How Much Can You Make in a Social Science Career?
While a degree in the social sciences is not usually regarded as lucrative or stable, there are countless occupations for which graduates are qualified. A degree from an online social science school emphasizes critical thinking, communication skills, and research methods that are appealing to many organizations and industries. These skills can also be applied to positions in fast-growing sectors that are not overtly related to social science. For instance, market research analysts use many of the same skills as a social scientist, and national employment levels for this occupation are projected to expand by 20% over the next decade. While no degree guarantees a career or a certain salary level, the table below contains a few social science careers and their corresponding salary and job growth data.
Geographers study and analyze the distribution of the Earth's natural and man-made features and inhabitants. They collect data through field observations, satellite imagery, and surveys. They use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to collect, display, and analyze this information to find trends in geographic data. Geographers typically need a bachelor's degree to qualify for entry-level positions with the federal government. Some employers — such as research institutes — may require a more advanced degree.
Median Annual Salary: $80,300
Job Growth (2018-2028): 3% (slower than average)
- Social Science Teacher (High School)
Social science high school teachers construct lesson plans, present lectures, grade student assignments, and monitor student progress. They prepare students for the next grade level, standardized tests, and AP tests. They also communicate with parents about student success, difficulties, and any behavioral issues. High school teachers require at least a bachelor's degree in their area of specialization.
Median Annual Salary: $60,320
Job Growth (2018-2028): 4% (as fast as average)
- Survey Researcher
Survey researchers collect data in order to understand people's beliefs, opinions, and preferences. They conduct background research on survey topics, design surveys using appropriate methods, distribute surveys, and analyze results. These surveys can span different subjects and fields, including employment data, health information, voter opinion and registration status, and more. Many survey research positions require a master's degree. However, some entry-level positions only require a bachelor's.
Median Annual Salary: $57,700
Job Growth (2018-2028): 1% (little or no change)
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts study marketing and sales trends to determine the potential sales of a particular product or service. They design surveys and questionnaires to gather data on consumers and competitors then analyze the data using statistical software. They present these results to company decision-makers and influence marketing strategy and product decisions. Market research analysts typically require a bachelor's degree in a marketing or business-related major but many also have a background in the social sciences.
Median Annual Salary: $63,120
Job Growth (2018-2028): 20% (much faster than average)
- Social Science Research Assistant
Social science research assistants help professors or other advanced researchers with their funded projects. They assist with data collection, organization, and analysis. Research assistants may also be responsible for writing up the results in scientific articles. Most social science researchers have Ph.D.s and employ assistants with bachelor's degrees in a relevant discipline to facilitate the research process.
Median Annual Salary: $49,030
Job Growth (2018-2028): N/A
Even within the same occupation, salary and job growth for social science careers vary, particularly across states and metropolitan areas. The local economy affects how much demand there is for certain occupations, and salary is often adjusted based on an area's cost of living. For instance, the states with the highest employment level of social scientists and related professionals include Virginia, California, New York, and Maryland. Evaluating job growth in a specific field can provide predictions for how stable a given career may be in the coming years. The list below illustrates salaries and job growth data for social science professions by state.
What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Social Science Degree?
Social science courses cover a variety of topics about the human condition and the world, from the history of the Islam to the contemporary politics of social media. Most courses combine theory and discussions of contemporary problems and issues. Coursework varies depending on the specific degree and institutional degree requirements. Students should research the course schedules of a particular program of interest to get a better sense of their course offerings.
This course introduces students to the idea of language as social action, the relationship between language and culture, and the use of language in different sociocultural contexts.
Students gain a deeper understanding of the extent, causes, and consequences of social inequality and stratification, including socioeconomic, racial, and gender inequality.
This course provides learners with a general background in the scientific study of human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in social situations. It covers psychological theories of social behavior and empirical research.
This interdisciplinary course emphasizes the study of cities and complex urban environments. It covers historical and contemporary issues from local, national, and international perspectives.
Students focus on three areas of political development: economic growth, democratization, and ethnic or nationalist conflict. Learners also explore comparative theories that explain global political trends.
How to Choose the Best Online Social Science Program
Online social science programs vary widely, and students should thoroughly research their options to determine which one is the best for them. Factors to consider include accreditation, admissions criteria, degree requirements, tuition cost, faculty, program length, and prestige. For online programs, students should also consider whether courses are delivered asynchronously, and whether they are offered in accelerated formats. This way, students can choose the program that accommodates both their own intellectual interests and scheduling needs. The following Q&A addresses some common questions asked by prospective students.
What strategies should I follow in choosing my social science courses?
Bachelor's programs in social science post their course schedules online and students may browse the school's available courses online. Look for the courses that spark your interest, then evaluate how many of those courses fulfill degree requirements and how many would count as electives. You can also speak to an academic advisor to make sure you are on track to graduate and haven't missed any general education or major-specific requirements.
How do internship or fieldwork requirements work with an online social science degree?
Some online social science degrees offer students the option to complete an internship, practicum, or hands-on fieldwork experience for course credit. For these experiential learning components, programs typically require students to find a relevant organization or office in their area and obtain consent from a supervisor. Many programs offering an internship option also have internship or fieldwork coordinators to help students find an appropriate placement.
How can I build relationships with faculty in an online program?
Faculty-student relationships can be crucially important in finding future opportunities. For students who are considering graduate school, these relationships are vital since most graduate programs require recommendation letters from professors. While it may be tougher to establish relationships with faculty through online courses, instructors also hold virtual office hours where students can ask questions related to the course material. Students should take advantage of faculty availability during those times.
How can I secure a job right after graduation with an online social science degree?
Social science degrees make many people nervous, as they don't always present a clear path to employment immediately upon graduation. While many social science professions require advanced degrees, it is possible for graduates to find employment right after college. Students should explore job boards and postings to see what types of jobs they are interested in, and plan their coursework to ensure they will be qualified for those positions.
How should I evaluate if a program's curriculum is right for me?
Program curricula will vary from institution to institution, each touting their own points of specialty. Students may want to research any available concentrations, the types of available courses, and other degree requirements. For instance, students seeking social science research experience can look for research assistant opportunities or bachelor's thesis options.
How can I build peer relationships during an online social science degree?
Socializing with other students and building a lasting relationship with colleagues is possible through an online social science degree. Students who value this aspect of the college experience should look for programs with a cohort-based structure, which means students progress through coursework with the same group of peers. They can also start discussion threads in online learning platforms to collaborate with other students in the class.
How will an online social science degree help me reach my goals?
An online social science degree prepares graduates for numerous career paths, and provides important soft skills like critical thinking, time management, and effective communication. Online programs require students to become efficient time managers, as they essentially work on their own schedule to absorb lecture materials and complete assignments. These same skills can help you accomplish other goals later in life.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Social Science Programs
Many scholarships, grants, and loan programs are available to help students pay for their online social science bachelor's degree. While loans can be helpful, scholarships and grants are financial aid options that don't have to be repaid, and can therefore help students dramatically reduce their debt. Scholarships and grants are typically merit- or needs-based, and students should carefully research which ones they qualify for. The chart below contains five scholarships available to social science students.
- ISF National Scholarship
The Islamic Scholarship Fund provides national scholarships to Muslim students majoring in a social science, humanities, or liberal arts fields such as political science, human rights, anthropology, criminal justice, sociology, or Arab studies. Qualified applicants must be members of the Muslim community, be enrolled in an accredited university, maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, and have attained sophomore standing or higher. The application requires an application form, video introduction, resume, essay questions, college transcripts, work samples, and two letters of recommendation.See Scholarship
- Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship
The Government Finance Officers Association provides scholarships for students interested in careers in government finance. These scholarships are available to minority upper division undergraduates or graduate students majoring in accounting, public administration, political science, economics, or business administration. The award amounts range from $5,000 to $15,000. The application requires a recommendation letter from a faculty member who is familiar with the student's commitment to the public sector.See Scholarship
- National Pathfinder Scholarship
The National Federation of Republican Woman provides scholarships to assist young women seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees. The NFRW awards three annual National Pathfinder Scholarships of $2,500 each. College sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in bachelor's or master's programs are eligible. Recent high school graduates and college freshmen women cannot apply. The application requires an application form, three letters of recommendation, an essay, and a copy of the student's transcripts.See Scholarship
- Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship
Funded by the U.S. State Department, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship provides financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate social science students interested in a career in foreign service. Applicants must be U.S. citizens enrolled in an accredited college, hold at least junior standing, and possess a minimum 3.2 GPA. Undergraduate students qualify to obtain funding for summer internship opportunities and other professional development activities.See Scholarship
- Udall Undergraduate Scholarship
The Udall Foundation awards scholarships to juniors and seniors who demonstrate commitment and public service to Native American nations or relevant social issues, particularly in the areas of tribal policy, healthcare, and the stewardship of natural lands and resources. Annually, the foundation provides roughly 20 scholarships of up to $7,000 each. The application requires students to answer a series of short answer questions about their aspirations, professional goals, and commitment to issues relevant to Native American communities.See Scholarship