What Can You Do With a Social Science Degree?
A social science degree helps students develop a wider perspective on human behavior while also equipping them with in-demand research, communication, and analytical skills. Taken as a whole, this training prepares graduates for a career in social science, which can encompass roles in many different economic sectors. A social science degree can help you land a job as a historian, sociologist, or psychologist, depending on your education. However, it can also put you in a position to find employment in media, education, and the corporate world.
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What Is a Social Science Degree?
Social science degrees introduce students to various aspects of human society. Unlike STEM fields, which are largely based on studying the laws of nature, an education in social science focuses on man-made subjects, such as government, society, and politics, often drawing a connection between these larger forces and their effect on everyday life. A social science degree is therefore designed to give students a broader understanding of the human condition, including an appreciation of different cultures and countries.
Social science degrees are offered at all educational levels and may include subjects like history, anthropology, and journalism. Despite this variety, social science students develop a common grounding in the scientific approaches used to study human behavior. These typically include both quantitative and qualitative methods, such as statistical analysis, interviewing, and case-study comparisons. Graduates therefore tend to develop a high level of comfort working with data, which helps broaden their career opportunities.
Learn more about social science degrees by exploring our guides on psychology, public health, social work.
Social Science Careers Overview
While their training might prepare them to work in government agencies and the nonprofit sector, social scientists are versatile professionals who are also employed in corporate environments, like accounting firms, banks, media companies, and start-ups.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social scientists make a median annual salary of $64,000 and nearly half have an advanced degree in their field. Additionally, careers in the social sciences have a favorable outlook, with many positions expected to grow at the same rate — or faster — than the national average for all occupations through 2030.
Social scientists are versatile professionals who can be employed in corporate environments like accounting firms, banks, media companies, and start-ups.
Skills Required as a Social Scientist
Set apart by their knowledge of institutions, politics, and human behavior, social scientists must often explain complex concepts or present findings to different kinds of audiences, such as lawmakers, researchers, business leaders, and students. To do so, they need a set of soft skills:
The ability to communicate effectively to a non-technical audience
The capacity to think critically and articulate a fresh perspective
An understanding of how to formulate research questions
Confidence approaching problems and using data to find solutions
Social Science Careers
Historians help us understand the past. They may study specific events, periods, or individuals, gathering and interpreting historical information to build a repository of public knowledge. Their day-to-day responsibilities can be quite varied, from securing and preserving artifacts to communicating the relevance of those artifacts to non-expert audiences in the form of books, presentations, and articles. The work historians do can be crucial for public institutions to function effectively, which is perhaps why many of these social scientists work in federal, state, and local governments. They can also be found working in museums, historical societies, and research organizations.
Journalists work across multiple mediums and report on developments in politics, society, and sports, to name a few areas, often helping the public understand current events in a larger context. There are various types of journalists. For instance, opinion analysts are typically subject matter experts that offer their take on a particular newsworthy event. By contrast, investigative journalists seek to uncover facts about an otherwise unknown story, stringing these together to create an accurate narrative of what happened. With the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, journalists may increasingly find employment in media corporations and tech companies rather than traditional print newspapers.
Political scientists are primarily responsible for studying political systems and trends. This can include collecting data to analyze government policies, comparing different countries, and forecasting the result of elections. They typically develop specialized knowledge of a particular country, region, or event, and they tend to publish their work in academic journals or newspaper articles. Political scientists are largely employed in the federal government, where they help elected officials make decisions about law and policy. A large proportion also work with businesses and in the education sector.
As medical professionals, psychologists help patients overcome or manage various behavioral, mental, and emotional disorders. They also conduct research into the environmental, social, and biological factors that may cause these conditions, so they can better understand how to treat them. Psychologists may have various duties, from working with patients and prescribing medication to developing theories and teaching at the college level. These professionals are therefore employed in settings like hospitals, universities, and clinics — though they may also have independent practices.
Public Relations Specialist
Nearly all organizations try to present a positive image of themselves. Public relations specialists cultivate this image by interacting with the media, advertising to customers, and presenting information to multiple audiences. This requires them to work across various organizational functions, including operations and marketing, and they typically coordinate communication through mediums like social media, television, and radio. Public relations specialists are widely employed across a range of economic sectors. They may work for businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and even specific individuals.
School and Career Counselor
Many social scientists go on to work in education, and school and career counselor is one of the several roles they may take up in this sector. These professionals help secondary students prepare for life outside of school. They typically advise students on further education and career options, work with them to develop important social skills, and communicate closely with teachers and parents. School and career counselors also monitor their students' academic progress, looking out for personal or other factors that may negatively affect performance. They can be found working in junior, middle, and high schools.
Like political scientists, sociologists examine how social systems shape and are shaped by groups and individuals. They focus on religion, gender, crime, and a range of other cultural issues, often presenting their findings to government officials and business leaders. Their role involves a significant amount of data collection, which they conduct using various qualitative and quantitative methods. Sociologists can be found working in research settings, such as think tanks, government offices, and consultancies. Some may also teach at the secondary or post-secondary level.
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers work for the public good. This can involve designing and implementing public assistance plans, identifying a specific community's needs, and determining the effectiveness of their programs. They also carry out a range of administrative duties, such as those related to hiring new employees and overseeing finances. Given the nature of their work, these professionals mostly work in nonprofits and the public sector. But they can also be found in health care facilities, for-profit organizations, and community service centers.
Writers produce many different types of content, including novels, blog posts, and newspaper articles. Depending on their education and area of expertise, they may write fiction and non-fiction topics in areas like politics, society, art, and culture. Writers may also work on promotional and marketing material, biographies, speeches, and plays. They can therefore find employment in the corporate world, the public sector, and the entertainment industry. Writers who publish novels are typically self-employed.
Advancing Your Social Science Career
A bachelor's degree in a social science field can qualify graduates for entry-level jobs as researchers or analysts. However, if you hope to become a professional social scientist, a graduate education is typically necessary. In fact, most businesses and government agencies who hire full-time historians, sociologists, or political scientists will expect them to have a master's degree in a related field. A doctorate is typically the minimum qualification required to teach social science at the college level or conduct research into new theories.
You can also further your social science career by joining a professional organization. These bodies offer opportunities to network with peers, attend conferences, and learn about ongoing developments in your field. Joining a professional organization may also afford you the opportunity to take continuing education credits in the form of webinars or public lectures. Below is a list of professional organizations you can consider joining as a social scientist.
Is a Social Science Career a Good Fit For Me?
A career in the social sciences may not always lead to the kind of high-paying jobs typically found in STEM fields, such as computer science. So, if you're hoping to increase your chances of earning a six-figure income, social science may not necessarily be a good fit for you.
However, if you're curious about human behavior, a social science career might line up with your interests. Such a career could give you the flexibility to work in a variety of sectors, all while delving deeper into how politics, institutions, and culture have shaped and continue to shape human interactions. It can also be a particularly suitable choice if you have a passion for public service and aspire to work for the government or in a humanitarian capacity.
STEM careers are available in various industries and tend to pay well. Learn about career options and requirements and see which STEM jobs are in demand.
What Can You Do With a Psychology Degree?
You may be asking yourself, what do I do with a psychology degree once I have it? Read about psychology degree jobs you can get with a bachelor’s.