Earning a social science degree online prepares you for careers in fields like human studies, politics, geography, and tech. Though these fields seem dissimilar, they all deal with individuals, groups, and society. All social sciences rely on careful research, data collection, and analysis. A social science degree online provides you with in-demand skills and knowledge. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social scientists and related workers earned a mean annual wage of $83,230 in May 2017.
Overview of Social Science Degrees
The social science umbrella covers over a dozen academic disciplines, including economics, human geography, sociology, and political science. A bachelor of social science online degree offers you the choice of earning a general degree or specializing in a disciplinary area like history, public health, or psychology.
Because there is often overlap between the humanistic and scientific sides of social science, students study methods, approaches, and theories that cover both the quantitative and qualitative. Graduating with knowledge that includes the ability to critically think, write and communicate well, understand people, and break down numbers, social science majors find themselves well-positioned to enter a competitive job market and pursue numerous career paths.
While the BLS projects modest job growth for sociologists by 2026, they will continue to work with other professionals who require their expertise in both research and analysis as it applies to areas such as health, education, and business. Specialization is also a factor in job outlook; according to the BLS, jobs in market research show the most growth.
The application process varies by school, but in general, you should expect to submit letters of recommendation, your school transcripts, and test scores like the SAT or ACT.
And while some schools no longer require a personal essay or statement, many still do. Application fees vary, but range from $25 to $90. Students who demonstrate financial hardship may request a fee waiver.
What Will I Learn?
Coursework for social sciences degrees vary, but there are many courses common to any social science degree online program. These core courses cover fundamental topics, such as statistics, history, professional communication, economics, and research methodology.
A BA or BS in social science typically requires 120 credits, with general education requirements accounting for 50-60 credits, major credits 30-36, and electives 25-35. Within the major curriculum, 12-15 credits are for the disciplinary focus.
Typically, all social science majors focus on the individual and society. They explore relationships and the impact of change, like a demographic shift or an economic downturn. In a social science degree online program, learners develop critical thinking skills; learn how to conduct research, collect data, and analyze results; and improve verbal and written communication abilities to articulate their findings.
Introduction to Social Sciences
Students examine the different social science disciplines and begin to use them to solve societal issues. These courses cover the social sciences from a historical perspective and demonstrate how they relate to what is happening today.
Research Methods in the Social Sciences
In this interdisciplinary course, students take research methods common to the social sciences and explore how each discipline uses them to carry out their work. Topics include quantitative and qualitative data, digital content analysis, and the art of interviewing.
This course inspects the interpersonal relationships among cultures within the U.S. Students examine cultural perception and how one identifies the self within a culture and the broader context of society. Topics include community, values, and beliefs, as well as sociological concepts like majority-minority.
Social science majors learn how to articulate their research findings, both through written and verbal means. Such a course also examines problems that can arise from professional communication in today's workplace.
Students typically take introductory statistics in their second or third year. Here, they learn how to analyze data sets, especially through modern technology. Topics include the normal curve, probability, and describing data.
Philosophy of History
In this social science degree online course, students examine history and perspectives of various philosophers. The course looks at the role of law within history. These classes typically examine course material through specific philosophical thought, such as from St. Augustine and Nietzsche.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science?
A social science degree equips you with both broad knowledge and specific expertise that further focuses the skills and techniques of social scientists. Grounded in the fundamentals of research, data, and human study, a social science degree prepares you for careers that rely on high-level analysis, communication, and investigative work.
Graduates of a social science degree online program obtain broad skills in research, effective communication, and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data. They learn how to carry out research needed to assess issues, forecast outcomes, and recommend solutions. Students, regardless of degree focus, learn how to integrate theoretical perspectives with the practical application of social science research methods. Social science students develop critical- and creative-thinking skills while staying within the ethical framework that guides the field.
With these skills, graduates can pursue diverse career paths. Students can choose between earning a general social science degree online or one that focuses on a discipline like anthropology, economics, history, public health, or political science. All disciplines employ similar approaches to achieve results. For example, a historian gathers historical data. Economists use data to study production, distribution of goods, and economic health. Meanwhile, user experience (UX) researchers take and analyze data to provide various teams, including design, engineering, and marketing, with better insights.
Through the study of individuals, groups, communities, and society, social scientists identify problems and determine realistic next steps. While the objectives of different career paths may differ, the underlying skill set and knowledge needed to excel in each occupation are the same.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Earning a social science degree online from an accredited college or university prepares you for various careers. As noted above, the skills gained from a social science degree have many applications, which opens the door to work in education, business, government, and technology.
According to BLS, the top three paying industries for social scientists and related workers in May 2017 was computer systems design and related services; rail transportation; and architectural, engineering, and related services. Meanwhile, the federal government was the industry with the highest concentration of social scientists and related workers, followed by scientific research and development services. The educational support services industry, which provides instruction and training on various subjects, was third.
Given that the federal government is a top industry for social scientists, it's little surprise that the state with the most social scientists and related workers is Virginia, and that Washington, D.C. has the third most. These two areas also claim the highest mean wage for the profession in the nation: $107,210 for Virginia and $101,080 for Washington, D.C. California, New York, and Maryland also rank in the top five.
Annual Median Salary: $59,120
Historians study the past. Through research and analysis of historical documents and records, historians help interpret, preserve, and illuminate the past to all people. Bachelor's degree holders are usually only prepared for entry-level careers in the field. Many employers prefer candidates to hold a master's or Ph.D.
Annual Median Salary: $79,650
Sociologists focus on society and social behavior, foremost how people interact with each other, coexist, and work together. In addition to observing behavior and interaction, they also address social influences on the individual and groups. Most positions in this field require a master's degree or Ph.D.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Social Science?
Online social science degree programs prepare students for entry-level positions. A graduate who aspires to work as a historian, for example, may find entry-level work at a museum or may end up working in other fields like education or business. Should they choose to pursue a career in history, they typically need to obtain an advanced credential that further focuses their expertise, like a master's in historic preservation or Ph.D. in museum studies.
However, there are opportunities for advancement even without a graduate degree. Experience can sometimes make up for what you would learn in school. Companies often consider candidates who hold a certain number of years of experience. When looking for entry-level positions, working as an intern or volunteer can also help boost one's marketability.
Accreditation for Social Science Bachelor’s Programs
When comparing online social science degree programs, check for accreditation status. In order to hold accreditation, a school must meet or exceed the standards of quality established by the accrediting body. Accreditation is a voluntary evaluation process, where peers review a school to determine if the institution qualifies for such designation.
Regional accreditation is most commonly associated with degree-granting, nonprofit schools, and is regarded as more prestigious than national accreditation. There are six accrediting agencies in the U.S., each covering a certain region of the nation. The Higher Learning Commission, for example, accredits schools in 19 states across the Midwest and South Central U.S. The Department of Education recognizes all regional accreditors, though not all national accreditors.
Programmatic or specialized accreditation, meanwhile, is accreditation specific to a program or department of study, such as a school of law or business.
Social Science Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization is a great way to network, which can lead to job opportunities and career advancement. Becoming a member can also help you stay up-to-date with the field and profession. If there are legislative rulings, technological advancements, or a game-changing industry trend, you'll be among the first to know. Also, for college students, membership in an organization can not only offer mentorship and career guidance, but also qualify you for scholarship awards and internships.
National Social Science Association:
NSSA serves thousands of social scientists in the U.S. through its conferences, seminars, and publications. NSSA began as a series of regional associations. However, demand from other two- and four-year college social scientists eventually prompted NSSA to go national in 1985.
Consortium of Social Science Associations:
COSSA advocates for the federal funding and widespread use of social and behavioral science research. The consortium's members include scientific societies like the History of Science Society, disciplinary associations like the Council on Social Work Education, and research centers and institutions.
Social Science History Association:
Created in 1974, SSHA focuses on using social science methods to better understand the past. The association's members, comprised of history, economics, anthropology, and other social sciences scholars, work together across thematic networks to explore common questions about history and bring insight to all.