individual

    In this course, you’ll examine culture and how society impacts and influences individuals. The course will cover current theory and research in comparison to historical assumptions. 

  • Media and society

    Media and society covers the impact of media, technology, and pop culture on social life. You’ll also learn how global cultures impact other societies. The course may also explore the media’s impact on violence and tensions with race, gender, and sexuality.

  • Sociology of Religion

    This course will teach you the relationships between religious institutions, social structure, and the individual. Sociology of religion may or may not be particularly focused on American society.

Admission Requirements 

Each university’s program will have varying admission requirements, but there are a few universal benchmarks. A master’s program in sociology will require a bachelor’s degree in a related field, and a minimum GPA usually around 3.0. 

Many graduate programs will also ask for letters of recommendation and a personal essay outlining your career goals. More competitive programs may ask for professional work experience.  

While GRE or GMAT scores are recommended, not every program will require you to take the test. 

Certifications and Licenses for Master’s in Sociology Graduates

Most licenses or certifications for sociologists are voluntary. Many careers in this field don’t require licensure. Specific industries may have sub certifications as well — like a social work license. 

Certified Applied Sociologist (C.A.S.)

A certification from the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS) for practicing sociologists who wish to demonstrate excellence in their field. You must meet a minimum number of professional service hours. This certificate is for sociologists whose work is in research, data, and theory. 

Certified Clinical Sociologist (C.C.S.)

Issued by the American Association of Healthcare Administrative

Also from the AACS, for professional sociologists with a minimum number of professional work hours who wish to have evidence of their excellence in the field. This certificate is for sociologists whose work is in the clinical field, with focus on applying theory to groups of people and public policy.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Sociology 

Professionals in the sociology field can look to national organizations for resources, education, networking opportunities, certifications, and up-to-date professional development. 

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid for Sociology Students

Many organizations, associations, and universities offer funding assistance for sociology students. Check with your school first and then look to prominent organizations within your field. 

As you advance in your educational journey, grants and fellowships become increasingly specific to the research you conduct and specializations you choose. 

Rieger Thesis/Dissertation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students working in visual sociology, awarded based on their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Varies

Master’s Thesis and Dissertation Research Awards

Who Can Apply: For graduate students majoring in sociology. Students must submit their master’s thesis on a sociological topic and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member.

Amount: $2,500 

Deadline: Varies

J.W. Saxe Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Sociology students who need support while undertaking an unpaid or low-paying internship in public service. Must submit an essay, letters of reference, and exhibit strong integrity. 

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: Varies

Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing degrees in sociology, social work, public health, education, or communications. Must exhibit financial need, maintain a 3.0 GPA, display evidence of community service, and create a public message aimed at tobacco prevention.

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: Varies

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Danika Miller


Danika Miller is an education reporter at Grad School Hub who covers higher education news and trends, as well as paying for college. Her writing has also appeared in Best Value Schools, Affordable Colleges Online, and Her Campus, and her financial expertise has been featured in The Simple Dollar and

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Angelica Leicht

Angelica Leicht is an editor for Grad School Hub. A proud University of Houston alum (go Cougs!), she previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.

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