In the U.S., college students who work towards social science degrees, minors, and concentrations can enter multiple lucrative career paths. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), sociologists who've obtained their bachelor's and master's earn a median salary of $79,000 per year. Similarly, lawyers, who often major in social science as undergraduates, earn a median salary that exceeds $119,000 per year. In this article, learn more about what it means to be a social science student and how to access valuable resources that will help launch your academic journey.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Social Science?
When you feel ready to start researching potential programs, first decide whether on-campus or online programs appeal to your learning style. On-campus programs, with in-person instruction and structured class schedules, typically benefit recent high school graduates. Online programs, which allow students to view lectures at times and places convenient to them, accommodate those who are working or raising families.
Both online and on-campus programs instruct students in the same skill set common to all social science programs. While in class, expect to hone your critical-thinking and research skills through writing papers, participating in discussions, and analyzing text relevant to your specific major.
Besides academic knowledge and skills, your college and university should provide you with a host of benefits that facilitate your post-graduation job search. Throughout your program, interacting with professors may result in letters of recommendation. Networking with peers may also help you discover career leads. Finally, colleges and universities boast career centers and even internship opportunities, both of which make you a more attractive applicant in employers' eyes.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Social Science?
From newscasters to university professors, professionals in hundreds of careers possess social science degrees. Keep this fact in mind as you review the five careers in this section, even if none matches your interests. These and similar jobs may require you to earn an advanced degree or complete additional training beyond a bachelor's.
- Political Scientist
In think tanks, university lecture halls, and political campaigns, political scientists research the history of and current changes in U.S. and international politics. Much of their work involves writing essays and books wherein they discuss their political theories and how these theories apply to the modern political landscape. Most political scientists possess a master's or doctoral degree. As undergraduates, political scientists typically earn history or political science degrees.
Median Annual Salary: $115,110*
Economists study changes in the economy and trends for future economic development. Many economists work for local, state, and national governments, helping political leaders develop policies that lead to sustained economic growth. An economics major prepares students for graduate study or a career as an entry-level economist.
Median Annual Salary: $102,490*
Sociologists study interpersonal interactions through experimentation. They often work for universities, balancing time between instructing students and performing research. Sociologists collaborate with other professionals on this list, as their work involves studying people's political and economic decision making. A sociology bachelor's degree prepares graduates to work as assistants to experienced sociologists.
Median Annual Salary: $79,650*
- Social Worker
Social workers assist people in need, connecting them with resources that can improve their lives. Social workers regularly travel to clients' homes and workplaces, but they also host meetings at their offices. All social workers must possess strong research, recordkeeping, and interpersonal skills. A social science degree, especially one in social work or sociology, gives students multiple opportunities to hone these crucial skills.
Median Annual Salary: $47,980*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Social Science Program
When researching different social science programs, first decide how many years you can dedicate to your education and how much tuition you can afford to pay. Full-time students typically take four years to complete their degrees. However, these students can graduate in three years if they take extra courses each semester or during winter and summer terms. Part-time students typically need five to six years to complete their degrees. In regards to tuition, you can still attend a school outside of your price range if you earn scholarships or grants. Federally backed student loans or work-study programs may also make more expensive schools a possibility.
Now, focus on topics such as program type and academic requirements. On-campus programs might require you to live on campus or commute long distances, but they also might connect you to the local business community. Moving to a different state to attend school can upend your life; however, that state might have more job openings in your field than where you live currently. As well, pay close attention to programs that include practicums or internships. Employers highly value applicants who complete either one. Consider how each remaining program on your shortlist might affect your quality of life and postgraduate job hunt. Finally, if you plan to attend an online program, it should possess regional accreditation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Social Science
Aside from regional accreditation, which is the gold standard for most colleges and universities, programmatic accreditation agencies specialize in specific academic fields. They review educational programs and grant accreditation to the best ones. To prospective students such as yourself, programmatic accreditation represents a powerful seal of approval that says much about a program's ability to prepare you for your future career.
In the U.S., multiple agencies review social science programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. While no accreditation agency exists for degrees devoted to the general study of social science, accrediting agencies do evaluate specific social science disciplines. If an undergraduate program does not possess accreditation but the university's master's or doctoral program does, you can feel confident that the undergraduate program offers a similarly outstanding education.
Bachelor's in Social Science Program Admissions
In this section, learn how your GPA, high school transcript, letters of recommendation, and test scores all help admissions counselors decide whether to accept you for the upcoming term. And keep in mind that application essays represent your best chance to differentiate yourself from thousands of other applicants.
If you apply to a mix of online and on-campus programs, you may discover that online programs ask more in-depth questions concerning work history and professional accomplishments. Some colleges let online students earn credit or skip courses if they can prove their competency. If you lack professional experience, rest assured that admission counselors do not view this as a negative trait.
- Minimum GPA: Some colleges and universities require that applicants earned a minimum 3.0 high school GPA. Gaining admission to a college honors program may require a minimum 3.5 GPA.
- Application: The Common App allows undergraduate students to apply to several schools at once. Keep in mind that each school to which you apply may ask you to write unique essays, thus lengthening the time you need to apply.
- Transcripts: Ask your high school to send certified transcripts to each of the schools to which you apply. Sending a single transcript may cost a small fee and take up to one month to process.
- Letters of Recommendation: Ask two to three teachers to write you letters of recommendation. If you possess professional experience, research if you can submit letters from work supervisors. Give all recommenders at least a month to write the letters.
- Test Scores: Although few colleges and universities use an official SAT or ACT cutoff, you can set a score goal by researching a school's middle 50% ACT or SAT score range. A score within or above this range makes you a competitive applicant.
- Application Fee: Schools typically charge $50-$65 dollars to review an undergraduate application. If you can prove financial need, you may qualify for a fee waiver. Contact a school as early as possible to learn about their fee waiver policy.
What Else Can I Expect from a Bachelor's in Social Science Program?
Depending on your program, you might have the option to choose a concentration. A concentration gives you a chance to fine-tune your educational experience and better prepare you for your future career. The courses you take, including electives, also impact the time it takes you to earn your degree, postgraduate certifications, and eventual career path. In this section, learn more about each of these topics and how your decisions affect your education.
|Diplomatic History||Diplomatic history focuses on international economics, trade, and policy. Students learn about both historical international relationships and how current developments might impact future diplomacy. Within the concentration, students can select a specific region such as Asia or Africa. Students interested in government service typically choose this concentration.||Diplomat; historian; postsecondary teacher|
|Value Investing||A value investing concentration teaches economics majors an advanced skill set that prepares them for careers in the financial investing field. Students take two to three additional courses by trained investors. In some programs that offer value investing, all students complete an internship where they can apply their skills in a corporate setting.||Investment banker; financial adviser; chief financial officer|
|Sociology of Health and Medicine||Each culture views health and wellness differently. Through advanced coursework, students analyze how cultures both historically and currently treat illness, train doctors, and prevent disease. This concentration includes multiple health policy and history courses. It appeals to sociology majors interested in improving the U.S. medical system by studying best practices from around the world.||High school teacher; postsecondary teacher; health educator|
|Political Theory||Political theory blends political science history with philosophy. Students study multiple theories of human nature, comparing them to political developments throughout recorded history. Some colleges may require students to complete a thesis or extended paper as part of a capstone class. This concentration appeals to students interested in performing original academic research and pursuing careers in academia.||Political scientist; policy adviser; lawyer|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Social Science Program
As many unique majors comprise the social sciences, this section cannot provide a sample curriculum for each. As a result, the following list represents five courses from different social science majors. To learn more about a specific program, visit the school website or contact the program directly to learn more about its course offerings.
- Deciphering America
The course covers American history from the first Native American settlers to the present day. Some versions of this course may use a unique curriculum based around key events in American history rather than presenting history in a more traditional format. Nearly all history majors take this or a similar course at the beginning of their undergraduate educations. Its lessons apply to almost all history-related careers.
- Resources and Environmental Economics
In this higher-level economic course, students analyze the relationship between economic growth and environmental conservation. A large part of the curriculum centers on how governments at all levels implement land-use policies and their effects. This course prepares economics majors for careers as policy advisers and corporate lawyers.
- Race and Ethnicity
In this sociology course, students study how people's racial and ethnic identity affects their decision-making and their government's policies. Students analyze racial discrimination throughout history and how issues such as globalization affect identity. Sociology majors interested in careers that focus on eliminating racism's effects take one or more race and ethnicity courses during their undergraduate educations.
- College Teaching of Political Science
This higher-level undergraduate course prepares students for careers as political science postsecondary teachers. Topics include teaching methodology, interpersonal skills, and classroom management. The course appeals to students who plan to enter graduate school immediately after earning their bachelor's; graduate programs often require students to teach introductory-level undergraduate courses.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Social Science?
If you plan to study as a full-time student, expect to graduate in four years. Many schools offer curriculum plans that mandate which courses you can take each semester. These plans include empty slots for electives, such as those you need to complete a concentration or minor. Some schools allow full-time students with good grades to take additional courses each semester, potentially shortening their time in school by one year. Alternatively, you may have the chance to take accelerated courses during the summer or winter terms; not all schools offer this option.
Part-time students typically need five to six years to complete their degrees. Studying part time leaves open the possibility of still working or raising a family as you earn your degree. However, some schools' tuition pricing means that part-time students, who pay tuition based on the number of credits they take each semester, end up paying more than full-time students.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Social Science?
At a public college or university, expect to pay $10,000-$15,000 per year in tuition. Out-of-state students pay approximately double this rate. Annual tuition at private four-year universities can exceed $45,000 per year. If you participate in practicums or internships, other fees may apply. A study abroad experience can add $10,000 to your tuition bill. However, well-known schools often provide generous financial assistance to low-income students; some schools even waive tuition for students whose family incomes fall below a certain level.
As you calculate costs, do not forget housing, textbooks, and meal plans. Students with small children should also include childcare costs as a part of their budgets. Together, these costs quickly add up and can put unprepared students in a bind. For this reason, the sooner you start researching scholarships, grants, work-study opportunities, the sooner you understand which colleges and universities fall within your budget.
Finally, remember that although many reputable banks and other lending institutions may offer you attractive student loans, you should regard going into debt as a last resort. Students loans can take years, sometimes decades, to repay.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Social Science Prepares For
- Postbaccalaureate Certificate
After you graduate, you may want to improve your skills before applying to a competitive graduate school. In a postbaccalaureate certificate program, you take additional courses in your major or concentration. The work you produce, such as an extended research project or thesis, can become part of your graduate school application portfolio. Other graduates earn these certificates to become eligible for promotions at their jobs.
- Teacher Licensure
In many states, a social science degree qualifies you to earn an entry-level teacher license or certificate in your specific social science major. Your state may require you to complete additional education to earn a license, such as student teaching under a licensed teacher's supervision. States experiencing teacher shortages often waive this requirement.
- Social Work Licensure
In some states, a bachelor's degree in a social science major qualifies you to work as a licensed social worker. With a license, you can work at a state or local social work agency or start an independent practice. Even in states where bachelor's degree holders can apply for a license, they must complete other requirements such as passing exams and working under a licensed social worker's supervision for at least one year.
Resources for Social Science Students
Before researching private scholarships and grants, submit the FAFSA. If your projected tuition exceeds your ability to pay, you become eligible for federally backed grants, loans, and work-study opportunities.
Look no further than PayScale to discover the most lucrative jobs for social science majors. On the PayScale website, match your major with potential career paths.
If your college or university does not offer social science internships, use Indeed to search for the latest opportunities. Indeed allows you to narrow results by location, term, and job type.
Science Magazine features an updating list of articles that summarize latest social science research. This resource lets you explore different social science topics, a boon for selecting a major that matches your interests.
Professional Organizations in Social Science
From the moment you begin school, joining one or two professional organizations can significantly improve both your educational experience and job hunt after graduation. Professional organizations, like those listed below, assist social science majors through job boards, networking opportunities, and exclusive scholarships. As joining an organization typically involves an annual fee, perform research into which organizations offer benefits worth more than the cost to join. Fortunately for you, many organizations boast low fees for student members.