Should I take a sociology degree in Singapore?

by | Jun 24, 2021

Thinking of pursuing a sociology degree in Singapore but don’t know where to start and are having doubts about how suitable it is for you? Or have you heard about it in passing and are curious to know more?

Fret not! As a recent graduate from NTU sociology, I know what it’s like to be in your shoes.

As such, I’d like to provide a handy all-in-one guide so that prospective students like yourselves will know what it’s like to be a sociology undergraduate.

I hope my experiences and personal advice will be of use to those of you who are still on the fence about taking a sociology degree in Singapore.

What is sociology?

Crowds of people

Almost everyone who has never heard of the subject will ask this question, followed by something along the lines of “How is it different from psychology?”

Sociology is basically the study of human societies, and how people function and interact in groups. This is different from psychology where they study individuals rather than societies.

Sociologists are mainly interested in seeing how social interactions and shared experiences can shape the society we live in.

For instance, one question sociologists (more accurately, social psychologists!) have asked themselves is how we “vibe” with certain people.

Sociology degree careers

Many also hold the stereotype that having a sociology degree in Singapore means you’ll do social work in the future. This isn’t necessarily true.

As sociology is a really broad field of study, your career prospects are similarly very wide.

With a sociology degree from Singapore, you can go almost anywhere from being a civil servant, journalist, or even a social media marketer.

The possibilities are nearly endless! Sociology degree holders in Singapore are highly valued for their strong command of language (both writing and speaking), versatility, and critical thinking skills.

According to MOE’s graduate employment survey, a sociology graduate from NTU can expect to earn an average of $3,529. Meanwhile, the employment rate of NTU sociology degree holders stands at 95.4%.

Holding a bachelor’s in social sciences from NUS, you can expect to earn an average of $3,597. Their employment rate is 93.5%.

As for SMU, having a bachelor’s in social sciences will see you earning an average of $3,540. The employment rate is 89.9%.

Graduating with distinction (cum laude) or above boosts the average expected salary to $3,711 with employment rates of 90.6%.

Do take note that in NUS and SMU’s case, the numbers reflect that of graduates with a bachelor of social sciences and not sociology degrees alone.

Why did I take up sociology?

A question mark

Long story short, I took up sociology because after finishing A-Levels, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

But I knew that I had zero interest in anything STEM related so that naturally led me on the path to exploring courses in the humanities and social sciences, although I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do from there.

Since I had a good grade for H1 General Paper and it was my favourite subject, I thought at the time picking something similar to GP was a good idea. And the rest is history.

Now that I’ve completed my degree, I’d say that overall, I have no regrets. Given the choice to go back in time, I’d probably pick it again.

Being a sociology major has taught me the importance of critical thinking. Especially in today’s world rampant with fake news, the ability to discern fact from fiction has never been more significant.

Besides that, I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to discover which areas of sociology I’m interested in. I’ve mentioned earlier that sociology is a vast field, which also means we get to delve into different areas of social life.

To give you an idea of this, some of the modules I’ve taken over the course of my 4 years include:

  • Deviance & Society
  • Graying Society: Issues & Challenges
  • Sociology of Science & Technology

As a quick introduction, Deviance & Society covers things like why people sometimes act in ways that aren’t in accordance with social norms.

Graying Society touches on the problems of an ageing society to a country, along with dispelling some myths about the aged.

Meanwhile, Sociology of Science & Technology deals with the idea that there can be unintended consequences borne from the rapid growth of science and technology. This happens because technology these days develops too quickly before we can truly understand or gauge its impact on the world.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what NTU sociology offers, you can check out some of the modules taught under “Course Outlines” here.

So you can see, the study of sociology isn’t limited to a specific topic and spans a wide area. Generally speaking, anything that involves a group of people, you can bet there’s a sociology of that subject.

My general school experience

I’d say my school life, in general, was rather pleasant. University, after all, is the time in many people’s lives where they get to pursue hobbies or take up side gigs while juggling school work with lots of freedom.

Whether you see this as stressful or fun is mostly what you make your university life to be.

As for me, there were 2 things I decided I must do before I graduated. The first was to experience living independently (i.e. staying in a hall) and the second was to join a CCA that allowed me to take my mind off school.

Suffice to say, I’ve accomplished both of these goals and can gladly say that I’ve had a fruitful time in university. University life isn’t always smooth-sailing and there are times where you just need to let loose by learning a new skill purely for interest—at least for me, this is my idea of decompressing.

How was the academic experience?

Moving on to the more academic side of school life, I’d say my timetable as an NTU sociology student was more packed in my first two years as compared to the later two years.

I can also safely say that this is the typical experience of those who are in NTU sociology as you’d have to clear core modules (that is, compulsory modules everyone has to take) almost every semester, and this is what takes up the bulk of your timetable as a freshman.

As an example, this was what my timetable looked like in my second semester of my freshman year.

NTU sociology timetable

Expect to be writing lots of essays, be it for a group project or individually, as almost every sociology module involves some essay writing that can range from 500–4000 words maximum!

How competitive is Sociology?

Based on my experience on a scale-out of ten, I’d rate the competition levels at a 5/10. In NTU at least, I felt that everyone was generally relaxed, but not so much to the point of apathy.

The more popular a module is, the more competitive it gets, simply due to the number of people taking that class, combined with the high interest. This means that people will typically be more invested in the module and may be participating in discussions more actively.

Of course, all this is my opinion and others’ own experiences might vastly differ from mine, depending on many factors.

Specific to NTU sociology, all freshmen will be assigned a faculty mentor at the start. This will be one of the professors who are currently teaching sociology during the semester.

Their role is to help first-years have a smooth transition into university life and to ensure that they are coping well.

Difference between NUS FASS, NTU sociology, SMU PPS and SUSS BA sociology

Between these 4 programmes, SUSS BA sociology differs heavily from the other 3 as it only offers a part-time rather than full-time programme. That is to say, it’s more suited to those who are in the workforce where they balance work and school at the same time.

NUS FASS and SMU PPS have something in common: you don’t have to immediately declare your major.

In the first year, all students in either NUS FASS or SMU PPS will have to take modules from various social science disciplines. Then by their second year, they’d have to declare their major.

NTU does not have this option—students are already sociology majors by the time they are in their first year.

Because I was already set on pursuing sociology full-time, I chose NTU instead of the other universities.

For those of you who are unsure which university to pick, here are some things you can consider:

  • Do you prefer a full-time or part-time degree programme?
  • How far is the campus away from your home? (if you are not planning on staying on campus or if you think you may only stay on campus for a while)
  • Do you like the location of the university campus? (this is important to consider as this would determine many things like daily expenses, i.e. SMU’s campus is in the town area, which is generally more expensive)
  • Are you planning on staying on campus? (NUS and NTU are known to be vibrant because of the halls and student residences, and the clubs and societies they come with)
  • Do you prefer a 3-year or 4-year programme? (NUS has the option of a 3-year programme, whereas the other universities offer only 4-year programmes)

My advice to those planning to take up sociology

If there is one piece of advice I had to give, it’d be to be open-minded. Sociology covers almost all aspects of social life you can think of, and this undoubtedly includes sensitive topics such as race and religion.

As it’s the nature of sociology, be prepared to have your beliefs and values questioned and challenged, especially if they are deep-seated ones. Having an open mind is the best way to have the most enriching learning experience, in my opinion.

I hope that I was able to shed some light on taking up a sociology degree in Singapore, as well as share with you some of my experiences as a student so that you’ll know what to expect if you ever do end up deciding on taking up sociology.

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