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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Brian Serafini
SOC 468
Seattle Campus

Sociology of Occupations and Professions

Frameworks for study of occupations and professions; occupational structure and mobility in American society in relation to adult socialization and career development; occupational and professional associations and society.

Class description

Have you ever wondered why Americans work so hard or why people work for pay at all? And what explains why some workers in low-paying service jobs seem content if not happy with their work and interactions with clients? And why are non-whites and women segregated in particular types of occupations and industries and why do they, on average, make less than their white and male counterparts?

In this course we will explore the sociology of work, occupations, and labor markets to answer these questions and more. We will focus on the way that social structures, such as states, business organizations, occupations/professions, and more affect workplace dynamics and workers' life chances. Along the way we will encounter three different readings that will further shed light on these questions. The first explores the nature of "good" and "bad" jobs and how they came to be in the 21st century. The second presents an intimate and fascinating portrayal of luxury hotel workers, focusing on the strategies they use to find meaning in their work and how they rationalize working with extraordinarily demanding high-class clients. Our final text will take us to the blue collar world of Baltimore in the 1990s to critically examine why less-educated African American men fare worse in the local job market than their similarly situated white counterparts. By the end of the quarter you should be critical of modern working arrangements and realize that they are far from natural.

Student learning goals

Understand how and why the capitalist workplace has changed over time.

Have a basic understanding of how sociologists study and theorize about work and the workplace.

Develop an understanding of occupations, professions and how they continue to exist in capitalist societies.

Understand the labor market and how institutions sort different types of people into different types of jobs.

Become aware of how the institution of work has shaped the lives of workers and their families in the past and present.

General method of instruction

This course will be mostly lecture and discussion based. Additionally, we will read three books, no more than two chapters before each class. There will also be one or two documentaries.

Recommended preparation

Although this is a 400-level course, I do not require particular sociology prerequisites. As the quarter progresses, I will make an effort to illustrate how and why the course concepts are considered sociological.

Students interested in stratification and inequality will be especially interested in this course.

Class assignments and grading

There will be two exams, a midterm and a final. Both exams will be multiple choice with a small written component. There will also be a short, 3-5 page paper where students describe a work experience and use the information from the course to analyze their experience. At the beginning of most lectures, I also will ask an open-ended, credit/no credit general question based on the readings. Students are allowed to miss two or three of these short "quizzes." Finally, students will be graded on their participation during class discussions.

Midterm: 25 percent Final: 25 percent Work Experience Paper: 20 percent Reading Quizzes: 20 percent Participation: 15 percent


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Brian Serafini
Date: 05/26/2013