Best Online Social Science Programs
Thinking about majoring in social science? The experts at BestColleges have ranked the the best online bachelor's in social science programs. Read on to discover what you can do with this degree.
Published on November 23, 2021 · Updated on April 29, 2022
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The social sciences include sociology, psychology, political science, and other disciplines. Students majoring in social science study the concepts and methodologies social scientists use to understand society and human behavior.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2019-2020, full-time, first-year students at four-year public colleges paid an average of $9,400 in tuition and fees. Students attending private schools spent an average of $36,700. The cost of attending a top online school is comparable to the cost of earning a degree on campus. However, some online programs may be more affordable.
Some graduates of social science bachelor's degree programs go on to pursue careers in education or social services. Others earn graduate degrees in social science disciplines, such as political science or anthropology. PayScale reports that graduates of bachelor's in social science programs earn an average annual salary of $65,000, as of November 2021.
Keep reading to find out about the best online bachelor's in social science programs, how to apply, and career options once you graduate.
What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Social Science Program?
During the 2018-2019 academic year, postsecondary schools in the United States gave out 160,628 social science and history bachelor's degrees. History and social science degrees were the third most frequently awarded bachelor's degrees that year. Only health professions and business degrees were more popular.
If you have a broad interest in social dynamics, a bachelor's in social science may be right for you. Both on-campus and online bachelor's degree programs in social science include at least 120 credits of coursework. Most students earn their degrees within four years. Many social science bachelor's programs allow students to concentrate in a specific discipline, such as anthropology, sociology, women's studies, or criminal justice.
Typically, social science majors earn either a bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) degree. BA programs often feature general education courses in the humanities, such as history and communication. In contrast, BS programs frequently require students to complete general education courses in math, biology, and the physical sciences.
In general, BA programs emphasize qualitative skills, such as observational research and critical thinking. In contrast, BS programs help develop students' quantitative skills, such as the ability to work with and interpret numerical data.
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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Social Science Program?
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
In this survey course, students study the social and cultural principles informing ethnographic descriptions. Students also learn how to apply anthropological concepts and methods to the study of everyday life.
Introduction to Social Science
Students learn about various social scientific disciplines, their methods, and how they relate to each other. Additionally, students consider ethical issues in social science and how social scientists integrate insights derived from different disciplines.
This course encourages students to think critically about prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes and the impact they have on society. Students also reflect on how social science might help solve problems related to discrimination and social biases.
Contemporary Issues in Aging
Students study how evidence-based approaches in healthcare and social services facilitate healthy aging in older adults. The course also addresses how students can advocate for this population.
Research Methods in the Social Sciences
Students learn how to conduct social scientific research. The course covers the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research. It teaches students how to use various methods within specific disciplines.
What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Social Science Program?
Admission requirements for online and on-campus programs are typically similar. Some schools request college entrance exams from all applicants, while others do not. Also, some programs ask each applicant to submit a personal statement or participate in an interview with an admissions counselor.
Review the websites of the schools you're interested in to find out their specific requirements.
The college application process involves filling out one or more online forms. Many colleges ask prospective students to apply through a centralized application system, such as the Common App. These systems streamline the application process, allowing you to apply to multiple schools using a single platform.
Schools that require college entrance exams typically accept both SAT and ACT scores. However, you only need to submit results from one exam. The SAT is primarily a skills-based exam, while the ACT is mainly curriculum-based. If you aren't sure which exam to take, consider completing practice tests in each exam. This early step can help you determine which exam you'll perform best on.
Letters of Recommendation
Some schools request that applicants submit recommendation letters with their application materials. Typically, applicants request recommendation letters from recent teachers, advisors, and mentors. When deciding who to ask for a recommendation, consider individuals who can attest to your potential to succeed in school.
Some schools request application essays from prospective students. Usually, schools provide applicants with open-ended essay prompts. For example, a prompt may ask you to describe a major life event and how it changed you. Your essay should demonstrate your strength of character while also showcasing your writing skills.
Most colleges require applicants to submit their official high school or GED transcripts. If you're transferring from a community college or other postsecondary institution, you'll need to send transcripts from your current school as well. Providing your academic transcripts helps admission committees determine your eligibility for transfer credits.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Social Science Degree?
Social science is consistently one of the most popular college majors. This may be because the degree opens up many different career opportunities.
For example, many social science graduates assume management positions in social service agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for social and community service managers will increase 15% between 2020 and 2030.
This is faster than the average job growth rate across all U.S. industries. Social and community service managers earn a median annual salary of $69,600, as of May 2020.
Social science graduates also may decide to work in fields requiring an understanding of human psychology, such as human resources and education. The BLS projects that jobs for human resource specialists will see a 10% increase between 2020 and 2030, while jobs for high school teachers may increase 8% during this period.
See where a bachelor's in social science can take you. Learn more about social science careers.
High School Teacher
High school teachers instruct students in grades 9-12. Some cover core subjects, such as math and science, while others teach electives, including music, art, and physical education. Public school teachers must hold state licenses. However, states typically do not require private school teachers to obtain licenses.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $62,870
Social or Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers oversee social programs. They write grants, meet with donors, and assess the effectiveness of programs and outreach efforts. Social and community service managers work for government agencies, religious organizations, hospitals, and residential care facilities.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $69,600
Health Education Specialist or Community Health Worker
Health education specialists develop social programs to promote public health and well-being. They also secure funding for programs and create educational materials. Community health workers work closely with individuals and groups, addressing health concerns and serving as an intermediary between communities and healthcare providers.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $48,140
Human Resource Specialist
Human resource specialists recruit, screen, and interview new employees. They also perform administrative tasks related to employee compensation and benefits. Bachelor's in social science programs can prepare students for careers in human resources by developing their communication skills and understanding of cultural differences.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $63,490
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors treat people struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction, and psychological issues. They evaluate clients, develop treatment plans, and provide counseling. Most mental health counseling roles require a master's degree. However, a bachelor's degree is sufficient for some positions.
Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $47,660
Social Science Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Some graduates go on to earn master's or doctoral degrees in sociology, anthropology, political science, and other social science disciplines. According to a 2013 study of social science majors in the U.K., 10.1% of graduates surveyed pursued further education.
Some graduates of bachelor's in social science programs choose to become social workers. Typically, a bachelor's in social work is necessary to obtain entry-level roles in this field. However, social science graduates may be eligible for some positions. They may also earn their master's degrees in social work and pursue state licensure as clinical social workers. Licensing requirements vary by state.
How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Social Science Program?
Some colleges charge online and on-campus students the same tuition rates. However, when comparing the cost of online and on-campus programs, it's essential to consider factors besides tuition. For example, will enrolling in an online program help you save on transportation and housing costs? Taking these and other details into account will help you estimate the true cost of earning your degree online.
Do you want to enroll in courses that allow for real-time interaction between teachers and students? Or, would you rather enroll in courses that don't require you to log on at specific times? When choosing an online bachelor's in social science program, consider which online learning format you prefer. You may also want to look into accelerated programs, which can help you earn your degree in less time.
Consider the location of the schools you apply to, even if you decide to enroll in an online program rather than attend classes on campus. Some online programs have limited on-campus requirements, so you may need to visit the school on occasion. Also, by attending a public school in your home state, you may be eligible for in-state tuition rates.
Several agencies award academic accreditation to schools and programs meeting high educational standards. The accreditation status of the school and program you attend can have an impact on your eligibility for financial aid. It can also affect credit transferability if you decide to change schools.
Look for bachelor's in social science programs at schools offering special services for remote learners. These student services may include online tutoring, job placement and career planning assistance, and faculty mentoring. Some schools also help online students find internships close to home.
Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Social Science Programs
Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team
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Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Social Science Programs
Earning a bachelor's degree in any subject is probably worth it if you want a higher salary. According to the BLS, in 2020, graduates of bachelor's degree programs earned a median income of $1,305 per week. In contrast, workers who had not attended college earned a median weekly wage of $781.
Enrolling in an online bachelor's in social science program may be a good option if you want a career helping others. Many social service professions require a bachelor's degree. And online programs are typically just as rigorous as on-campus programs.
Many graduates of bachelor's in social science programs work in education or social services. Some become health educators, while others pursue careers as substance abuse counselors or high school teachers. A smaller percentage of graduates earn master's and doctoral degrees in sociology, social work, and related disciplines.
However, social science graduates aren't limited to careers as educators or social service providers. According to the Campaign for Social Science's 2013 study, 7.1% of social science graduates worked in finance and insurance. In contrast, the study found that only 3.7% of workers with STEM degrees worked in this field.
The social sciences fall under the category of the liberal arts. Earning a liberal arts degree can help you develop in-demand skills, including communication, creativity, and critical thinking. According to one study, 4 out of 5 employers believe in the value of a liberal arts education.
What's more, according to the Campaign for Social Science, social science graduates enjoy higher employment rates than both arts and humanities graduates and graduates with STEM degrees. In 2013, researchers found that 84% of social science graduates were working 3.5 years after graduating. Only 79% of arts and humanities graduates and 78% of STEM graduates had found employment.
According to PayScale, college graduates with bachelor of arts in social science earn an average annual salary of $65,000, as of November 2021. Professionals with this degree work in many different fields, so earnings vary greatly.
Salaries also vary by location. For example, The BLS reports that high school teachers earn a median annual salary of $62,870 nationwide. However, in New York state, they earn an annual mean income of $88,890, making New York secondary school teachers the highest-paid workers in their profession.
Social and community service managers enjoy a median annual salary of $69,600, as of May 2020. However, average salaries vary by location. In Washington, D.C., social and community service managers earn an annual mean income of $105,560.
Individuals with bachelor's degrees in social science sometimes go to graduate school. Doing so can qualify them for higher-paying roles, such as clinical social worker, sociologist, or political scientist. Of these professions, political scientists are the highest earners. The BLS reports that political scientists earn a median annual income of $125,350, as of May 2020.
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