Sociology vs. Psychology: Which Degree Is Right for You?

Red-haired well-dress man as a sociologist and an African-American female psychologist stand together

There are many compelling reasons to study the humanities, such as sociology and psychology, in college. Humanities degree programs teach students transferable job skills, such as critical thinking and communication. In fact, 93% of employers surveyed by the Association of American Colleges & Universities agreed that a job applicant’s ability to think critically, solve problems and communicate clearly was more important than the field in which the applicant held a degree.*

Clearly, a humanities-focused education is prized among employers. Once you decide to major in the humanities, you will need to choose a degree program. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose between sociology and psychology.

Types of Psychology You Can Study

Psychology is the study of thought patterns and how they influence an individual’s behavior. The study of psychology is intended to explain how the mind works and to help predict and change the mental processes and behaviors of individuals.

There are many fields of psychology that students can specialize in. For example, clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental health disorders. Sports psychology focuses on the thought patterns and behaviors of athletes, and forensic psychology focuses on the application of psychological principles to the law. These are just a few examples of psychology subfields.

An Overview of the Study of Sociology

Sociology is the study of societal institutions, human social relationships and behaviors. It is a broad field that includes the study of everything from crime to religion. Ultimately, sociology seeks to understand how society influences human thought processes and behaviors. Family conflict, race relations, deviant behaviors, personal identity, poverty, prejudice and romantic love are all examples of subject areas that a sociologist might study.

The work of sociologists can influence social programs and public policy. For example, jobs for sociology graduates may include researching new crime prevention programs or after-school educational enrichment activities for children.

Sociology vs. Psychology: Similarities and Differences

As you work toward choosing your major, there are some similarities and differences to be aware of. Both psychology and sociology professionals study human thought processes and behaviors. They may also work in similar organizations, such as humanitarian organizations. In addition, with either major, a graduate might choose to work directly with people or to focus primarily on research.

As for the differences between these fields of study, sociology focuses on societal institutions and groups of people, whereas psychology examines the individual. Psychologists must understand basic medical science, such as the biological processes of the brain, whereas sociologists must have a keen grasp of social theory and public policy.

Jobs for Sociology Graduates

If you are still not sure whether studying psychology or sociology is right for you, it is a good idea to consider your career options. If you graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, you may find entry level positions in areas such as education, social services and public policy. Here’s a look at some examples of jobs that would be a good fit for a sociology graduate:

  • Counselor in a homeless shelter for runaway youth
  • Advocate for victims of domestic violence
  • Human resources specialist
  • Mentor within a career services office
  • Counselor within a nonprofit that helps retired military service members transition to civilian life

If you think you would like to work as a research-oriented sociologist, you will likely need to earn a master’s degree or perhaps a doctoral degree.

Career Options for Psychology Graduates

Both psychology and sociology degrees are versatile and can lead to a range of career opportunities. A bachelor’s degree in psychology can prepare you for any of the following types of psychology positions:

  • Medical and health services manager
  • Correctional treatment specialist within a prison system
  • Mental health technician
  • Psychiatric case manager
  • Career counselor
  • Market researcher or advertising copywriter

Psychology graduates may also pursue careers in childcare, laboratory research and education. Some careers, such as social work, may require additional training and/or licensure. If you think you might like to become a clinical psychologist, you will need to continue your education. Psychologists are generally required to hold a doctoral degree and state licensure.

Deciding on Your Major

If you are still undecided between a degree and career path in sociology and one in psychology, it might be helpful to speak with a career counselor. If you are already college-bound, you should know that you may not need to choose a major right away. If you have already declared a major, you may be able to change it if you complete the paperwork in a timely manner.

You can take advantage of your college’s alumni network. Reach out to alums with sociology and psychology degrees to find out where their studies took them. If they are local, you might even be able to arrange a job shadowing visit. This can help you decide which course of study is right for you.

No matter where your life takes you, you can build a solid academic foundation for success at Grand Canyon University. Choose the Bachelor of Science in Psychology or the Bachelor of Science in Sociology program and explore our specialization options, such as social work and forensic psychology. You can find the right degree program for your career aspirations by clicking on the Request Info button at the top of your screen.

*Retrieved from AACU, Humanities by the Numbers, December 2020.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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