What Is Social and Behavioral Science?

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In the study of human behavior, the past and present are windows to the future. What we can learn from people’s decisions and actions help us draw conclusions and make predictions. The more we learn, the more we understand, and the more we can take action to improve the lives of those around us. 

The area of interest we call Social and Behavioral Science applies to a unique range of disciplines -- anthropology, sociology, and psychology, among them -- that involve careful analysis of human behavior. While these subjects might immediately conjure images of museums and libraries (or in the case of psychology, sitting in a chair listening to patients), in reality, these concepts apply to a wide-ranging and in-demand list of careers and job opportunities. 

As a student, you have the opportunity to follow your passion and narrow your interest in human behavior to a specific field. These are the social and behavioral sciences and degree programs that are shaping modern careers.

Applied Behavioral Science

If you are interested in a broad understanding of human behavior, you could consider a Bachelor of Arts degree in Applied Behavioral Science, with courses that include psychology, sociology, the study of communication and conflict, as well as gerontology. 

Rather than focusing on one specific career, such as a psychologist, you are able to apply your knowledge to multiple fields, including human resources, urban planning, youth services, and law enforcement. 

Cognitive Studies

When trying to understand a person’s behavior, it is important to look closely at brain development. If you are passionate about children, how they learn and why they behave in certain ways, you are likely suited for a bachelor of arts degree in Cognitive Studies.

As the focus of cognitive studies is on brain function, you will find yourself immersed in courses that cover neuroscience, human development, thought, and reasoning. 

Like applied behavioral science, the career outlook for cognitive studies graduates is wide-ranging and includes everything from working with special needs students to social and human services. Many of these careers are in growth industries. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a need for social and human service assistants in the coming years, as an aging population creates job demand for those with cognitive studies backgrounds.

Cultural Anthropology

History buffs that are fascinated by human behavior are often the first to make cultural anthropology their degree of choice. Not only does this degree program let you explore people’s actions, it examines entire cultures, with courses that cover human origins, language, religion, gender, and conflict.

Having perfected your research skills as an anthropology major, upon graduation you can pursue careers in the public and private sectors.  

Psychology

Arguably the most recognized (and popular) amongst the social and behavioral sciences, psychology is the “science of the mind,” a combination of research, theory, analysis, and application that spans nearly every career field. 

“Psychology is a fascinating topic,” says Dr. Michelle Rosser-Majors, Associate Professor and Program Chair in Ashford University’s College of Health, Human Services, and Science. “It addresses the fundamentals of human behavior. It asks the why questions: Why do we do what we do? Why do we think the way we think? And, why do we feel the way we feel?”

Whether you are pursuing a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, you are positioning yourself for a career in one of the country’s fastest growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the job outlook for psychologists to grow 14 percent – faster than average – through 2026. Psychology graduates are found in public administration, criminal justice, human resources, business, and social services, among others, because they are highly valued for their emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and leadership skills. 

Social Science

Another overlapping discipline, social science is a broad study of societal relations that includes elements of sociology, psychology, and history. In a Social Science degree program, you will find yourself tackling courses such as Anthropology of Gender, Advanced Communications in Society, Global Socioeconomic Perspectives, and Statistics for the Behavioral and Social Sciences.

You not only gain a wide perspective on social trends, you also emerge with highly valued research and analytical skills, which can broaden your career opportunities. A social science background is often seen as a stepping-stone into the communications, public relations, and media industries, as well as careers in social services or human resources.

Sociology

If you’re curious about how society functions, how cultures are formed, and how societal structures are defined, sociology is the social and behavioral science that suits you. 

A popular discipline due to its broad career applications, a bachelor’s degree program in Sociology is a comprehensive exploration of society through everything from class to gender, to religion and race. Your research and critical analysis will allow you to evaluate and posit solutions to society’s greatest challenges. 

In addition to studying Social Theory and Problems, courses in the sociology degree program also cover elements of psychology and social science, giving you knowledge in a broad range of social and behavioral sciences. 

More and more, organizations are looking for employees who are able to predict the actions of others, or who can apply their skills in negotiations, research, data analysis, and human resources exercises. 

With understanding comes empathy, and when you have a social and behavioral science background, you are often called upon to put your mind to work solving challenges great and small. 

 

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Written by Ashford University staff

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