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Individuals who want to become a rural sociologist typically follow the same educational and career path as any professional in the sociological sciences. A degree in sociology is the first step, followed by field experience. Membership in a rural sociological society may be useful, as well as reading publications and attending conferences specific to this career.
Usually the first step a student takes to become a rural sociologist is taking the right courses. These classes may include basic sociological principles, psychology, and history. Understanding the theories behind community development, agriculture and animal husbandry, and other activities closely tied to rural communities, is critical to proceeding to an advanced degree. Gaining a graduate degree in rural sociology or a related discipline is not required, but is helpful if you want to become a rural sociologist.
Undergraduate programs are generally available at most two-year and four-year colleges for the foundation courses required to pursue becoming a rural sociologist. Graduate programs in rural sociology are available in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands from academic institutions such as Clemson University, the University of East Anglia, and the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague.
Rural sociologists often conduct research, observing rural populations and sometimes setting up social experiments to more closely observe attitudes and behaviors. This requires training in research methodology and statistical analysis. Writing and publishing papers on rural sociology are often requirements for earning a degree in rural sociology.
Once you become a rural sociologist, you will probably study the behavior of people living in rural environments. These can include farms, villages, and towns. Studying the behavior of individuals and families living outside metropolitan areas can provide insight into the development of larger cities, as well as how loosely united populations behave. Studying how people relate to the land is also a general aim of the rural sociologist, as well as the health concerns of communities living in a rural setting.
Even after the formal training is completed to become a rural sociologist, most people involved in this profession continue to improve their knowledge of the subject. This usually includes taking refresher courses, reading scholarly journals, and attending rural sociology conferences. Many rural sociologists join professional societies and associations specific to rural sociology.
Rural sociology became an important part of the field of sociology early in the history of the discipline. The Rural Sociological Society was established in Washington, D.C. in 1936 and the European Society for Rural Sociology was established in 1957. Other societies sprang up around the world, including the Australia and Oceanic Network and the Latin American Rural Sociology Association. By 1976, the International Rural Sociology Association was formed.
Rural sociologists publish scholarly articles on the study of rural communities in journals. These include the “Rural Sociology,” the “Journal of Rural Health,” and the “Journal of Rural Social Science.” A rural sociologist usually subscribes to one or more of these publications to keep up with current findings and theories.
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