2022 Best Social Science Majors

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Social science majors allow you to explore what it means to be human and to apply that understanding to modern society.

Best Social Science Majors

The social sciences are a group of disciplines concerned with how human beings interact with one another and how they impact their environment.

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Degrees in social science encompass areas such as history, psychology, anthropology, criminal justice, and political science. Since there’s a wide range of social science majors, the career opportunities are just as varied.

Social Science Majors

As a group of disciplines, social science majors seek to use scientific methodologies to address problems within society. Social science degrees often involve the study of how human beings interact with one another. There’s a wide variety of degrees that fall under the umbrella of social science. Common majors include anthropology, criminal justice, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Regardless of the specialty you select, you will still receive a strong foundation in social science and related courses.

Anthropology

Anthropology major

If you’re interested in how human beings develop societies and culture, then anthropology might be the field for you. Anthropologists study past and present societies in order to better understand how they’re created.

There are four main branches of anthropology. Archaeologists use artifacts to understand past societies, often to help us draw conclusions about modern societies. Physical, or biological, anthropologists study exactly what the name suggests—the evolution of human biology.

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Linguistic anthropologists study language and its connection to culture, while sociocultural anthropologists study human cultures more broadly. As an anthropology student, you can expect your courses to touch on each of the four sub-specialties of anthropology. You may also take courses in linguistics, history, and geography.

Many anthropologists are affiliated with postsecondary programs that offer stable employment and research opportunities. Anthropologists may also find career opportunities in museums or the entertainment industry as consultants. Since anthropologists are typically required to hold a graduate degree, professionals with bachelor-level education may qualify to work as assistants.

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice major

The social sciences are generally intended to better understand human beings, often in order to change problematic elements of modern society. This is certainly true of criminology and criminal justice.

Criminology is the study of why crime exists in society. Criminal justice degrees apply this knowledge to the prevention of crime within a particular criminal justice system. While the two disciplines are technically different, they have some crossover in terms of areas of study and career opportunities.

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Within a criminal justice degree program, you can expect to take courses on criminal law, policy, and procedure related to the criminal justice system, sociology, and victimology. Criminal justice careers range from police officers to forensic specialists. Some positions may require additional education or specialized training. Many criminal justice graduates also go on to law school.

Political Science

Political Science major

There are many ways to make an impact on society as an individual, and a degree in political science is often intended for that purpose. Professionals in the field of political science can research the potential effects of public policy and take proactive roles in government.

A political science degree program explores how the government operates and the processes through which public policy is made or changed. You can also learn how to assess the likely consequences of public policy in practice. In a political science degree program, you will likely take classes on government structure, constitutional law, history, environmental and social policy, and economics.

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A degree in political science can be applied to a large spectrum of careers. Many graduates want to apply their knowledge of public policy in order to affect change at the government level. You may also choose to further your education if you want a career in academia as a researcher or postsecondary teacher. An undergraduate degree in political science can also serve as a solid foundation for a graduate degree in law.

Psychology

Psychology major

While many social science majors focus on human beings and their relationship to the outside environment, psychology as a discipline focuses on the inner workings of the individual.

A psychology program offers you the opportunity to study how the human mind works from both a biological and practical perspective. While many psychology careers require a graduate degree, as an undergraduate you will likely take classes in ethics, counseling, and applied psychology.

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There are five subfields of psychology that you may choose to specialize in as an undergraduate. These five subfields are developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, biological psychology, and pre-counseling psychology. A degree in psychology can have diverse applications in the workforce.

With an undergraduate degree, you may find entry-level career opportunities in fields like rehabilitation, counseling, or academia. Many graduates go on to earn doctorates in order to pursue careers as licensed psychologists.

Sociology

Sociology major

Sociology is the scientific study of how human beings interact with one another. A sociology degree involves the use of research, statistics, and observation to draw actionable conclusions about how human beings develop and impact societies.

While there are many similarities between sociology and anthropology, sociologists are generally concerned with society as a whole rather than the individual. Within a sociology degree program, you will likely take classes on research best practice, statistics, history, social theory, race, and gender.

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The coursework in a sociology program is typically designed to help you apply research methods to your understanding of social institutions. Like most social sciences degrees, sociology may offer a pathway to a wide variety of occupations and graduate programs.

Professionals with an undergraduate degree may have opportunities to work as community coordinators, public policy researchers, counselors, or educators, depending on their qualifications. Those who are looking to become sociologists tend to continue on to grad school.

Social Science Careers & Salaries

Social Science Careers & Salaries

If your career goals involve helping your local community, or perhaps making a difference in society as a whole, a social science degree might be the right path for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are tremendous opportunities in the social science fields—including the criminal justice, communications, and social service sectors.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Economists $108,350
Geographers $85,430
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Police and Detectives $67,290
Market Research Analysts $65,810
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $55,690
Social Workers $51,760
Social Science Research Assistants $49,210
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $47,660

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in the social sciences tend to have salaries that are above the average for most occupations.

How to Choose a Social Science Degree Program

Social Science Degree Program

Below is a list of considerations you may want to keep in mind as you search for the social science degree program that is best suited for your needs:

  • Well-established social sciences department
  • Variety of social science concentrations
  • Internship opportunities
  • Study-abroad opportunities
  • Degree-related clubs or student organizations
  • Program cost and time commitment
  • Online vs. in-person program options
  • School culture and location

While some of the above considerations may be more important to you than others, it can be beneficial to research and compare different programs in order to find one that’s right for you.

Skills Gained in Pursuing a Social Science Degree

Social Science Degree skills

The social sciences, while varied in their specific focus and application, are all concerned with how human beings interact with one another and their environments. Your curriculum will be specific to your chosen major, but core social science classes typically encompass subjects like the following:

  • Anthropology
  • Business and management
  • History
  • Law
  • Political science
  • Psychology

Each of the social science fields requires you to develop your skills in research and analysis. Your skills as a communicator will be enhanced and challenged as well. Whichever field of the social sciences you choose to embrace, research, communication, and problem solving are likely to become critical aspects of your education.

What Is a Social Science Major?

A social sciences major is an area of study that seeks to understand human behavior on an individual and societal level. Most of the social sciences attempt, in practice, to address issues within modern society using research methods.

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With that goal in mind, a social science degree will involve courses dedicated to research methods and best practice, social and cultural history, social theory, and communication. As a student of the social sciences, you can develop versatile skill sets based on your chosen discipline as well as communication and problem solving.

What Are the Social Sciences?

What Are the Social Sciences

The social sciences are a group of disciplines concerned with understanding humanity from both an individual and societal perspective.

Sociologists, for example, conduct research on a particular society at a specific moment in time in order to draw conclusions about the institutions within that society. This information may then be used to address issues within that society itself or on a broader scale.

Social science disciplines include:

  • Anthropology
  • Communication studies
  • Criminal justice
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

The social sciences collectively attempt to deepen our understanding of ourselves as humans so we can develop creative solutions to better our communities.

Why Study Social Sciences?

Why Study Social Sciences

Below are a few of the many reasons why you might choose a degree in the social sciences. You may want to:

  • Learn to apply the scientific method to social disciplines
  • Have a positive impact on your community
  • Become an effective communicator
  • Participate in an engaging discipline with a wide variety of career options
  • Enjoy a varied education in history, culture, politics, and geography
  • Deepen your understanding of human behavior

Careers in the social sciences generally revolve around community engagement and improving the lives of people on a small or large scale.

What Can You Do with a Social Science Degree?

The social sciences encompass a wide variety of fields, so the career opportunities can be just as varied. Your chosen major can impact the training you receive and the types of positions you can qualify for. For example, criminal justice graduates may go into law enforcement or continue on to law school.

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With a bachelors, some social science professionals work as market research analysts, public relations specialists, or social workers. Others work in research, counseling, or social and community service. There are even more career paths open to professionals who have a social science masters or a doctorate degree in social science.

Advanced social science careers include sociologist, anthropologist, psychologist, political scientist, and historian.

What’s the Difference Between a Major in Social Science vs. Humanities?

Below are some key differences between the social sciences and the humanities.

Social Sciences Humanities
  • Seek to understand humanity using a more scientific approach
  • Seek to improve human existence through research and application
  • Include disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology
  • Seek to understand humanity using a more philosophical approach
  • Describe the human condition
  • Include disciplines such as literature, philosophy, and the arts

It can be easy to confuse the social sciences and humanities, in part because there is some crossover in terms of disciplines between the two. For example, some schools consider their anthropology program to be part of the humanities rather than the social sciences.

What’s the Difference Between Social Science vs. Social Studies?

Social Science vs. Social Studies

The difference between the social sciences and social studies is primarily in the disciplinary objective. Below are some key differences between the two subject areas.

Social Sciences Social Studies
  • Seek to apply scientific methodologies to affect change in society
  • Tend to be action oriented
  • Typically focus on the present
  • Seek to promote civic engagement and understanding
  • Often regarded as primarily academic in nature
  • Often revolve around human history

Most universities will offer a social studies degree within the context of a secondary education program, while the social sciences are typically a stand-alone department.

Is Social Science a Good Major?

social science major

Yes, social science is a good major for many undergraduate students. This field encompasses a wide range of career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a number of careers within the social sciences umbrella that are expected to experience above average growth over the next ten years.

An undergraduate degree in the social sciences can also serve as a stepping stone toward a graduate degree. For example, political science and criminal justice degrees may provide a solid foundation for a law degree, while a psychology degree can act as a starting point for an aspiring psychologist.

Getting Your Degree in Social Science Online

Degree in Social Science Online

The social sciences present a wide range of options when it comes to fields of study and career opportunities. The social sciences often study human cultures of past and present and explore how human beings think and interact with one another.

A social science major could be a beneficial option to consider if you’re seeking a career that makes a positive difference in society. A growing number of accredited universities are offering social science degrees both in-person and online.

You can start exploring the many social science programs available to discover which ones best align with your interests and career goals.

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Amanda Iverson
WRITTEN BY
Amanda Iverson
Amanda has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education and teaches middle and high school history. Amanda's focus is on helping students explore the many post-secondary options available to them through college and technical programs.