What is Social Science?
Social Science majors study humanity's impact on our world. Once considered elements of the humanities, many disciplines like communication, history or anthropology gained their social sciences categorization in the early 20th century. Academics after World War I challenged themselves to apply statistics and mathematical measurements to areas they previously studied by observation alone. Today's social science majors analyze how our human behavior creates ripple effects in everything from economics to the environment.
Top Social Science Career Paths
In previous decades, social science majors worked almost exclusively through the academic ranks in order to land tenure track positions at colleges and universities. More recently, the business community has created exciting new opportunities for social science majors to apply their skills and improve the lives of our nation's citizens.
Expert market researchers analyze how consumers think and feel about products and ideas and distill that data into information that companies can use to produce stronger, more effective products and services.
Manufacturers rely on market research to shape the design of new products long before they reach store shelves. Market researchers help politicians understand what policies and speeches can help win elections. Entertainment companies employ battalions of market researchers to measure audience feedback about new films, television shows, and radio formats.
Despite advances in technology that allow market researchers to poll huge quantities of people at once by telephone or Internet, many companies rely instead on qualitative focus groups which consist of small groups interviewed by a live human being. The strongest market researchers can distill these conversations into meaningful suggestions and measurable metrics that can directly improve sales. Skilled social science majors should anticipate rewarding careers with research firms, with government agencies or with corporate employers.
Social science majors with a strong desire to directly improve people's lives can find tremendous rewards in careers as social workers. Although social workers are most often associated with cases involving children, the U.S. Labor Department anticipates tremendous demand for social workers that can work with America's rapidly growing elderly population. Likewise, as managed care companies attempt to shift resources to prevention of illness instead of treatment, experts indicate a strong need for substance abuse and weight loss counselors.
Public Relations Strategist
As companies, governments and politicians all rely on the social sciences to measure their performance, all of those entities require increasing amounts of help to communicate the effectiveness of their work to the general public. Social sciences majors who combine coursework in journalism with study in specialized fields like sociology or economics can thrive in the fast paced world of public relations.
These communications specialists help their employers react to external events. They also play a more important role, working internally with teams, anticipating potential reactions to new products, policies or programs and integrating media plans into their development cycles.
Teaching English as a Second Language
Dual forces of immigration and world trade have revolutionized the way we speak as a country. As a result, foreign workers and new residents to the United States clamor for advanced instruction in English.
Social science majors with concentrations in linguistics can serve this population well because of their adaptability and their clear communication skills. Whether working at a formal institution, in a community center setting, or even at a private company providing training as a worker benefit, ESL teachers can look forward to high demand for their skills in the decades to come.
Why Should You Consider a College Major in Social Science?
Regardless of whether they follow a tenure track through academia or the tracks of tribes through a jungle, social scientists live and work on the cutting edge of understanding what makes us human. No longer relegated to the back of the humanities pack, today's social science graduates work hard to improve society through innovations in business, politics, and communication.
In addition, students who aspire to travel the world can take part in numerous cultural and academic exchanges. In addition to the usual study abroad opportunities available to most students, social science majors can participate in far more exotic programs. Psychology students, for example, can learn more about the roots of their discipline in Germany and Austria. Anthropology majors can study land use and environmental impact in places like Chile, Costa Rica, and Argentina. Regardless of their concentration, social science majors enjoy a tremendous ability to enrich themselves by experiencing global cultures firsthand.
What Candidates Make the Best Social Science Majors?
Opinionated thinkers who enjoy crunching numbers while they find ways to improve society make some of the strongest social science majors. Although most students tend to select a specific area of focus, the arts and humanities heritage of the social sciences allow majors to gain exposure in a variety of disciplines.
Potential social science majors can also benefit from guidelines that permit institutions to grant credit for coursework done in high school or for career experience:
- High school students can usually reduce their course load by as many as three classes over the course of their degree program simply by earning high scores on advanced placement exams.
- Because social science programs rely on fieldwork, many institutions provide the opportunity to earn course credits in exchange for well-documented independent study. Therefore, keep a journal and highlight events in your life that could spark discussion with a professor.