Sociology vs. Psychology: Which Bachelor’s Degree?

woman on laptop

Choosing your undergraduate major is a big decision, one that determines not only what topics you’ll be living and breathing for the next several years, but also what career opportunities will likely be most attainable to you upon graduating. 

For those interested in the scope of human behavior and experience, a major in Sociology or Psychology is a popular choice. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013-2014, psychology is the fourth most awarded degree in the US.

If you’re considering a career in either psychology or sociology, it can be helpful to understand exactly what these fields have in common, key aspects of studying each at the undergraduate level, as well as the job outlook and career opportunities connected to each.  

Similarities and Differences between Sociology and Psychology

An easy way to begin to understand the difference between sociology and psychology is that sociology deals in the collective, or society, while psychology focuses on the individual.

Whichever field you choose, courses in statistics, research methods, and behavioral analysis are typical.

A degree in either sociology or psychology can prepare you for a variety of careers.

To dive in deeper, sociology explores social behavior within groups, cultures, organizations, and social institutions. Sociology majors study social theory and social structures, research methods, and social policy. The American Sociology Association suggests that “studying sociology fosters creativity, innovation, critical thinking, analytic problem solving, and communication skills,” further noting that “sociology challenges you to see the world through the lens of different cultures and communities.” 

Your coursework in sociology will likely explore concepts of diversity, social responsibility, human rights, and dignity and respect for others in society.

In contrast, psychology investigates the causes of human behavior at the individual level using observation, measurement, and analysis. Psychologists study the cognitive, emotional, and social means by which individuals relate to one another and to their environments. 

Your coursework as a psychology major will focus on the study of human behavior and mental processes.

Sociology vs. Psychology Careers

A degree in either sociology or psychology can prepare you for a variety of careers. Both emphasize critical thinking and research skills. 

A sociology degree will help you to move through an increasingly global world, and provide you with problem-solving tools for social problems. Career-wise, you will have a strong foundation from which to explore jobs in areas such as:

  • Public, Human, or Social Services
  • Social Research and Analysis
  • Social Justice-Related Services
  • Human Resources 

Careers with a psychology degree, on the other hand, may include sectors like:

  • Public Administration
  • Sales
  • Criminal Justice
  • Social Services

Should You Pursue a Sociology or Psychology Degree?

One important consideration for either degree is whether you plan to get a postgraduate degree. While each major lends itself well to a variety of careers, you may need to determine if the position you’re ultimately targeting will require a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree. 

Another potential consideration is job outlook in the current market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, whereas there is currently no projected increase within sociology for the same time period.

In addition to these two considerations, it’s important to take into account what topics your interests are naturally drawn to and what area of study you think will intrigue you the most. To help you start to narrow down your potential decision, take our quick 5 question quiz to find out if you’re better suited for a degree in sociology or psychology.

Sociology or Psychology - What’s Right For Me?

A: I’m more fascinated by the human mind.
B: I’m more interested in how society influences people.

A: I’d like to better understand mental illness.
B: I’d like to study race, class, and gender.

A: I like to work with people one-on-one to help solve their problems.
B: I’d like to help solve the social problems in my community.

A: Child & Adolescent Development sounds like an interesting class to me.
B: I’d rather take a class called “Cross-Cultural Perspectives."

A: It’s important to me to understand how individuals impact society.
B: It’s important to me to understand how society impacts individuals.

Mostly A’s: Congrats! You’re likely more interested in a psychology degree
Mostly B’s: Congrats! You’re likely more interested in a sociology degree

What was your quiz result? Do you think the outcome will influence what degree you decide to pursue?

 

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Written by Ashford University staff

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