What Are Social Sciences? (Branches And Popular Job Roles)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 September 2022

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Social science is a branch of science devoted to observing and learning about society as a whole. Professionals in this field study how individual members of the society interact with each other, how they behave, how cultures develop and how these factors influence the world we live in. A few disciplines in this field include political science, economics and psychology. In this article, we look at what this field is, what disciplines it comprises and how these subjects help in giving us a better understanding of people and society, to create effective laws and institutions.

What Are Social Sciences?

Social sciences constitute a broad field of study that focuses enquiries on how society works, and how different components of society influence each other. This field of study focuses on institutions such as family, economy and governments, and also studies how individuals in society interact with each other. A few of the most common disciplines include economics, political sciences, psychology, history, sociology, law, archaeology and anthropology. Social scientists use methods such as data analysis and research which are similar to the scientific methods that professionals use in fields such as biology, chemistry and physics.

This field of study is similar to the humanities in the sense that they use the same methodological, interpretive and analytical approaches to learn more about society and how it functions. While it is debatable whether certain subjects such as psychology, history and economics fall under the umbrella of social sciences or humanities, most subjects are required to gain insight into various social issues, be it from a humanities or a social science perspective. The latter is more of an applied approach, while humanities is largely an academic engagement.

What Does The Academic Field Of Social Science Include?

Social science is a broad field of study that includes many disciplines that focus on society. Collectively, these disciplines help social scientists gain a better understanding of how to develop institutions and laws to allow society to function more efficiently. These are few disciplines that are part of this academic domain:

Psychology

Psychology is a subject that deals with the human mind and human behaviour by bridging the divide between natural and social disciplines. Human development, emotions and social behaviours are a few main areas that psychology majors may concentrate on. Some subfields of psychology, such as social psychology, focus more on social science than subfields such as biological or neuropsychology which require strong knowledge and training in natural and physical sciences.

Related: Different Types Of Psychologists And How To Become One

History

History is a social science that helps us understand why geopolitical events happen and why humans react and behave the way they do. It is a study of change that covers almost all aspects of society, including economic, political, technological, medical, scientific, religious and cultural developments, to process and analyse the relations between various interrelated factors. Historians are experts who are interested in the history of humanity and they examine past events and developments to learn how they can shape future societal ideologies or cultures. A few subfields of history include social history, economic history, art history and cultural history.

Economics

Economics is a social science that concerns with the economy and its transformations. Economists study the world economy, constituent systems and how individuals and organisations exchange goods and services. They also examine the role of institutions such as the government in shaping the economy and how people develop individual economic behaviours.

There are two main subfields of economics, namely macroeconomics and microeconomics. Microeconomics studies how individuals or organisations decide how to allocate economic resources to create profit or financial stability. Macroeconomics studies the economy as a whole, on a larger scale, and seeks a general perspective. Economists collect data and use mathematical concepts such as calculus, algebra and logic to do their research.

Related: Types Of Economists: Work Environment, Job Role And Salary

Political science

The social science subject that studies political institutions, political behaviour and government systems is political science. Political science experts may train in other social disciplines, such as history or psychology, to help focus their research on the different aspects of political science. They examine and predict political trends and suggest political decisions by using qualitative and quantitative research to come to conclusions. Some political science experts may also involve in a government's law-making processes or facilitate international interactions between political powers by suggesting the best course of action.

Sociology

Sociologists mostly observe and examine social behaviour and social influence in cultures, institutions and social groups to determine how they affect society as a whole. They conduct surveys and social experiments, analyse data, interview groups of participants and interpret their findings to help societies develop and organise in the best possible ways. They use an empirical approach to investigation and rely on critical analysis skills to come to conclusions.

Related: What Are The Sociology Careers Available To Candidates?

Law

Social scientists who focus on law study issues relevant to law-making and how they affect the legal scenario of a state, country or institution. Legal sciences or jurisprudence study the order and systems that enable social coexistence. They ensure that all laws are legally valid and also socially acceptable and feasible.

Archaeology

Archaeologists study human activity over longer periods of time by recovering and analysing material culture. This includes architecture, artefacts, ecological samples, biological samples and cultural landscapes. Experts consider archaeology both a social science and a branch of humanities. Practitioners in this field strive to understand the relationship between values and behaviour, how societies form and how people lived in past societies.

Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of human society and culture. Interrelated to archaeology, anthropology seeks to study how people form societies, live in them and how society influences their lives. This subject shares interests and requires knowledge of other social sciences such as sociology, history and psychology. Social anthropology, which studies the patterns of behaviour and cultural anthropology, which studies cultural values and rules, are the two main subfields of anthropology.

Skills Required For A Career In Social Science

While social science includes various subjects and subfields, there are a few common skills you may possess to have a successful career in the area. Some of the skills required for a career in social science are:

  • Analytical skills: Social scientists may analyse raw data and statistical representations as part of their work. They often utilise analytical processes to test their theories, especially in fields such as economics or political science.

  • Communication skills: Strong communication skills are important for conducting interviews, engaging in discussions with colleagues and for presenting the results of research. It is necessary for social science experts to be able to communicate their ideas or thoughts clearly while also listening to others.

  • Critical-thinking skills: Experts may think critically while designing research projects and analysing information. They may be responsible for drawing logical and rational conclusions about social phenomena and their effect on society.

  • Problem-solving skills: Identifying, studying and solving sociological, economic or political problems are at the core of a career in the field of social science. Being able to come up with quick and creative solutions to complicated problems is a very beneficial skill to possess.

  • Articulation: Throughout your career in the field of social science, you may write reports detailing your research and findings. You benefit from being articulate enough to convey nuanced ideas and concepts to a wide audience through writing or speech.

Jobs In Social Sciences

Social sciences is an umbrella term that includes diverse areas such as psychology, history, political science, law and economics. During the course of a professional social science degree programme, you may learn a broad range of techniques for research and develop skills that can be of use in different jobs in several fields. Due to the diversity of the field of social science, job positions and careers in this area too are very diverse. From social and health services to legal and advisory professions, the demand for social science experts and social workers continues to grow.

Most companies, institutions and organisations may prescribe a master's degree or a doctorate degree for administrative professionals in this domain. It is also extremely beneficial to gain work experience and build soft and hard skills through internships or volunteer-ships. The exact scope of a career in social science may depend on an individual's goals and interests, and the specialisations they may have opted for in college. Potential salaries can vary based on an individual's education background and work experience, the industry and location of the work opportunity. These are some popular job roles in social science:

  • Sociologist

  • Economist

  • Social worker

  • Lawyer

  • Criminal justice expert

  • Counsellor

  • Professor

  • Government official

  • Rehabilitation worker

  • Museum manager

  • Government associate

  • Political analyst

  • Journalist

  • Writer


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