Social Science Degree Programs

Online degrees in social science disciplines

"Social sciences" is a catch-all term which encompasses a wide range of academic disciplines. Fields which fall in the social sciences category include history, sociology, social work, anthropology, economics, cultural studies, linguistics, communications and political science. In the broadest sense, the social sciences are branches of academic inquiry into the relationships between individuals in a given society, or between two or more coexisting societies. It is largely a theoretical rather than practical field, and social science disciplines aim to enhance our understanding of human history, human culture and human relationships.

Disciplines Within the Social Sciences

Here is a closer look at the various academic disciplines which make up the social sciences:

  • Anthropology. Drawing on both natural sciences and humanities disciplines, anthropology is the study of the history of human culture and civilization. It has a heavy emphasis on cross-cultural social comparisons, and seeks to enlighten our understanding of the establishment and advancement of human societies, from their very beginnings right up to the present day.
  • Communications. A practical discipline in the social sciences, communications studies teach students about the many ways in which messages, signals and cues are sent and received. A degree in communications can lead to career opportunities in broadcasting, journalism, advertising, marketing, and many other industries.
  • Cultural studies. Typically, cultural studies focus on the contemporary social landscape, looking at current events and social trends in an attempt to understand the current and future evolutionary paths of today's global societies.
  • Economics. This important social science focuses on the forces that shape global trade and commerce, from both historical and contemporary points of view. Economic theory centers on three major topics: the production, distribution and consumption of goods, resources and services. It also has a strong focus on the modes and methods used to regulate the exchange of products.
  • History. This popular social science discipline is preoccupied with topics involving the documentation and interpretation of past events, and how they relate to both contemporary life and the future evolution of human society.
  • Linguistics. Taking a scientific approach to the study of human language, linguistics is concerned with the modes and means of interpersonal communications among human beings. The structure, semantics and syntax of language is a primary point of focus, as is morphology (the structure of words), phonology (sounds involved in language), and phonetics (the science of speech).
  • Political science. This academic discipline is concerned with nations, states, governments, and political policies. While it is closely related to and heavily influenced by history, political science focuses more sharply on the relationship between individuals and larger social collectives. International relations, public relations, and political theory form the backbone of the discipline's academic inquiries.
  • Social work. Social workers strive to ensure an equitable quality of life for everyone within a given society. While it is a relatively new academic discipline, a wide range of online schools offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work, leading to B.S.W. (Bachelor of Social Work) or M.S.W. (Master of Social Work) designations.
  • Sociology. Another popular social science, sociology seeks to enhance our understanding of human social behavior in a comprehensive range of contexts. Using both empirical and analytical modes of inquiry, sociology studies topics including gender, social class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, deviance, economic class, and religion, among others.

As always, you should make sure that any social service school you're considering is accredited. Otherwise, your degree will not be recognized by prospective employers or other schools, if you should choose to continue your studies at the graduate level. In the United States, you can check with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to see if the school you're thinking of attending is accredited.