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What Are the Social Sciences?

The social sciences function as a component of liberal arts education and focus on better understanding how humans and societies function from various perspectives. Students can select from degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels in subjects such as history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and economics, to name a few options.

Students who pursue a social sciences degree feel curious about human motivations and behaviors, be they focused on factors such as wealth, mental health, past societies, or political motivations. Keep reading to learn about the different subjects covered and the types of social science careers available.


Anthropology blends history and sociology to examine how human societies and cultures developed over time. Students consider both physiological and biological characteristics in this discipline.


The study of economics examines how economies behave: how they contract, grow, and evolve over time. Students consider questions around the development, use, and transfer of wealth on both the domestic and global scales.


Geography focuses on the physical components of the Earth and how humans interact with the planet’s resources. Students learn about factors such as land development and use, human behavior, and climate change.


History students consider how people, cultures, and communities behaved in the past to learn more about modern human society. Learners typically focus on a time period, methodology, or subject area to build their knowledge.

Political Science

As a discipline, political science seeks to understand how governments and politics function at local, state, federal, and international levels. Students also consider political relations between countries and the roles of political parties.


Pursuing a psychology degree involves learning about human behaviors, motivations, and mind processes. Students consider various mental processes and biological influences to build their knowledge and understanding of the human mind.


Sociology seeks to understand the roles of relationships, institutions, cultures, religions, and other factors in human behavior and development. Students focus closely on societal causes and consequences alike.

Frequently Asked Questions About Social Sciences

What can you do with a social sciences degree?

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Individuals who earn a social science degree can use their qualifications in many ways. Some graduates decide to pursue traditional jobs associated with their studies, including work as sociologists, political scientists, economists, or psychologists. Others may decide to leverage the skills they gained into related occupations.

For example, someone who studied anthropology or sociology may decide to work for a nonprofit as a program manager. Those who complete degrees in history may find work in museums or cultural centers. Many different jobs exist based on the skills gained in social science programs.

What social sciences field pays the most?

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The answer to this question depends on many factors, including an individual's degree level, the type of job they accept, their title, and where they live. For instance, someone who completes a doctorate in psychology and becomes a licensed psychologist will typically earn more than someone who only completes a bachelor's degree.

Additionally, someone who plans to use their social science degree in research or academia can typically earn more than someone working in a technical position. That said, research and academic positions typically require an advanced degree.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the highest-paying positions within the social sciences is political scientist. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $122,510 as of May 2021.

Is a social sciences degree worth it?

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Although STEM careers are often seen as higher-paying and more in-demand, social science degrees provide invaluable skills and knowledge that translate well to many different jobs.

When studying a topic like history, sociology, or psychology, degree-seekers gain advanced skills many hiring managers look for in candidates, such as research, writing, and critical thinking. Students who know how to translate what they learn in the social sciences to other industries greatly value these degrees.

Why is psychology considered a social science?

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Psychology qualifies as a social science because much of the discipline focuses on the social components of human behavior and evolution. For instance, psychology students learn about how people think, learn, and behave, and how different experiences across one's lifespan can affect thinking and behavior.

With so much emphasis on mental processes, behavioral changes, and motivations, psychology fits well under the social sciences umbrella.

Can I get a social sciences degree online?

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Many colleges and universities offer social sciences degree options online, making it possible for learners to earn their degrees without visiting campus. Online social science degrees appeal to many different types of learners, including those who need more flexibility.

When looking at online social science degree programs, learners should make sure any college they consider holds appropriate institutional accreditation. Additionally, students should see if the degree they are considering has any type of programmatic accreditation.

Why is economics considered a social science?

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As with other disciplines considered a social science, economics uses scientific principles and methods to better understand how wealth affects how humans behave. Economic behavior plays a significant role in this discipline, as it helps economists better understand how scarcity and surpluses affect both individual and group behaviors.

Individuals who study economics typically want to understand the benefits and detriments of wealth, rather than working directly with money. The psychological and behavioral components make it a social science.

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