What Are the Social Sciences? 

In a traditional liberal arts education, the social sciences are essential. The study of human behavior and society at various levels is referred to as social science. Psychology, political science, and economics are all popular social science majors. A bachelor’s degree in social science can lead to a variety of jobs in business, science, and law. A liberal arts education must include the social sciences. This field studies the economy, human behavior, social institutions, and politics in relation to the human world and society.

Social science majors develop strong analytical and problem-solving skills in college, which can be applied to a variety of industries and jobs. But what exactly are the social sciences? What kinds of jobs are available in this field?

What Are the Social Sciences 

Overview of Social Sciences

The social sciences are concerned with how society functions. Social scientists research government, economy, and family institutions, as well as how individuals and groups interact with one another and what motivates human behavior. The following are some examples of social sciences:

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Social science differs from natural science in that it focuses on the human-made world rather than the natural world. The scientific method is used in fields such as biology, chemistry, and physics to propose hypotheses and theories. To study society, social scientists use similar methods, such as quantitative data analysis. Some of the social sciences’ methodological approaches, such as qualitative research, are similar to those used in the humanities. Analytical and interpretive approaches are used in both the humanities and social sciences to learn more about the human world.

Some of the social sciences’ methodological approaches are similar to those used in the natural sciences and humanities. The social sciences, on the other hand, require more quantitative and scientific methods. Economists, for example, use statistics and forecasting to understand trends, while political scientists use polling and surveys to track political changes. Despite these distinctions, many people disagree about whether psychology, economics, history, sociology, political science, and philosophy belong in the humanities or the social sciences.

Social science disciplines

The term “social science” covers a wide range of topics. There are numerous social science disciplines, so there are numerous options when deciding whether to pursue a postgraduate degree in one. Because there are several transferable skills and intertwined areas across branches of social science, some postgraduate students may choose to study a different discipline than their undergraduate degree. Consider the following topics in the social sciences:

1. Anthropology

Anthropology is often referred to as the “science of humanity.” Anthropologists study issues concerning the human condition. This includes human behavior, cultural relations, and how humanity’s evolution has influenced the structure of society. Anthropology is frequently described as both scientific and humanistic, making it ideal for anyone who wants to pursue interests in both fields. Anthropology research also entails investigating historical human experiences, though there are plenty of opportunities to apply it in modern settings as well!

2. Archaeology

The study of humanity through material remains of past life and behavior is known as archaeology. Archaeology, like anthropology, investigates past lives and cultures, though it relies heavily on evidence from material remains. While many people associate archaeologists with Indiana Jones, the truth is quite different – but no less fascinating. Excavation, material analysis, and surveying are all part of archaeology. Because of its rich history, Europe is an ideal place to study archaeology, with numerous archaeological sites of interest. Many artifacts from the Roman Empire, the Vikings, and other historical movements can be found.

3. Economics

Economics studies how goods and services are produced, distributed, and consumed. When studying economics at the postgraduate level, you can choose between a detailed or broad approach, but in general, economics entails investigating how the world’s economic systems function. Because this knowledge can be applied both theoretically and practically, the subject is appropriate for anyone interested in the current economic climate.

4. Geography

Though many of us remember geography as a school subject involving maps, it is much more than that. It examines population, land, and the relationship between the two, and frequently links to the earth sciences (such as geology). You can specialize in a particular branch of geography at the postgraduate level, such as oceanology, environmental management, or tourism geography.

5. History

History is a broad social science subject that entails researching specific historical periods. While postgraduate study allows you to specialize in a specific area of history, you’ll still be using the same skills – interpreting sources, examining current theories of the past, and weighing ideas against the evidence. Because of Europe’s long and well-documented history, you may have the opportunity to visit the places you’re studying.

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6. Law

Studying law will allow you to examine a variety of legal systems and narrow your focus to a specific area, such as contract law, international law, or criminal law, to name a few. Further study in law is especially beneficial if you plan to pursue it as a career, though it is also possible to study it for academic purposes. 

7. Linguistics

Linguistics is the study of language, specifically how it is formed, processed, and used in various situations. This social science subject is more about how language works than learning to speak a specific language. In linguistics, there are many different study areas to choose from, such as syntactic analysis, language acquisition, sociolinguistics, phonology, and language evolution. What better place to study linguistics than the EU, which has 23 official languages and more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages?

8. Politics

Politics has an impact on every aspect of life, so it’s no surprise that it’s a fascinating subject to study. A postgraduate course in politics, which is often divided into Political Philosophy, Comparative Politics, and International Relations, allows you to study both historical and current events. This degree is ideal for those who want to work in politics or local government, as well as those who want to continue their education. And, because the EU contains so many different systems, it’s an excellent place to learn about them.

9. Psychology

Psychology employs both theoretical and experimental methods to investigate social behavior and neurobiological processes. You’ll specialize in specific areas with such a broad field of study as the human mind. Child development, interpersonal relationships, and social psychology are examples of these. Because of Germany’s role in the development of psychology, Europe has a long history with it, so you’ll be joining a long line of innovative scholars by studying here.

10. Sociology

Sociology is the study of society at all levels, both individual and structural. There is a wide range of topics to specialize in, including class, religion, and social mobility. Some sociologists conduct research solely for academic purposes, while others hope to apply their findings to policy or welfare. With the number of changes that have occurred in the last century, there will undoubtedly be an area of sociology that interests you in such a multicultural continent as Europe.

What is the difference between political science and social science?

Political science is a branch of social science that studies political institutions, government systems, and political behavior. To better understand political trends and decision-making, these researchers conduct qualitative and quantitative research. Students learn about the rise of political institutions, the legislative process, and the interactions between political powers in a political science degree program. Political scientists can specialize in political theory, international relations, comparative politics, or American politics.

The Role of the Social Sciences in Higher Education

Auguste Comte, a 19th-century French philosopher, argued that scholars should analyze society using scientific methods. Comte and his followers coined the term “sociology” to describe their search for social laws that met the same scientific standards as natural laws. Many universities now offer social science majors through their Colleges of Arts and Sciences, and the majority of them require social science courses as part of their general education requirements.

General Education Requirements and Social Science Classes

Students can get a wide range of training from general education courses. Many colleges demand general education courses in math, English, communication, natural sciences, history, and social sciences. A liberal arts education must include social science courses. Critical thinking and analytical skills are developed in social science courses, making them an important part of a liberal arts education. As a result, many schools now include social science classes as part of their general education curriculum.

Students at the University of Virginia’s College of Arts and Sciences, for example, are required to take general education courses in three different social science categories. Similarly, the State University of New York system requires undergraduates to choose from a variety of electives to fulfill their general education requirements, including the social sciences.

Skills Gained in Social Science Courses

The social sciences are important in a bachelor’s degree program because they improve key skills that are in high demand on the job market. Students in social science classes analyze texts to determine their meaning, collect data to forecast trends, and investigate changes in social institutions. Some of the most important skills learned in a social science program are listed below:

1. Ability to Analyze

The ability to analyze a variety of sources, including written sources, numerical data, and survey results, is emphasized in the social sciences. Students perform qualitative and quantitative analyses and learn how to draw conclusions from them. Coursework in social science teaches students how to make data-driven decisions.

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2. Skills in Research

Majors in social science learn about various research methods in their field, including qualitative and quantitative research. Students learn how to find reliable data sources and evaluate a research question using a variety of sources through assignments. Undergraduates may conduct research as part of a senior thesis or capstone project, depending on the school.

3. Communication

Professionals in nearly every field benefit from strong communication skills. Students in social science learn to write and speak about their ideas. Persuasive communication is also emphasized in a social science degree, as students must practice persuading others of their interpretation of the data.

4. Problem-Solving

Social science education can help you improve your problem-solving abilities. To reach a conclusion, students learn to define problems, collect data, and evaluate information. Many other core social science skills, such as analysis, research, and decision-making, are used in problem-solving.

5. Thinking Critically

This last ability combines analytical, research, and evaluation skills. The ability to identify the most useful sources, question evidence, and recognize patterns is required for critical thinking. Undergraduates in social sciences are taught to thoroughly analyze information in order to reach logical conclusions that are supported by their sources. Analytical and problem-solving skills are near the top of Indeed’s 2020 list of the most in-demand skills in today’s workforce. Social science majors can succeed in their chosen careers by being able to interpret data, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions.

Social science remains popular among college students as a fundamental liberal arts branch. Psychology, political science, economics, and sociology are among the most popular social science majors. Several social science subjects rank among the most popular majors, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2017, the social sciences accounted for 14% of majors, with 159,000 students earning a bachelor’s degree in social sciences or history and 117,000 receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, psychology, political science, economics, and sociology are the most popular social science majors. Anthropology, geography, criminology, and international relations are also popular among students. Closely related fields like social work, public administration, and education are also among the most common undergraduate majors on some people’s lists of social sciences. An overhead shot of scattered groups of people on a white gridded background, aligned along an upward-climbing arrow, appears in a photo illustration.

The Professional Value of a Social Science Degree

According to Georgetown University research, social science majors earn typical college graduate salaries. Social science majors earn a median starting salary of $33,000, which is slightly lower than business majors ($37,000) and slightly higher than humanities majors ($29,000). Professionals with a social science degree typically earn around $60,000 per year by mid-career, or $24,000 per year more than high school graduates without a college diploma.

1. Jobs in Social Sciences

A degree in social science can lead to a variety of careers, including one as a social scientist. Geographers, for example, use their undergraduate education to study the Earth and human geography. Many jobs, including those in the federal government, require at least a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree is required for many jobs in the social sciences. For political scientists and economists, a master’s degree is the typical entry-level education. Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists, for example, typically require a master’s degree.

More than 40% of social science majors pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. A graduate degree is associated with a 45 percent increase in median annual earnings.

Salary Averages in Social Sciences

  • $122,220 for political scientists
  • $105,020 for economists
  • $83,420 for sociologists
  • $81,540 for geographers
  • $80,370 for psychologists
  • $63,680 for historians
  • $63,670 for anthropologists and archaeologists

Other Jobs You Can Get With a Social Science Degree

After graduation, social science majors can pursue a variety of career options. A social science degree can lead to jobs in fields such as law, education, and business, in addition to social science jobs. Social science majors can work as data analysts, market research analysts, or economic researchers in the business world. Candidates with a social science background are frequently hired in the growing field of data analytics. All of these jobs require social science graduates to have strong analytical and research skills.

A bachelor’s degree in social science can lead to careers in law, education, and business. Majors in social science may also work for the government or in the civil service. A background in geography or political science could lead to opportunities in urban planning, public finance, and government administration. Some people with social science degrees might prefer to work in education. Students are taught several social science disciplines in high school, including geography, social studies, and civics. It’s worth noting that most teaching jobs require a state-issued teaching license.

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A social science degree can also prepare graduates for a career in law because it teaches analytical and critical thinking skills. Many political sciences, economics, and psychology majors go on to law school to further their education. Financial analyst, intelligence analyst, fraud investigator, and social services director are among the in-demand jobs for social science majors, according to PayScale’s 2019 College Salary Report.

Should you pursue a degree in social science?

Majors in social science study fascinating topics such as criminality, elections, decision-making, and abnormal behavior while honing their analytical and critical thinking abilities. A bachelor’s degree in social science can help you succeed in a variety of fields. Social science majors reported a higher rate of employment after college graduation than STEM and humanities majors. According to a study conducted by the Campaign for Social Science, social science majors have a higher rate of employment after graduation: 84 percent of social science graduates had a job 3.5 years after graduation, compared to 78 percent of STEM majors and 79 percent of humanities majors. 

Managerial and senior positions were also more common among social science majors. While there’s no guarantee you’ll find work right out of college, a social science degree can provide numerous advantages. You’ll learn how to apply your newfound knowledge and abilities to a variety of potential career paths in a social science program. You’ll not only develop critical skills like problem-solving and data interpretation.

Conclusion

Of course, these aren’t the only topics that fall under the heading of “social sciences.” Each university’s social sciences department will offer a diverse range of courses; for example, some universities will offer courses in international relations, media studies, and even accounting. The many UK and European universities now offer social science subjects such as these and others.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is psychology classified as a social science?

Psychology is classified as a social science in most colleges. Psychology bridges the gap between social science and natural science by studying the human mind and behavior. Psychology majors use social science methods to study human development, social behaviors, and emotions. Certain subfields are more social science-oriented than others. For example, social psychology is often considered a social science, whereas subfields like neuropsychology and biological psychology require more physical science training, prompting many to classify them as STEM subjects.

Is Economic science a social science?

Economics is a social science that studies the economy and how it works. Economics majors research economic systems as well as how individuals and organizations produce and exchange goods. Economists study issues such as the government’s role in the economy, individual economic behavior, and the distribution of goods and services. To collect and analyze data, create data-backed projections and predictions, and understand supply and demand, both macroeconomics and microeconomics use social science tools.

Is history classified as a social science?

History is a combination of social sciences and humanities. Because they used — and still use — quantitative tools to understand the past, most historians considered their discipline a social science in the early twentieth century. However, because historians study the history of culture and human values, a growing number of historians have begun to refer to their field as a humanities subject in recent decades. While many colleges now classify history as part of the social sciences, others classify it as a humanities field.

Is Sociology a social science?

Sociology is a branch of social science that studies society and its institutions. Sociology was the first social science in many ways because it was the first discipline to apply the scientific method to human society. Sociology majors research human societies in order to find answers to questions about social change, disorder, and social stratification. Sociologists study how social institutions influence individual behavior, societal evolution, and the interactions of organizations.

Is it true that philosophy is social science?

Philosophy is considered a humanities subject rather than a social science in most colleges. Philosophy focuses on fundamental questions about reality, human nature, and the mind-matter relationship. Morality, the external world, art, and objectivity are all addressed by philosophy majors using logic and critical theory. Many social science disciplines use philosophical principles to better understand human behavior, morality’s influence on decision-making, and the evolution of social institutions.

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