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2023 Best Online Social Science Degrees

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 6/27/2023
2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Social Sciences Badge

Social science is the study of how we interact with one another within society and includes the study of disciplines such as anthropology, political science, psychology, and economics. An online bachelor's degree in social sciences offers a well-rounded exploration of these topics for students interested in careers that involve the public, such as law, government, education, and public relations. Studying this major online can provide flexibility and convenience for students eager to finish their education while balancing other obligations. 

Below, we've ranked our list of the best programs by Salary Score so you can set realistic expectations about future earnings and help mitigate excessive student debt. View our methodology for more details about our list, or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Bachelor's Degrees in Social Sciences Badge
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Online Social Sciences Bachelor's Degrees You May Be Interested In

2023 Best Online Social Science Degrees

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 Thomas Edison State University 93 93 $42,906
# 2 #2 University of North Dakota 82 $39,028
# 3 #3 SUNY Empire State University 79 $38,352
# 4 #4 Washington State University 75 $37,484
# 5 #5 Upper Iowa University 75 $37,440
# 6 #6 Southeast Missouri State University 73 $37,090
# 7 #7 Central Washington University 70 $36,440
# 8 #8 Campbell University 69 $36,363
# 9 #9 University of Maryland Global Campus 69 $36,350
# 10 #10 Florida State University 68 $36,112

#1 Thomas Edison State University

  • Salary Score: 93
  • Median Starting Salary: $42,906
  • Locations: Trenton (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Thomas Edison State University (TESU) is a public institution offering an online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology focusing on human beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and social organization. This 120-credit program takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Students may earn credits for prior learning and work experience, eliminating the need to complete specific courses and saving time and money. Similarly, TESU offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. The university has a 100% acceptance rate due to its open admissions policy, and it has a 48% graduation rate.

TESU delivers its online curriculum via Moodle. Distance learners in the online sociology program participate in classes such as Introduction to Critical Reasoning, Modern Sociological Foundations, Women and Social Action, and Sociology of Work. Students must also complete a capstone project to graduate.

#2 University of North Dakota

  • Salary Score: 82
  • Median Starting Salary: $39,028
  • Locations: Grand Forks (ND)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of North Dakota (UND) is a public institution offering an online Bachelor of Arts in Social Science that enables students to individualize a program based on their goals and interests in this field. They can choose from areas of study such as communication, criminal justice, geography, or history. Graduating requires completing 120 credits, which typically takes full-time students four years. Similar degrees include an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and an online Bachelor of Science in Social Work. UND accepts 87% of applicants, and around 50% of students graduate with degrees.

UND provides the Blackboard learning management system to its online students. Depending on their interests, social science distance learners participate in courses such as Psychology and Law, International Economics, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice, and Urban Politics and Administration.

#3 SUNY Empire State University

  • Salary Score: 79
  • Median Starting Salary: $38,352
  • Locations: Saratoga Springs (NY)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

SUNY Empire State College (SUNY Empire) is a public institution offering an online Bachelor of Science in Social Science and an online Bachelor of Arts in Social Science that allows students to design a unique program with the support of a faculty mentor. Students complete approximately 124 credits to graduate, which takes about four years of full-time attendance. Due to its open admissions policy, SUNY Empire accepts 100% of applicants. Forty-seven percent of students graduate with degrees.

SUNY Empire uses Moodle to deliver coursework and instruction to distance learners. Those enrolled in the online social science programs take courses in six foundational areas based on their interests, such as Family and Society, America's Founding Ideas, Environmental Anthropology, Diversity and Cultural Competency, and Memory and Society.

#4 Washington State University

  • Salary Score: 75
  • Median Starting Salary: $37,484
  • Locations: Pullman (WA)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Washington State University (WSU) is a public institution offering a customizable online Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences based on a student's academic and career goals. There are 12 concentrations to choose from, including Anthropology, Comparative Ethnic Studies, Human Development, and Women's Studies. Prospective students can also explore WSU's online Bachelor of Arts in Human Development or online Bachelor of Science in Psychology for similar options. Full-time students generally complete this 120-credit program in four years. WSU accepts 80% of applicants, and 65% of students graduate.

WSU delivers its online curriculum via Canvas. Depending on the concentration chosen, distance learners can enroll in courses such as Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspectives, Modern Britain, Policing and Society, and Gerontology.

#5 Upper Iowa University

  • Salary Score: 75
  • Median Starting Salary: $37,440
  • Locations: Fayette (IA)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Upper Iowa University (UIU) is a private, nonprofit institution offering an online Bachelor of Science in Social Science suited for prospective students interested in careers in fields such as law, business, and public administration. This well-rounded online degree program includes areas of emphasis in General Social Science, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. Graduating requires 120 credits, which full-time students may complete in less than four years due to the program's accelerated format. UIU has a 65% acceptance rate, and 50% of students graduate on average.

UIU uses its proprietary learning management system — uiuLearn — to deliver the online curriculum for a social science degree. Depending on the emphasis chosen, online social science undergraduates enroll in courses such as Diversity in the United States, Gender Roles, Political Anthropology, and International Relations. Students also complete a senior project to graduate.

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Overview of Social Science Bachelor's Degrees

Pursuing an online bachelor's degree in social science can open doors to a range of career opportunities. You'll explore the complexities of human interactions and societies in a social science bachelor's degree program, which is ideal if you're passionate about understanding human behavior and cultures.

Social science encompasses a range of subjects. Some of the prominent social science disciplines include the following:

Each discipline has a different focus. For example, sociologists study social interactions and institutions, anthropology focuses on human cultures and societies, and psychology explores human minds and behavior.

About 8% of bachelor's degrees conferred in 2020 were in social science, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This demonstrates the relevance and popularity of social science programs.

Degree Requirements

Prospective students must meet specific admission requirements to pursue an online bachelor's degree in social science. Typical criteria include a minimum 2.5 GPA on high school transcripts, a letter of recommendation from a teacher, a personal statement highlighting your education and career goals, and official ACT or SAT scores (though some schools have dropped entrance exam requirements). These requirements vary from one institution to another, so it's important to check the specific requirements of each school you're applying to.

Social science bachelor's degree programs usually require 120 credit hours of courses, which can last as little as four years but often take longer to finish. Programs often consist of core courses, elective courses, and either an internship or capstone project. These components ensure that students gain a comprehensive understanding of the social sciences while applying their knowledge in real-world contexts. Internships can grant valuable hands-on experience in the field, while capstone projects allow students to showcase their mastery of the subject matter through research.

Common Courses

In an online social science bachelor's degree program, you'll likely take a variety of courses that give a solid foundation in a specific discipline. The curriculum will differ depending on your specific major, but below are four common courses that you might encounter:

Introduction to Sociology

This course introduces students to the fundamental concepts and theories of sociology. You'll typically explore topics such as social structures, inequality, culture, public policy, and social change.

Principles of Psychology

The basic principles and theories of psychology are this class's subject. Professors usually cover human development, cognition, individual behavior in different social contexts, and psychological disorders.

Global Perspectives in Anthropology

This course examines the diversity of human cultures and societies worldwide. You might read and discuss issues such as cultural relativism, kinship, religion, and the impact of globalization on human groups.

Research Methods in Social Sciences

Research methods faculty members equip students with the essential skills needed to conduct research in the social sciences, including data collection, analysis, and interpretation abilities.


It's crucial to choose an accredited institution when considering online social science degree programs. Institutional accreditation ensures that the school meets certain quality standards and that the education you receive is recognized and respected by employers and other institutions. You can find a college's accreditation status using the U.S. Department of Education's searchable Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

You may also come across programmatic accreditation agencies specific to social science programs. These agencies evaluate and accredit programs within specific disciplines to make sure they meet established standards. Graduating from a programmatically accredited program isn't always required to land a job, but it certainly can't hurt.

What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Social Science?

You have several paths to consider once you earn a bachelor's degree in social science. The two main choices are to continue your education by pursuing a graduate degree or entering the workforce directly.

Further Education

A graduate degree in social science can provide advanced training and specialization in a specific discipline or subfield. After a bachelor's degree, you might consider a master's degree or doctorate.

Master's Degrees in Social Science

Social science master's degree programs typically offer advanced coursework, research opportunities, and sometimes internships. Graduates with a master's degree may be eligible for higher-level positions in their chosen field or pursue doctoral programs for even more advanced research and academic opportunities.

Doctoral Degrees in Social Science 

Doctoral programs in social science are geared toward people who want to conduct original research, contribute to the field's body of knowledge, and potentially pursue academic careers. These programs typically require students to complete extensive research projects and defend a doctoral dissertation of several hundred pages in length. Doctoral degree holders often work as university professors, researchers, or policy analysts.

See our lists of the best online master's in political science and best online master's in history degrees for program ideas.

Social Science Careers

A bachelor's degree in social science equips graduates with a diverse skill set that can be applied to various career paths. The ability to analyze complex social issues, understand human behavior, and communicate effectively are valuable skills in many industries.

For those reasons, you can embark on many careers with a social science degree. A few popular roles include market researcher, human resources specialist, policy analyst, public relations specialist, and social and community service manager.

Financing Your Social Science Degree

Pursuing an online bachelor's degree in social science requires financial planning. Fortunately, there are several types of financial aid available to support your educational journey. So-called gift aid is ideal because you don't need to repay funds from these sources, which include scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. You can find gift aid from government agencies, individual colleges, or private donors.

You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access federal financial aid (along with most other sources). The FAFSA determines your level of financial need. 

Gift aid can reduce the total cost of a degree, but most students still need to take out some student loans to cover their expenses. It's important to be aware that student loans must be repaid with interest, which can lead to significant loan debt. Understanding the terms and conditions of student loans is crucial, so do your research before committing. You may find OnlineU's Student Loan Repayment Calculator when comparing future loan debt across programs.

If cost is a top concern, check out OnlineU's pages about the most affordable bachelor's degree options in these social science disciplines: Anthropology, History, Psychology, Sociology.

FAQs About Social Science Degrees

Is a Social Science Degree Worth It?

A social science degree can be worth it for individuals interested in understanding human behavior, societal issues, and cultural dynamics. Social science graduates can pursue fulfilling careers in various fields, including social work, research, policy analysis, and human resources. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Field of Degree page for social science can be a useful starting point to research employability for social science graduates.

Is a Social Science Degree Hard?

The level of difficulty can vary depending on the specific courses and your personal strengths. Social science programs require critical thinking, research skills, and the ability to analyze complex issues. You can successfully navigate and excel in a social science degree program if you're disciplined, use effective study strategies, and reach out for support from faculty and peers.

What Can I Do With a Social Science Degree?

A social science degree might open doors to a range of occupations. Graduates can find employment in fields such as social services, market research, human resources, community outreach, policy analysis, education, and public relations. The skills acquired in a social science program make graduates adaptable and valuable in many industries.

Does Social Science Pay Well?

Earnings in social science careers can vary depending on factors such as job title, industry, and geographic location. Some entry-level positions may offer modest salaries, but there are opportunities for advancement and increased earning potential as you gain experience and expertise. The BLS's Occupational Outlook Handbook discusses salary information for various social science occupations.

Bottom Line

Pursuing an online bachelor's degree in social science can provide you with a solid foundation in understanding human behavior, societies, and cultures. The diverse range of disciplines within social science offers numerous career opportunities. Whether you choose to enter the workforce immediately or continue your education at the graduate level, a social science degree equips you with valuable skills and knowledge.

Be sure to read our Guide to Starting Your Online Education if you decide to apply for an online degree. 

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