Psychology is typically classified as a social science. It is classified this way because psychology draws upon statistical analyses and scientific data for clinical application. The study of psychology focuses on both the human mind and behavior. People who study psychology integrate concepts of emotion, neuroscience, and social behaviors.
What Exactly Is a Social Science?
Social sciences refer to the interdisciplinary studies of human behavior and interactions with society at large. Along with psychology, other social science disciplines include:
- Anthropology: Anthropology focuses on past and present humanity.
- Economics: Economics focuses on the production, consumption, and distribution of money.
- Education: Education focuses on teaching and receiving applied instruction to others.
- Geography: Geography focuses on the structure of our planet and how human behavior intersects with it.
- Political Science: Political science focuses on the theory and practice of politics at all levels.
- Sociology: Sociology focuses on functioning and interactions within human society.
Each of these majors has some overlap with other disciplines. Likewise, most colleges require that students studying social science also complete foundational courses in mathematics and science.
Is Social Science a Good Field to Enter?
Social science programs can enhance your critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and applied research skills. All the social science degree paths are fairly flexible; upon graduation, you have numerous career paths available.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for many social science-related jobs is positive. For example, the need for marriage and family therapists between 2021-2031 is projected to grow 14%, which is considered much faster than average. Similarly, the need for social workers is projected to grow by 9%, and the need for social/community service managers is expected to grow by 12%.
Finally, the need for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (all of which only require a bachelor’s degree) is projected to grow by a staggering 22% by 2031. The BLS reports that nearly 45,000 openings for jobs in this field will open each year over the next decade.
What’s the Best Way to Study Psychology?
As early as high school, interested students can start taking psychology classes. By college, young adults might decide to major in psychology. Introductory courses typically focus on the fundamentals of personality, research methods, learning, memory, and lifespan development.
Psychology is one of the most popular college subjects, with research showing that it’s the fourth most common major. Approximately a million and a half students take undergraduate psychology courses each year.
The best way to get started is by taking a few classes and getting a feel for the subject. As you attend the lectures, consider noticing how you feel. Do you feel excited about the subject matter? Do you find yourself reading more than what’s required? Does the passion you feel stand out against the passion you have for other classes in your schedule? These are all positive signs indicating it might be worth pursuing psychology.
That said, while classes and reading are important, so much of what is learned actually happens by obtaining real-life experience. For this reason, most colleges require fieldwork hours. By obtaining an internship, you can get a hands-on application in a specific discipline.
What Can You Do With a Psychology Degree?
A psychology degree is relatively versatile, and people with these backgrounds work in various professional industries. At the bachelor’s level, popular career options can include:
- Case managers
- probation/parole officers
- Substance abuse counselors
- Research assistants
- Employment counselors
- Job analysts
- Human resources managers
- Victims’ advocates
- Government officials
- Community workers
Some of these roles require additional training or education. However, they are all psychology-focused in nature.
That said, it’s important to note that most counseling roles require advanced education. A psychologist has either a Ph.D. or PsyD, which can be an additional 4-8 years of schooling. Master’s-level clinicians, which include most mental health therapists, also must attend graduate school. These career tracts require additional coursework, internship hours, and board exams.
In addition, many lawyers, doctors, law enforcement officers, and marketing professionals have backgrounds in psychology. The degree itself provides robust foundational knowledge for understanding and connecting with people.
Who Should Major in Psychology?
If you have an affinity for working with others, you might be a good candidate for a psychology major. People who are successful in psychology-related careers tend to be ambitious and curious. They are culturally sensitive and enjoy learning about the inner and outer workings of society.
That said, not all psychology jobs are people-facing. If you enjoy problem-solving and research, the field itself continues evolving. There is a tremendous need for ongoing data and analysis. This is particularly true as we learn more about specific sub-focuses like neuroscience and gene therapy.
With that in mind, research shows that the average cost of college is just over $100,000 for four years of in-state tuition. But it’s become increasingly more common for undergraduates to take 5-6 years to finish school.
Therefore, you shouldn’t take your education decisions lightly. If you’re unsure which path is right for you, it’s important to be proactive. This may mean meeting with a career counselor on campus to discuss your career goals. It also may entail exploring options like double majors or minors.
Many people who work in psychology-related careers are deeply fulfilled by their work. And even those who pursue alternative job paths often appreciate the foundation their psychology background provided them. Regardless of what you ultimately choose to do, taking a few introductory classes gives you a headstart to decide if this path is worth pursuing.