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By Kate Armstrong on April 9, 2020

Pursuing a career in business may seem like an unusual choice for a sociology major. But as Caroline Herrod, a major adviser for UC Davis’ sociology — organizational studies program explained it, “There are so many opportunities you can go into with organizational studies” — noting law, education, public policy and business. “Nothing is excluded.”

Fourth-year student Victoria Ha agrees.

Ha initially came to UC Davis as a human development major, but realizing she was more interested in business, she switched to managerial economics. However, the theoretical approach of that major pushed her to keep looking for a more applied field. 

When she discovered the sociology — organizational studies major, Ha was finished searching. The major, she explained, “bridges the study of people with business.”

As a bonus, she has enjoyed the wide range of classes the major allows her to explore. She noted that some classes, such as accounting, have helped with her technical skills, while others, such as communication, have focused on soft skills. 

Make your sociology major what you want it to be

A sociology grad student wearing glasses and a sociology sweatshirt stands in front of a campus building with a backpack.
Roy Taggueg, a PhD candidate in sociology and chair of the Graduate Student Association, stands outside Waker Hall. He is working to have Walker Hall renovated to become a hub for graduate and professional students. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

“There are no limits to where you can go with this major,” Herrod said. Organizational studies majors can take classes in communications, statistics, economics, race relations, history of technology, population health and a wide variety of other courses.

At its core, this interdisciplinary major teaches students about how organizations work and how society is impacted by them. Classes typically have a strong emphasis on reading and writing.

During their courses, organizational studies majors choose one of four tracks to focus on toward a B.A. degree:

  • Business and society
  • Public policy and social welfare
  • Nonprofit and social movement organizations
  • Or a student-initiated track

These tracks help students discover classes based on their interests, then develop an emphasis in what they’re passionate about. Herrod pointed out that, “Business and society is the most popular track.”

Herrod also noted that, similar to Ha’s path, the major sees a number of students “come from economics, [which is] a lot more theoretical. They like the practical application of this major.”

A career about careers

A smiling sociology major in a red baseball cap stands in front of a colorful mural.
Sociology major Nouh Tekle photographed stands in front of the mural at the Student Community Center. He is a transfer student from Oakland who is a writer and slam poet. He also works at the UC Davis Coffee House, is an on-campus student barber, a member of the Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali and Sudanese Association, workout enthusiast, Israel and Palestine cultural exchange participant and a Launchpad Project Management intern. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

A fairly clear career path for organizational studies graduates is human resources. “A lot of students go into human resources,” Herrod noted, from managers and administrators, to diversity and corporate social responsibility personnel. 

As more enterprises are overloaded with data, organizational studies majors also are finding jobs in data analytics and data research, and at policy institutions and think tanks. 

And still more graduates are heading toward positions in government. With UC Davis’ proximity to Sacramento, students interested in policy-making benefit from being near the state’s capital. Herrod said many organizational studies students take part in the UC Center Sacramento program, which allows them to participate in seminars around the capital and find internships working with policy makers.

Additionally, Herrod said that organizational studies students are supported in pursuing research. “We encourage students to do research with faculty,” she said. “Faculty, lecturers and grad students work with undergrads on research projects.” Past student projects have included examining supply chain management, as well as studying gender roles in organizations.

From internship to career

Two women talk in front of a computer.
Megan Mekelburg, a second year sociology major, and Asiah Henry, a third year cognitive science major, are student assistants at the Veterans Success Center in the Memorial Union.

The summer before her senior year, Ha landed a coveted internship with Geico Insurance Company. She believes it was her experience discovering the human side of business that allowed her to “approach the internship with a different view” and set her apart from the other interviewees who were business or finance majors.

Besides giving an overall industry overview, the internship gave Ha problem-solving skills for a variety of departments including claims, auto damage, service and sales. Ha was able to turn this internship into a job offer, and following her graduation in spring 2020, she will start a full-time position with Geico in a management training program.

She believes her organizational studies training gave her an edge in a competitive job market, allowing her to “enter the business with a different perspective.”


Kate Armstrong is a communication major working as a fellow in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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