The Social Sciences are a broad group of subjects that encompass various disciplines, from Anthropology to Psychology. They have one element in common: They all centre around human beings, from their mind to their culture, politics and society.
With the Social Sciences being such a big group of disciplines, choosing one may be challenging. It all depends on what you are interested in! There is something for every taste, from investigating the causes of crime or forecasting economic trends to understanding how humans form memories.
Sounds interesting? Read on to discover the various Social Sciences:
Anthropology is, by definition, the science of humanity (anthropos means “human being” in Greek). Anthropology degrees generally cover human behaviour and biology as well as culture and society, both today and in our past. Because Anthropology as a field spans across so many different areas, it is not uncommon for degree programmes to specialise in certain aspects.
Do you want to study crime in society but are not necessarily interested in studying law? Then criminology could be for you. In a university degree course in Criminology you will study the causes and prevention of crime in light of various disciplines, for example Sociology and Anthropology, but also Psychology. Criminologists develop strong research skills (including statistics) and investigate issues such as what causes differences in crime rates in various societies and the effect of policy and law on crime levels.
For all the aspiring data wizards out there! A degree in Econometrics will teach you how to analyse and interpret economic data (for example, the price of commodities or labour market statistics) to understand the relationship between economic variables, solve problems and make recommendations for economic policy. You will also learn how to develop models and make economic forecasting. Econometrics degrees at university include modules in Mathematics and Statistics, and of course Economics, at their core.
Economics is a very popular field of study. It not only focuses on the study of a central process in all societies - the production, distribution and consumption of wealth – but also looks at what drives human behaviour and decisions, in the evolving field of Behavioural Economics. In a Bachelor or Master in Economics, you will acquire mathematical and statistical skills and will learn how to apply economic theory to businesses, finance, policy and society.
With a degree in Education & Teaching, you will have access to a variety of subjects and specialisations. For example, you can study child development, educational psychology or neuroscience, education management, or the pedagogy of any subject you wish to teach.
And don’t forget that you don’t necessarily need to want to become a teacher to study Education & Teaching. An interest in how people learn and how education shapes lives and societies is paramount – but with such a wide array of specialisations, you will also have a lot of potential career options at the end of your degree.
A discipline related to Anthropology, Ethnology is interested in the study of people and their culture, language, religion and institutions, and the comparison between different peoples. Degree courses in Ethnology will typically include a specific focus on one people or culture and provide training in the ethnological methods and theoretical frameworks. Some degree courses focus on one particular aspect of Ethnology, such as Ethnology and Folklore or Ethnomusicology.
European Studies is a melting pot of disciplines, from International Relations to Sociology, all aimed at studying social, political and cultural developments in Europe, and often specifically the European Union.
Degree programmes in European Studies typically include a good grounding in European law, history, geography and economics, together with political science and EU public policy. Other courses focus more on cultural aspects such as languages, linguistics and literature. Most programmes will also offer the chance to study one or more European languages.
Courses in Gender Studies focus on gender identity and representation in society, politics and culture. The field aims to understand and challenge the societal norms that govern gender identity and representation and investigate the relationships between gender and factors such as social status, power, or education. Some university degrees in Gender Studies will focus on women’s, men’s or queer studies, equality and human rights, or politics and international relations.
Geography is usually divided into Physical Geography, which as a close relative to Geology is not so much a Social Science but explores the natural world; and Human Geography, which investigates how human activities shape the world around us, whether economic, cultural, social or political. It is an interdisciplinary field that draws on the Natural Sciences, Politics, History and other disciplines to make sense of global and local issues, such as natural resource management, sustainable development, the impact of migration on cities and the relationship between climate change and human societies.
Studying International Development means gaining an understanding of global and local issues that affect economic and societal development, with the aim to develop programmes to raise living standards globally.
A degree in International Development will typically investigate topics such as education, poverty, healthcare, conflict, inequality, food security, and sustainability. Some programmes have a focus on international law, public policy or human rights, while others specialise in migration, multiculturalism and peacebuilding.
War, trade, diplomacy – International Relations are not for the faint-hearted! Degrees in International Relations (or International Studies) are close relatives of Politics degrees and offer a chance to study the relationships between countries, governments and other international institutions such as multinational corporations. Studying International Relations will also include a good grounding in History, Economics, and Law. Degree courses can also have a regional focus and might even include lessons in local languages.
Political Science is a discipline at the crossroads of many other fields, including Law, History, Economics, Psychology and Sociology – it takes a lot of knowledge to understand the world of politics!
At the core of a Politics degree is investigating how governments, politics and power work on different levels. The field also looks at how political ideas and ideologies develop. Political Science degrees can include a specific focus on national or international politics, political theory or public policy and administration. Other possible areas of specialisation are foreign policy, comparative politics or economic politics.
Psychology is the study of the human mind: It investigates how people perceive the world around them, think, behave, feel, learn and interact. It has several specialisations and subdisciplines. For example, a degree in Clinical Psychology will provide training for those interested in treating mental, behavioural and emotional disorders. A course in Educational Psychology will focus instead on how people learn new information and how children develop cognitively. Statistics and research methods will also be at the core of any Psychology degree.
Do you enjoy reading politics news and keeping up-to-date with what the government is doing? In a degree in Public Policy, you will examine the development of policies and laws that governments implement in various areas of society and their effect. Like all the other subject areas in this list, Public Policy degrees have a wide range of specialisations according to your interests, for example, Higher Education Policy, Human Rights or International Relations.
This is a family of degrees for those who want to make a real impact, and are eager to work directly with people to help improve their lives. Studying Social Work will enable you to examine the problems that affect society, such as poverty, discrimination or mental health issues, and understand how to work with communities, families and individuals to provide a solution.
Are you interested in how human societies work, and do you want to investigate the relationships between their components - such as institutions and communities? Then studying Sociology could be for you. In a degree in Sociology, you will learn to see human societies in a number of ways. You will learn about important factors, such as social status, social change, crime, education, wealth vs. poverty, race, gender and religion. Depending on the specialisation of your Sociology programme, statistics can play a heavy role, as well.
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