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
There once was a time when social science majors worked almost exclusively through the academic ranks in order to land tenure track positions at colleges and universities. No longer! Many applications for the skills of social science majors have been realized, giving them the opportunity to help improve the lives of our nation's citizens from a much wider variety of positions.
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 search for opportunities with research firms, government agencies or corporate employers.
Social science majors with a strong desire to directly improve people's lives should certainly consider the possibility of a career as a social worker. Although social workers are most often associated with cases involving children, the U.S. Labor Department anticipates increasing 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, the BLS predicts an increasing need for substance abuse and weight loss counselors.
Public Relations Strategist
Social sciences majors who combine coursework in journalism with study in specialized fields like sociology or economics may find themselves thriving in the breakneck world of public relations. Public relations strategists are part of this field, and their primary purpose is helping their employers react to external events. They also work 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 if they have adaptability and clear communication skills, whether they are working at a formal institution, in a community center setting, or even at a private company.
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 lighten 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 offer 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.