Sociology helps us understand the contemporary world. Sociologists look at how different parts of societies fit together to form social patterns. They try to understand what makes society tick, how and why it changes, and why sometimes it doesn’t change. Since our actions are influenced by social processes, this will also help you to better understand how individuals behave - including yourself.

Why study Sociology at Bristol?

Bristol is an exciting and friendly place to study sociology. We have 15 full time and several part time academic staff who are committed to providing high quality teaching in the subject, covering a wide range of classical and cutting-edge topics. Many are intellectual leaders in their chosen fields, involved in important and innovative research.

According to the most recent data from, almost 70% of Sociology graduates were employed and almost 13% in further education within a few months of completing their course. As part of your degree you will learn critical thinking, data analysis and information presentation skills, which are valued by a range of employers. Graduates enter a wide variety of careers, including social work, business administration and management, media and public relations.

First year

In the first year, Single Honours students take four core units in Sociology and two further units, either optional Sociology units or chosen from a subject of interest to you which complements Sociology’s focus. Joint Honours students take three Sociology units and three units from their other subject.

Second year

Teaching in the second year acts as a bridge between the introductory work in the first year and the more specialist options of the third year. The second year options provide a solid introduction to different areas of sociological study as well as enhancing the theoretical knowledge and methodological skills attained in the first year. Core second year units:

  • Investigating the Social
  • Conceptualising the Social

Single Honours students are required to take Investigating the Social and Conceptualising the Social as well as at least two of the remaining three core units. They then choose Optional units to fill out their timetable, taking six units in total. Joint Honours students must take either Conceptualising the Social or Investigating the Social and two from the remaining four core units.  Those who wish to do a Dissertation in Sociology in their final year must take Investigating the Social in their second year. They also choose three units in their joint subject, some of which may also be required.

Optional units are based around the current research interests of our academic staff, so their availability may change from year to year. Second and third year students take the lectures for these units together but are placed in different seminar groups of no more than twelve students.

Final year

Having established a solid background in the first and second years, the final year of your degree in Sociology allows for specialisation and development of your particular interests. Single Honours students undertake a Dissertation and four specialist units. Joint Honours students who have taken Investigating the Social in their second year may choose to undertake a Dissertation in Sociology, plus one optional unit. Joint Honours students may also choose to take a Dissertation in their second subject instead and three optional units in Sociology.

The Dissertation is an independent piece of work in which, under the guidance of an individual supervisor, you prepare your own piece of sociological research on a topic that interests you. Preparation for your dissertation begins after your assessments at the end of the second year. In addition to individual supervision meetings, there is a programme of lectures and other activities throughout the final year designed to support you through the process.

Students studying Sociology with Study Abroad spend their third year abroad. Their final year follows the pattern above.

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