Starting this Fall of 2016, the Department of Sociology will be offering a newly-revised Bachelor of Science concentration in the Sociology of Health and Aging.
As the world's population continues to grow and live longer, a growing interest exists in better understanding how society will shape the health and well-being of individuals. Particularly, many ask questions about the various issues that impact our health including but limited to: what types of health care are available, how will people pay for increasing costs in health care, does everyone have access to health care, and how does culture shape our perceptions of being healthy? Along with this interest, are several queries into how various social systems such as the family, government, or the public education system shape our health and choices around this topic. We also have to consider whether the current policies and practices have done much to answer the questions surrounding health and served to be the best ways to assist all people, regardless of their backgrounds. Finally, as suggested in the title of this concentration, we must consider how the aging process will complicate our views and treatments of health issues.
Students majoring in Sociology with a Health and Aging concentration will acquire knowledge from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. However,students will focus on how the sociological perspective examines the societal forces that shape our health and how aging will affect how society is organized and how it operates. The primary goal of our program is to produce a well-rounded Bachelor of Science graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain a job in health- and aging-related occupations or to successfully begin graduate studies in health fields.
Sociology graduates acquire a number of skills that are useful even in careers that are not related to aging. For example, students take courses that help them improve written and oral communication skills. Courses in research methods help develop linear thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to design, conduct, and interpret various types of research. Furthermore, students are assisted in developing computer skills and some courses incorporate team projects.
Sociology graduates have entry-level career opportunities that match those of any graduate in a social science or human service program. However, the graduate enjoys a competitive advantage over other job applicants to the extent that the job entails understanding how health and aging are important in shaping people's lives and being critical of how one's health and getting older may be dictated by other social, economic, and political variables.
Sociology graduates are often hired for more general social/human services positions. Many students feel comfortable in Sociology/Gerontology because of its "people" orientation. They also find that a variety of occupations require the communication skills and service orientation that are developed as a result of the Sociology program.
Sociology/Gerontology graduates are well-prepared to pursue graduate education in programs that are directly related to health and aging as well as those that are not. The broad liberal arts foundation of the Sociology major combined with the specific focus of health and aging provides a strong base of knowledge with which to commerce graduate studies in a variety of fields.
Many institutions, including Appalachian State University, offer Masters's degree programs in health-related and gerontological fields (See Dr. Ed Rosenberg) and a few have begun Ph.D. programs. In addition, there are many Master's programs in related fields such as sociology, public health, public administration, counseling, and psychology. Professional programs like physical and occupational therapy often seek students with a firm background in health and aging education. Furthermore, because of the transferable skills acquired by a Sociology graduate, there are post-graduate opportunities in additional occupational fields such as business management and education.