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The term “social sciences” refers to a group of several academic subjects concerning human beings, their relationship to the world, and to each other. Anthropology, communications, cultural studies, sociology, and linguistics are just a few of the disciplines that fall under the social sciences umbrella. The following guide serves as a comprehensive introduction to the social sciences field, the types of academic degree programs available, and the variety of career paths students may pursue after completing a program of study.

Social Sciences Degrees Offer a Wealth of Choices and Diversity

Social science degree programs are among the most popular offered on college and university campuses, available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Associate’s degrees are available in most specific social science subjects, with many schools additionally offering a general Associate of Arts in Social Science degree option. Bachelor degree programs are offered in all social science fields and provide a solid educational foundation for career advancement. Graduate programs are typically for those individuals who intend to pursue careers in teaching, research, management, or in other highly-specialized occupations.

Earning an Online Social Science Degree

As with traditional colleges and universities, degree programs in the social sciences are among the most popular offerings of postsecondary distance learning providers in the United States. This is not surprising given that, with a few exceptions, courses of study in social science subjects easily lend themselves to the online education format. Many primarily online institutions and traditional colleges now offer degree programs that allow students to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in several social science fields completely online. Others programs are offered in hybrid formats that combine online classes with additional on-site laboratory and course work.

Program Highlight:
Online Bachelor of Science in Social Science

Online bachelor’s in social science degree programs offer interdisciplinary programs of study, bringing together multiple disciplines, including anthropology, behavioral sciences, psychology, gerontology, and sociology. Curriculum examines human experience and investigates how social structures, relationships, and ideas relate to and affect human behavior and communities. Students gain critical and creative thinking skills, communication skills, and theoretical knowledge, and also learn how to effectively apply their knowledge to complex social problems in order to develop realistic solutions. Online programs are require between 120 and 140 credit hours to complete and consist of courses such as race, gender and ethnic relations, organizational psychology, social science theory, and anthropology. Some online programs also offer career-relevant specializations to allow students to pursue a personal or professional interest, such as criminology, public and non-profit management, and strategic communication. Graduates of an online bachelor’s in social sciences degree program will be prepared for entry-level careers in such sectors as business administration, elder care, government, health services, social work, law enforcement, human resources, and community service.

Online Associate in Social Science Degree

Associate’s degree programs are commonly two years in length and offered primarily at local community colleges and by some distance learning schools. Students interested in pursuing an associate’s degree in the social sciences will normally have the option of choosing between a program in a specific subject area, such as sociology, psychology, or political science, or a more generalized social science course of study. In either case, an associate’s degree curriculum includes a core of general education classes along with a series of subject-related electives, such as the following:

COURSE NAME overview
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Study of the role of society and culture in human adaptation to a variety of environments. Topics include religion, political organization, and theories of cultural evolution.
Introduction to Psychology General survey of psychology and its approaches to gathering and evaluating evidence regarding the causes and correlates of behavior.
Introductory Sociology Basics of the study of human group behavior through social interaction.
Principles of Macroeconomics Introduction to basic macroeconomic concepts and theories, and their application to current economic problems, policies and issues.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science

Four-year bachelor degree programs in the social sciences are extremely popular with students. Each comes with its own set of unique course requirements, but all provide a solid educational foundation in its given subject. A typical course curriculum includes a block of general education courses followed by a series of required core subject matter classes and a varying number of electives. This list offers prospective students insight into the the types of courses they will encounter in their bachelor’s degree programs:

COURSE NAME overview
Advanced Research Writing Instruction and practice in academic research skills.
Anthropology of Language and Communication Anthropological study of language, communication and culture. Topics include language as social action and speech communities.
Concepts and Applications of Information Technology Exploration of the applications of information technology for personal and professional productivity.
Economics in the Information Age Examination of the basic concepts and principles of micro- and macro-economics, and how the economy is affected by technology.
Introduction to Social Sciences Interdisciplinary introduction to the study of society that addresses the question, “What does it mean to be a social scientist?”
Introduction to Sociology Survey of the basic concepts, theoretical perspectives and research methods in sociology.
Introduction to Statistical Methods for the Behavioral Sciences Introduction to quantitative methods in behavioral science and psychological research.
The Sociology of Gender Inquiry into how gender is socially constructed and reconstructed in contemporary society.

Online Master’s in Social Sciences Degrees

Master’s degree programs in the social sciences typically require an additional two-year commitment beyond that of a bachelor’s degree. While there are a few colleges and universities that offer Master of Science in Social Science degrees, such as Ohio University, University of Colorado Denver, and Towson University, such programs are few and far between, and are usually designed for students currently employed as teachers who are seeking to advance in their careers. Much more common are master’s programs specific to individual social science subjects, such as the Master of Science in Psychology or Master of Arts in Cultural Studies.

The advantages of obtaining a master’s degree (compared to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree) depend greatly on the individual field. In many cases, students seeking a graduate degree in one of the social sciences do so in contemplation of an academic career as a researcher, teacher, or professor. Whatever the reason for pursuing their degree, master’s students participate in training focused on more advanced and specialized aspects of their subject in courses such as the following:

COURSE NAME overview
American Politics in the 21st Century Survey of the change and continuity in American politics and American political science in the last 50 years.
Anthropological Field Methods Exploration of field methods of anthropology through experience-based workshops and relevant literature.
Comparative History and Historiography Examination of selected topics in comparative history with consideration of the developed and less developed world.
Geographer’s View Explores the role of geography within the social sciences through an examination of recent trends in the discipline.
International Politics and Security Focus on the development of analytic tools for understanding international relations with applications to contemporary problems.
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Problems Examination of interdisciplinary approaches to global problems, including issues of economic integration, urbanization and environment.
Social Psychology Focuses on the interrelationships between individuals and the social environment through topics such as attitude formation and change, and stereotyping and prejudice.
Social Work Leadership and Management Emphasis on providing students with an overview of basic supervisory and human resource development concepts.
Sociolinguistics Introduction to language in its social context. Linguistic variation in relation to issues such as situation, gender, class and ethnicity.
Sociological Insight Focuses on theories, methods, and issues in sociology, as well as recent advances in sociological research.

Online Doctorate in Social Sciences

Doctorate degrees are often described as the terminal degree in their particular fields, and that is certainly true when it comes to the social sciences. As with master’s degrees, social science doctorate degree programs are almost exclusively offered by specific subject. The Doctor of Social Science degree is extremely rare in the United States, and specifically relates to academic work in the social sciences field as a whole. Individuals who pursue the terminal degree in any of the social sciences do so almost entirely for the purpose of advancing into a career in academia as teachers or researchers. Doctorate degree programs often require a commitment of as much as six or more years (following completion of a bachelor’s degree). Coursework is similar to that for a master’s degree, with additional research and practicum experience requirements. With a few exceptions, a doctorate degree course of study will be completed with a presentation and defense of a dissertation.

What Can You Do With a Social Sciences Degree?

The number of occupational fields that fall under the umbrella heading of the social sciences is quite large, and the depth and breadth of career opportunities is even larger. Specific job opportunities for social scientists depend greatly on an individual’s specific field of interest. The following list provides basic career information for four of the most popular social science subject fields:

  • Economics: Economists study and analyze the production and distribution processes of natural resources, goods and services on both the macroeconomic and microeconomic levels. Economists work for the government, public firms, banks, and private businesses in many of different occupations.
  • History: Historians research, analyze and interpret the past through the study of historical documents and other artifacts. Historians are employed in academia and by government agencies, museums, research organizations, historical societies, nonprofits, consulting firms, and others.
  • Political Science: Political science concerns the study and development of government and political power. Political science degree holders work in a wide range of professions as elected officials, political analysts and consultants, teachers and professors, journalists, and more. Political science graduates also often continue on to law school and careers as attorneys.
  • Sociology: Sociologists study societies as a whole, as well as the behavior of specific groups, cultures, organizations, and institutions. Sociologists work for government agencies, educational institutions, and private firms in positions such as teachers, researchers, social workers, and public policy makers.

Other potential career fields for social scientists include: anthropology, archeology, art history, environmental studies, geography, international relations, library science, linguistics, and public administration.